Sermon Outline On John 20:19-31
When we are children we tend to believe that parents are like gods. They are strong, invincible, and beautiful and maybe perfect. But somewhere along the way we realize they are not and we begin to realize that they make mistakes and are very human.
In childhood we also tend to believe life is like our children’s books of ‘once upon a time’ and ‘happily ever after’s’. But once again, life gets in the way and we learn that there is not always a happily ever after to every story.
As teenagers and college students we somehow begin to believe that we are invincible and that nothing seriously bad will ever happen to us.
Somewhere around our 30’s to 40’s we begin to realize that it is the small things in life and relationships are the things that matter most in life because we realize nothing in life is forever – even us.
Hopefully, and the younger you are the better, we realize that the only thing in life that is real, is everlasting, that is true and that never fails you is God.
The one thing that God has always wanted in this life is for us to believe in God and be in relationship with the One who created us. From the beginning of time when God created Adam and Eve God longed to be in relationship with us. That is even shown to us as God went looking for Adam and Eve in the garden. God is not far off but God is near. Throughout Scripture God has made the covenant to never leave us nor forsake us. The greatest gift of expressing this, of course, is that God sent Jesus to be with us, teach us, and love us. We see God’s passion for us as He came to Jerusalem and wept over the city in His grief that we would not listen or accept Him. Of course, Jesus came ultimately to die for our sins so we are a forgiven people reunited in relationship with God and will spend eternity with Him.
The sad part is that too many of us spend our lives seeking someone or something to believe in and for them to believe in you. We want so much to feel love and approval. We seek it first from our parents. As we grow older we seek that acceptance and approval from our friends. If we don’t get the acceptance we need from our families then kids join gangs to have that sense of belonging. We can also seek a spouse for a sense of belonging and being loved.
We can also seek the ideal of something to believe in through the books we read, medicine to care for us and science to explain everything in this world that we do not understand. The problem is that just as we think one thing is explained scientifically we learn it is not true. One of the earliest things we can point to with this is for how long everyone thought the world was flat and the amazement to learn that science was wrong and that it was wrong. Or the fact that we thought everything in the universe revolved around the earth but instead it was only our solar system that revolves around the sun.
The problem is that if we are dependent on seeking approval from others for our fulfillment or if we seek science to always fulfill our beliefs we walk away disappointed, hurt and let down in each and every situation. God is the only one that will never leave us nor forsake us. Sometimes when something goes wrong in our lives we want to blame God or we think God has left us when He has not. We simply lack understanding at the time.
Thomas was the disciple that was missing when Jesus made His first appearance to the disciples after His resurrection on that first day of the week. We don’t know where Thomas was. He may have been out getting food for them to eat. Nonetheless, Jesus appeared while He was gone. When Thomas returned to be with the group they reported to him what all happened and that Jesus was truly alive. Thomas did not want to believe. He did not lack full understanding. He thought Jesus had left them when in fact He had not. Jesus was bringing something much greater to them and to us through His resurrection.
If I were to mention the names of certain disciples to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind, it is unlikely you would come up with the same words. If I were to mention the name of Judas many of you would write down the word “betray” but not all of you. If I were to mention Simon Peter, some of you would write down the word “leader,” but not all of you.
If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase “Sons of Thunder,” but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is little question about the word most everyone would write down. It would be the word doubt. Indeed, so closely have we associated Thomas with this word, that we have coined a phrase to describe him: “Doubting Thomas.”
You may be interested to know that in the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas. It is in John’s Gospel that he emerges as a distinct personality, but even then there are only 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description.
When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. It was a courageous statement, yet we don’t remember him for that. We also fail to point out that in this story of Thomas’ doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith?
When Thomas did finally get to see Jesus at His second appearance to the apostle’s look at his confession, “My Lord, and my God.” Not teacher. Not Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter. What I also think is important to notice is not only the transformation that took place with Thomas in his faith but in the other disciples. In the first part of the passage we are told that they were hiding behind closed and locked doors.
At the second visit there is no such thing. Jesus had offered them ‘Shalom’. He had given them peace to see and understand that all that He had taught them was true and that He was alive. They did not need to fear the Temple officials or anyone else. They simply needed to be who they were and who God called them to be.
The same is true for us. God wants us to believe in ourselves and to love and accept ourselves for who we are because we are made in the image of God and God loves us completely. Second, God wants us to simply believe in Him and to accept His love and grace that is given to us unconditionally. God’s love is never going to leave us, forsake us, let us down or disappoint us. God wholly and completely loves us. Finally, God wants us to seek relationships with others that are healthy and because we love them not because we are simply looking for their love and approval.
We are much healthier in our relationships when we learn to love ourselves so that we can then love others. It all boils down to the two great commandments, ‘Love (and believe) the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength,’ and to, ‘Love our neighbors as ourselves’. Believe my brothers and sisters – simply believe. Amen.