John 20:19-31 / Jesus Alive: Fact or fiction

April 11, 2020

Ray Galea

We rightly have a confidence in science that it will find a vaccine for Covid-19. Science is doing what God calls humans to do; to understand and find answers to the worlds problems, like Covid19. Science is helping us avoid death, but we know once death has set in, science can’t make a difference. Before death you want the doctor but after death Doctors are as useless as the rest of us, all they can do is write the death certificate.

When I visited a morgue in my early 20s, I noticed that no one was in rush, the time for making a difference has passed. COVID 19 has 0.8% death rate in Australia, the US has 3% and Italy has 12.5%. Death has a 100% success rate with every Australian and every human.

One comedian said the stats for death are overwhelming one out of one dies.

While I have confidence that science will find a vaccine for the Coronavirus, it can do nothing once a person has died.

I was talking to a very thoughtful man, he said ‘Ray, I believe in facts not faith, I base my life on Science not Religion. I only believe in what I can see with my eyes’. 

So, is it true that Science is only about facts and Christianity is only about faith? I want to say that Science and Christianity both require faith in a set of facts 2 times.

Let me explain, when I had my appendix operation, I didn’t check the doctors degree and I didn’t see that the scalpel was sterilized, I didn’t study the surgery techniques and I didn’t even get a second opinion. But I had so much faith in both the doctors and medical science that I let strangers drug me to the point I was unconscious. I let them use a sharp scalpel to cut me open and I even paid him for the privilege. If that is not faith what is. But interestingly, I made sure that my wife took my wallet so that no one would steal it. 

If we only believe what we see and if that were true, we could not send people to jail. Every week judges and juries make verdicts based not on what they saw but on eye witness evidence. Christianity is faith in the eye witness facts of Jesus. The key fact is this for the first time in the history of the world a man has been raised from the dead, never to die again.

Let us now turn to the eye witness facts presented in John’s Gospel, chapter 20. By this stage Jesus has been

  • Crucified on the cross on the first Good Friday
  • He was buried in a cave
  • The Romans put armed guards to make sure no one stole the body
  • Then on the first Easter Sunday 2 women see the tomb and 2 angels tell them that Jesus is not there, he is risen.
  • Peter and John visit the tomb to see that it was empty and the grave clothes folded.

On the first Easter Sunday evening Jesus appeared to 10 very scared apostles in a locked upper room. These men were handpicked apostles who were with Jesus for 3 years. Two of the 12 were missing, Judas, by now is dead and the other is Thomas. In this chapter we are taken into places we can’t go, the empty tomb where Jesus was buried and the upper room where Jesus appeared.

We can’t go there, not because it didn’t happen but because we live in the 21st century and Jesus came in the 1st century, we live in Sydney and Jesus was crucified and buried in Jerusalem. With it our doubts and questions are forced to stare into the facts of the risen Lord Jesus. Jesus appears, it will be one of 10 appearances of the risen Jesus over a 40 day period.

In verse 21, Jesus says to the 10

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (NIV)

He empowers them with the Spirit and authorises them to forgive sin, but Thomas, 1 of the 12, wasn’t there when Jesus appeared in the upper room, so in verse 25 they run to tell him.

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” (NIV)

If you were Thomas you might be saying to yourself. “Darn it, I missed out.” “Late again, I’m always late for meetings.” This could have been the first and only time Jesus was going to appear before he ascended into heaven. But regret was the last thing on Thomas mind. His reaction was total and utter disbelief, there was not a shred of faith, he thought it was a whole lot of bull. Let’s continue with verse 25.

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 it.” (NIV)

This is hardcore doubt and, I have to tell you, I am kind of glad Thomas is like that. I am a modern man and I, like you, have doubts. I have real questions. But Thomas doesn’t even say, unless I see I won’t believe. He needs to grab hold of Jesus before he believes in Jesus. He wants the full 3D experience.

Thomas is like my grandson, who is also called Thomas. If he can’t touch it, hold it, and put it in his mouth then it’s not real to him. So out of Thomas price range is a resurrection, nothing less than sticking his fingers in Jesus wounds where the nails were, putting his hands into Jesus guts where the spear went.

You don’t say that if you think there is any chance of it going to happen. You only speak in such crude ways if you’re absolutely sure that Jesus won’t turn up and take you up on the offer.

Friends, it’s common for us to look down on people in the first century and to think they were gullible and ignorant and uneducated and filled with superstition. This guy is not gullible, he is a hardcore cynic. Even though Thomas knew that Jesus had healed everybody who came to him, that Jesus has raised at least 3 people from the dead and 3 times Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead, Thomas will not believe unless he can see, touch and poke in the body of the living Jesus. That is not doubt, that is 100% disbelief.

Thomas had no expectation of a resurrection at all because like every other human who has ever lived when you die you stay dead. But what makes Thomas’ disbelief less reasonable is that he had received the eye witness report of not 1,2,3,4 but all 10 apostles. The word of the 10 apostles should have been enough, Jesus expected it to be enough for Thomas because he will expect it to be enough for you.

So, when you hear about the resurrection and read the appearances by Jesus, just as you are doing now, you can be certain that it is trustworthy. Jesus loved doubting Thomas and so, verse 26 tells us, he appeared a 2nd time, not just for Thomas sake but for ours.

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!” (NIV)

Notice that Thomas had a full week to change his mind and believe, 7 days of doubt and he is not budging one bit. So, Jesus appears again, Jesus first words to every one including Thomas are ‘Peace be with you… all of you…’

Jesus is a forgiving God. Please know friends, there is nothing Jesus won’t forgive, if only you come to him. It’s why he died on the cross to offer a full pardon. Verse 27 and 28 says that Jesus then calls Thomas out by name. Awkward!

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!” (NIV)

Jesus confronts Thomas’ doubts. You had the facts but you had no faith. You heard the truth but you refuse to trust. You listened to the eye witness reports and still won’t believe. Then the rebuke, stop doubting and believe! Can you see Jesus turning to you right now and telling you it’s time to stop doubting and trust me. 

When Jesus turns his attention to us: 

  • We who will come after
  • We who didn’t get to see what Thomas saw
  • We who are left reading this gospel
  • We who on this Easter Sunday April 12th are watching MBM online

Jesus says in verse 29 ‘Tom, lucky them for they will believe without seeing.’

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (NIV)

Blessed or happy are those who have not seen and yet have believed, faith is taking God at his word. Believe what? Believe that Jesus is alive. Believe that for the first time, death has been defeated. Believe that you too will rise from the dead. And because Jesus rose from the dead, that what Jesus said about himself is true, He is Lord and God

From the greatest doubter, the biggest sceptic, from the man who had more doubts than you will ever have, comes the biggest claim of Jesus. Jesus is not just Saviour, King or Christ. He is not just Son of God–Jesus is Lord and God. More than that, Jesus is My Lord and My God.

Thomas shared your doubts, you now need to share his faith in the facts presented.Jesus is alive and He is God and forgiveness is only found in him and him alone. Jesus is God whether you say so or not. The question for you is will you say that Jesus is My Lord and My God, that is why the evidence is before you.

John 20.30-31

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (NIV)

As far as God is concerned, these miraculous signs of Jesus are enough facts to produce faith. These signs are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Son of God and have life. You can be certain of that, not only did Jesus rise again but so can you. 

We are all born enslaved to the fear of death. That fear takes many forms. Fear of knowing that Death is coming, fear of not knowing when it will come, fear of not knowing how it will come, fear that Death wipes our footprint from this earth. Jesus resurrection is the great game changer, it means we no longer need to be enslaved to the fear of death. Death has been defeated. As surely as Christ rose from the dead so will you because Jesus said in verse 25 and 26.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (NIV)

Dear Jesus,

I finally and fully accept that you rose form the dead.
You are my Lord, and you are my God.
I confess that I have lived apart from you all my life.
Please forgive me Lord.
Thank you for giving me life, and forgiveness.
Thank you for setting me free to serve you.
In Jesus powerful name,

Amen.