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Part 2: Resurrection Reality
Pastor Terry Inman
We call him doubting Thomas because John reports what appears to be a mild reprimand. Jesus gave him irrefutable evidence he that could see and feel. Then he told him to stop doubting and start believing. That He did!
His perception was altered and his identity was changed to believing Thomas. This life-changing encounter with the Risen Lord is today’s tutorial on Resurrection Reality! Don’t this AD story tonight on NBC.
Thomas means “twin”. He may have been a twin or like most of us he struggled with two options or opinions. James the brother of Jesus coined the word “double-minded”. He said we should ask with belief not doubt.
I can identify with that. Like most of us I have had a few disappointments in life so sometimes I protect myself by keeping some options open.
But James says, He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1.6-8 NIV) Thomas was a real-world guy he needed some proof.
We live in two realities. One is natural one is supernatural. The natural reality we see--we feel every day. The other is invisible. The bible says, “what we see was created by what we don’t see” -- the invisible word of God. (Heb. 11.3 Message) So what you see is not always what you get!
The greater reality is the one that’s invisible and eternal. Paul said,
“We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4.18 NIV)
Jesus lived in two realities material and spiritual—temporal and eternal—visible and invisible. He appeared in a room of locked doors then produced the physical scars of his wounded body. That’s probably why his first words were “peace be with you!” No need to panic--I’m not a ghost from the grave--it’s just me the real Jesus!
Let’s read the text. “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:26-29 NIV)
Facts are good. Most of us need them. But we are blessed for our faith!
I was sitting in a circle with several other young Pastors in the Bay Area in the early eighties. We were listing to the wisdom of two respected elders. After some discussion about signs and wonders the Bishop E.E Cleveland from Oakland said, “Well--If you don’t see it before you see it, you ain’t never goin’ to see it!”
Thomas saw both realities. When his eyes opened his mouth opened.
He quickly became “believing Thomas”. He made an unprecedented profession of faith. “My Lord and my God!” God became very personal!
Last week, we celebrated the most significant event on the Christian calendar—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What a celebration! There was so much hope and joy in this house. It was a Jesus party.
In the next few weeks we will re-visit the book of Acts. The growth of the church can only be explained by a passionate belief in the resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit. They risk their very lives on this hope. The first followers were convinced that resurrection life was better.
The writer of Hebrews puts it this way. “Some were tortured and refused to be released so that they might gain a better resurrection.” Heb. 11.36
Life took on a whole new meaning for the early Christians. They fully anticipated the return of their King. They were living for another world.
The excitement of the Resurrection can wear off if we are not careful.
The faithful show up the Sunday after Easter. Our temporal but tangible reality can blind us to eternal reality. In the tough trenches of life we so easily loose sight of resurrection power. It’s not an event it’s a lifestyle!
The letter to the Hebrews also says, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering...
Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you had better and lasting possessions. (Heb. 10.32-34 NIV)
Believers in Iraq, Syria and recently Kenya are not just forfeiting property they’re losing their lives for the refusal to recant their faith.
The stakes were very high after the crucifixion of Jesus especially with rumors that his body was missing from the sealed and guarded tomb. Jesus' closest followers were understandably hiding in confusion and fear.
When Jesus recruited his disciples the bible says they “left all” to follow him, but later in the garden they “all left”. They had just pledged their allegiance even to the death. When the temple guards arrested Jesus, Mark says, “everyone deserted him and fled.” (Mark 14:50 NIV)
At least Peter trailed from a distance risking exposure at the pre-trial hearing. Unfortunately when he was discovered he denied any association.
Peter disowned, Thomas doubted. But the resurrection changed their reality. When Jesus walked though bolted doors to reveal his scars, the crucifixion and the resurrection suddenly made sense.
We don’t know what Thomas did but we know what he declared, “My Lord and my God!” In that moment of transformation, Thomas was the first to profess Jesus as his personal Lord and savior.
Jesus revealed the evidence to Thomas so he could authentically believe. Jesus wanted to personalize His death and resurrection in Thomas’s life.
He knows us. He loves us. He knows what we need to put our trust in him.
James gives us an alternative to wavering. “If any of you lacks wisdom, (spiritual insight) he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1.5 NIV)
Jesus didn’t die so that Thomas would live out the rest of his life in doubt, disbelief, and disillusionment. He died and was raised so Thomas and all of us could live a life full of faith and freedom from uncertainty.
No matter how numb we feel, how dead and hopeless our situation--it is no match for the transforming power of the resurrection. Ask Jesus to open your eyes to resurrection reality.
There are some things we can learn from the disciples. The reality of the resurrection strengthened the disciples’ resolve.
Resolve is defined as “commitment, boldness, and courage.” When Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified, it seemed that in one sweeping moment, the disciples lost all their resolve. What happened?
I believe their doubts and fears surprised even themselves. We tend to think better of ourselves. We imagine scenarios where we face our weaknesses and confront our challenges. But we too often fail our tests.
Can you imagine the disciples’ conversation after Jesus death? “Where did you go? What did you do? What did you say? Not a lot of guts and glory. Imagine the guilt, shame and humiliation. Resolve is hard to come by when your life is in serious danger. Fears and doubts filter everything.
Thomas wasn’t the only one to doubt. He was just the most vocal. Thomas really loved Jesus. When Jesus wanted to return to risky Judea, Thomas was the only one who said, “Lets go, we may die with him.”
(John 11:16 NIV)
We see what people are made out of during difficult moments, and this was one of those moments. What do you get when you squeeze an orange? Orange juice. What do you get when you squeeze disciples?
Well, in this case, you get anxiety but from Thomas you get loyalty.
Yet somehow, that resolve was out the window the moment Jesus was arrested. Why, because Thomas was human, because he was flesh and blood? In the garden Jesus expressed his own anxiety. He cried, “Father let this cup pass from me.” Do we really have to go through with this?
The disciples were feeling so heavy they couldn’t stay awake to pray for even an hour. Jesus said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Mark 14.38 NIV
The flesh is pretty influential when we face of disillusionment and doubt. But the reality of the resurrection changed the disciples’ resolve forever. The resurrection was never far from their lips. The explosive development of the church attests to the power of the resurrection story in their lives.
“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all” (Acts 4:33 NIV).
All the disciples but John died as martyrs. Thomas was the apostle who took the message of the kingdom outside the Roman Empire. According to tradition, he took the gospel to India, where he was martyred for his teaching on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not bad for a doubter!
The reality of the resurrection also strengthened the disciples’ relationships. After the resurrection, Jesus told Mary Magdalene and the other women, “Go and tell my brothers” (Matthew 28:10 NIV).
Jesus lived with them. Jesus washed their feet. He was their Messiah but he was also their brother. He knew them well. He said, I call you my friends. Servants don’t really know their master. I tell you everything.
Peter lied to save his skin. Thomas demanded proof. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
Jesus wasn’t even there to hear that-- he just knew it. But he didn’t give up on relationship. Resurrection reality strengthened that bond. Jesus is patient with us. He loves us. He gave his life for us. He is invested in us.
We are all doubters, deniers, and defectors but he died for us!
The disciples were hunkered down in guilt and fear and suddenly Jesus appeared. As a father comforts his children, Jesus comforted His disciples by assuring them He was for real. Fear and doubt dissolved to into joy.
Resurrection reality took over. Jesus spent several weeks appearing to over 500 followers. He was relational. He was Emmanuel (“God with us”). Jesus touched people, walked with people, ate with people. He doesn’t check out on us--even when we check out on him.
Finally, The reality of the resurrection offered the disciples’ restoration. I love the story of Peter’s reinstatement. After breakfast on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus addressed Peter’s failure directly for the first time since His resurrection.
Peter still had a vivid recollection of his three denials just the way Jesus said it would happen. As he warmed his hands over the courtyard fire, the rooster crowed. He chickened out. But here on the beach over a miracle catch and fish fry he was given a second chance at resurrection reality.
Jesus asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15) Probably referring to the net breaking catch. To Peter’s surprise, Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” Why three times? Three renunciations--three affirmations that’s restoration!
God can turn our greatest failures into His powerful purposes!
The death and resurrection of Jesus left a profound impact on Peter’s life. He finally learned what love for God was all about. It isn’t about performance its about relationship.
It matters how we respond to the resurrection. It can be a little excitement on Easter Sunday or it can empower us for life and service.
Our resurrected Lord Jesus will give us a whole new resolve. Just ask. He changes our reality. Our denial, guilt, failure, fear and doubt are washed away by is love, compassion and forgiveness. Just ask.
He welcomes us to enjoy an intimate relationship. He restores us to our full potential and purpose. Just ask.
I’m wondering. Have you let your fears and failures dictate your future? Is there a haunting voice in side of you that says, you blew it, God can’t use you. You will have lay down that dream. You’re damaged goods.
Don’t buy the lie. There is another reality. He resurrects our resolve. He resurrects relationships. He restores us to be fully alive with purpose!