Evidence to Believe

“Evidence to Believe”
John 20:19-31
Rev. Mark Vickers
April 23, 2017

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “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.” 26 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!” 27 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.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

If some of you are like me, the little bit of TV I watch is mindless! As is probably 90% of TV anyway, with the exception of Duke basketball and Chicago Cubs baseball. I find myself an evening or two a week watching something that is mindless, adventurous, and that I know will either be solved, or will end, usually with the bad guy in custody. I, like many other Americans want predictability! We want the process which is completed by the shrewd pursuance of evidence. We (or at least I) get hooked on those shows. I think most of us possess a keen desire to follow the evidence until the mystery is solved. 

Just look at our Gospel text this morning, and the mysterious appearance of Jesus to the disciples following the resurrection. Can you imagine the chatter? Locked in a room, the disciples afraid of Jewish confrontation, and Jesus appears to them! WOW! Yet, it is not an appearance without explanation. Jesus tells them, “Peace be with you,” sort of a calming down if you will, for what they were seeing was literally “awe-some!”

But of course, there was one late to the party! Thomas the twin, one of the twelve, was not locked in the room. But leave it up to eleven men to start talking! Women usually get the bad wrap, but let me tell you, eleven men at a special event, and one of them was late, they couldn’t keep quiet! It would be like watching a “clutch finish” to the Masters, then describing the event to the one sole individual who didn’t get a ticket! The response was the same from Thomas, “unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my fingers in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (v.25) 

You see, John’s gospel is what I call “the courtroom gospel.” “The facts ma’am, just the facts!” It’s the Perry Mason gospel, as evident in verse 312-“These are written, so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, The Son of God, and that through believing you may have a life in his name.” 

The proclamation of Thomas is much like us. We are people who seek to have evidence validate our beliefs. It becomes increasingly difficult in a world that sometimes appears to be engulfed in turmoil to secure that hope that Jesus is our Lord and Savior and maintain that hope and focus in a faith that does not require evidence. I was moved this week by something Pope Francis said following Easter and the violence that followed, he said, “Since Christ is resurrected, we can look with new eyes and a new heart at every event of our lives, even the most negative ones.” 

John never claims in his writing that evidence is not necessary. He claims that it is truly the work of the Spirit that solidifies and secures the continual work of Jesus in our lives. 

You see, the next fifty days–the time between Easter and Pentecost–becomes (or is known) as the time in which the church (via the pulpit and it’s work) explain the great Mysteries of the faith. It is the time in which meaning is given to active faith. It is a time for us as the church to be instructed even more fully on how to proclaim the mystery of faith to those who have and have not experienced it. 

It becomes the “time of great instruction.” What a more powerful way than to start with a story of a human follower of Jesus, who “thinks” he needs evidence in order to secure his faith, but finds out that what he really needs is to admire and admonish the work of the Spirit within his life and be secure only with the evidence Jesus willingly provides. The work of the Spirit cements within Thomas the way forward into a deeper and clearer understanding of Jesus the Savior.

It was not just the simple evidence that was required but the work of the Spirit that proclaims and solidifies the Easter message, “Christ Has Risen! He has risen indeed!” 

That is the message we, as Easter people claim all year long, but more especially in the next 45 days as we meet the newly resurrected Christ!