App Notes – April 17, 2022
What do you do when your doubts seem overwhelming?
Welcome to Easter at Grace Church. We’re going to get to celebrating soon. But first, we’re going to talk about doubt. Because we are living in a time where the credibility gap with the Church is widening every day. Where many people are walking away from their faith in Jesus. What do you do with doubt?
Today we’re going to explore the story of “Doubting Thomas.”
Fun Fact: Hey there! It’s Barry. If you’re new to Grace, I usually like to drop a bunch of ‘fun facts’ in the app notes. Some are random personal things that struck me as I was writing my message, but more often than not they’re a place for me to share some of the super-nerdy Bible details I didn’t have time to talk about in my message. Enjoy!
That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
The disciples are in a locked room.
It tells us that apparently Jesus’ resurrected body is not limited by spacetime.
It shows us the mental state of the disciples. They’re terrified.
Fun Fact: I often find myself thinking about what our resurrected existence will be like in the New Creation. If God created spacetime, he necessarily lives beyond it. Will our New Creation bodies exist beyond the limits of our time-bound existence? Whoa.
So in their grief they’re also very afraid. It’s in that setting that Jesus shows up to give them peace.
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again.
Fun Fact: In Luke's account of the first post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, it is not only Mary Magdalene, but several other women who first bring the news back to the disciples. I find it super fascinating to consider how the unique perspectives of each gospel account bring different details to light in order to make their claim about the truth of Christ.
MY LORD AND MY GOD
Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.
For a long time I just thought “Doubting Thomas” had earned the nickname. Because he obviously screwed up, and we see Jesus just dunking on him here as this idiot who didn’t believe, right? Well I’m not so sure anymore.
The disciples were all facing deep grief, abandonment, shame for what they had done.
The disciples were terrified and in hiding.
The other disciples didn’t believe at first either (Luke 24:9-11).
Jesus gently offers Thomas exactly what he asked for.
Thomas is the first person in the gospel of John (other than the gospel writer himself) to refer to Jesus as God.
When Jesus says “blessed are those who believe without seeing,” he’s not dunking on Thomas. He’s breaking the fourth wall, looking right at the camera, and speaking to all the readers of John’s gospel from the first century until now. We will be blessed if we believe.
Blessing = Whole, abundant, peaceful, vibrant life. Life lived in the presence and provision of God. A return to Eden - to God’s intentions for this world. Free from the curse of death, free from brokenness, free from shame. A life that stretches into New Creation.
That’s why I believe John tells the story of Thomas’ initial doubt and ultimate belief. It’s not a cautionary tale about the dangers of doubt. It’s an invitation for us to believe as well in the midst of our doubt.
Jesus Christ rose from the grave. We will find life if we believe it.
Fun Fact: In the early Church, Christians used a fish symbol to indicate to others their faith in Jesus. Although this undoubtedly hints at the fact that several of his disciples were fishermen, or that Jesus calls his followers to be “fishers of people,” there is another meaning. In ancient Greek, the word for ‘fish’ is ichthus. The letters of this word are an acronym for “Jesus Christ Son of God” (Iēsous Christos Theos Huios), which is what John calls Jesus in John 20:31.
My quest for the last 20 years has been trying to answer this question: If God does exist then how does he reveal himself?
God reveals himself incarnationally
He speaks through human authors and cultures (the Bible)
He brings healing and justice in the world through human agents (the Church)
And he entered into our world himself (Jesus Christ)
The Creator of this universe was so full of self-giving love that he entered into our world, humbled himself and became one of us, and did what we could not do: while humanity was trapped in our self-destruction, he sacrificed his life to bring an end to the curse of sin and death. And he rose again to open the door to a kind of life that we could never discover on our own.
Have you found "life by the power of his name?"
Fun Fact: I was so encouraged by the response to my Bible Class for Bible Skeptics. I will undoubtedly return to that content again in the fall, perhaps by repeating the class or by exploring new venues to present those ideas (such as a podcast, YouTube videos, discussion groups, etc.). Stay tuned!
PUT IT TO THE TEST
This community of faith has made the claim that Jesus holds the key to life, and I believe there is only one way for you to know if that claim is true: You have to put it to the test.
Does a posture of self-giving love like Jesus’ truly lead to greater joy?
Does trusting in God’s direction instead of my own self-sufficiency truly lead to a better life?
Does radical nonviolence, a commitment to justice for the marginalized, and a rejection of greed and power truly heal the brokenness of our world?
Does this community of faith truly offer me a new life free of my shame and mistakes?
Does this resurrected Messiah truly reach for me and offer a second chance?
If it’s all made up, that’ll become clear in time. But if it’s real, I believe you will encounter a kind of life and love and grace that changes everything.
Fun Fact: If you would like to be baptized next Sunday, you can sign up at gracechurch.us/baptism or just show up! We’ll have everything you need to tell the world you have chosen to follow Christ. I would be so privileged to baptize you.