John 20 v24 – 29 – THE IMPOSSIBLE MADE POSSIBLE by Chris Andrews
John 20 v 24 – 29 “Seeing and Believing” (New King James Version)
24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, [f]“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Do you remember the Television programme and of course later the series of feature films titled “Mission Impossible”? The basis of them of course was that a bad guy of some description threatened world security and a special agent went after him showing courage and strength beyond that of most humans, dealt with them and ensured the safety of the world yet again.
All the stuff of fiction of course. However today we celebrate Easter Sunday, albeit in very different circumstances from any other Easter. Nonetheless we give thanks to God as we reflect on that first Easter that on that day He did something that humanly speaking was completely impossible. That God, in the form of the Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who many had witnessed dying on a Cross less than 48 hours previously, should now be found alive. He was to appear to and speak with His friends even walk with them and eat with them. What a Saviour, only God could do this!.
As we look at these very familiar account I want us to look at 3 things concerning the Risen Christ
Risen Christ - Impossible V24-25
Risen Christ – Implausible v26
Risen Christ – Immortal v27 – 29
FIRST - Risen Christ - Impossible V24-25
We read this account most Easter times. We know well this passage. This man who declares that he cannot believe unless he sees Jesus in person. We sometimes say of someone who we cannot convince of something that they are a “Doubting Thomas. Maybe we think, why given all of the evidence available, why would Thomas not accept the truth?
Well if you think about it, on first hearing, in the capacity of our human minds it is an impossible thing to accept. We don’t know from Scripture, which indicates that many of His Disciples deserted at the point that Jesus was taken to the Cross, where Thomas was. Some had met with Him on the evening of that Easter Day but, and we don’t know why, Thomas wasn’t there. It’s not too difficult though to sympathise with Thomas. After all, how can one who many had witnessed dying before being taken down from the Cross and placed in Joseph’s Tomb, now be found alive. In human terms this was Impossible. How could it be true?
Notice first the joy in the others as they shared with Thomas. You can almost hear them falling over one another to be the one who told Thomas saying “We have seen the Lord” and we wish you had seen Him too. In one sense they were building one another up as we too should be doing. They also were telling others. Sharing what they had seen and experienced for themselves
How does Thomas respond though? He wants to see the “nail marks and the wound in His side”
Crucifixion probably the most barbaric form of death ever invented. Nails driven into hands of outstretched arms such that the one being killed was unable to breath. There is of course in the death of our Lord, that picture of our sin being dealt with. Speaking of the death of our Lord causing the old law to be buried and a new way being established the Apostle Paul writes “….And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the Cross” (Col 2 v14b).
Remember, John describes in Chapter 19 how, after Jesus had hung on the Cross and died one of the Roman Guards put a spear in His Side and immediately blood and water came out. By this Old Testament was fulfilled in that none of His bones were broken; as often happened with those who were crucified. You may recall the famous line by the actor John Wayne who played the Soldier in the 1965 film “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. I’m told that the Director George Stevens had insisted on many retakes of the line which John Wayne had to say “Truly this man was the Son of God” trying to get John Wayne to show more emotion. Eventually John Wayne changed the line, adding just one word and spoke the famous quote “Aw, truly this man was the Son of God”
Thomas must have known that Jesus’ side had been opened but he wanted to see the One who claimed to be the Son of God. But surely its impossible for One who was dead to be alive again. We recall though that God is all Powerful. This is God who we are told in the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis, formed the world and everything in it from nothing. It was God who made first Man and then Woman. It was God who raised a people for Himself and who kept them, even when they disobeyed His law, when they attempted to run away, when they were under slavery or in exile.
Jeremiah says “Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You” (Jer 32 v17). I love the verse at the start of the New Testament as the Angel appeared to Mary and shares that she has been chosen to bear the Baby Jesus into the world and says “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1 v37).
And so to Thomas the appearance of His Lord whom he knew had died was impossible. Surely the others were not telling the truth. How could something which in human terms is impossible have actually happened. Thomas needed to see the evidence, the nail-marks and the wound.
SECOND - Risen Christ – Implausible v26
And so we jump forward 8 days and meet once again this man Thomas who had on that Easter Day when told that Jesus was alive declared that he could not believe such a thing.
We are told that this time Thomas was with them and as they sat, Jesus appears and meets with them. Notice that we are told first that Jesus came “the doors being closed”. The NIV adds that the doors were locked. It reminds us that there are no barriers to God. He can see us. He knows what we are doing and what we are thinking at all times.
Although they possibly didn’t quite get the significance of the moment – we have to realise what an amazing privilege this time was for the Disciples. They had been with Jesus for 3 years, they had witnessed many things, He had taught them in private but at the point of His Death they had dispersed. No doubt for their own safety, expecting the Romans to come after them next. But now in God’s wonderful plans they had come together on this night and had that opportunity as the whole group of 11 to meet with the Risen Lord. To have that time to be able to speak with Him, even if words were not spoken just to be in His presence.
You sometimes read an interview with someone, during which they are asked “Who from history would you want to invite to a dinner party”. Most will name a famous political or military leader, maybe a writer or actor. But to spend time in the presence of the Son of God, what could be a better use of our time? That’s why the Lord Jesus taught that we are to have that time where we go to our private place and spend time with Him in prayer. Waiting to hear that still small voice as we read Scripture and Pray, as we seek His face, ask for His guidance, praying for a greater measure of the Holy Spirit to come down on us.
We have to consider though why would Jesus do this? Well, we have to go back and consider Why He came and Why He died for us.
We think of familiar verses John 3 v16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”
The Apostle Paul writes “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3 v13)
Philippians 2 v8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that is not of yourselves it is the gift of God”
We are reminded in these verses, and in many others I could have chosen, that our Lord Jesus the One and Only Son of God stepped down from the glories of heaven into this sin-filled world. Through the ages from the escape from slavery in Egypt they had offered animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins. But now here was God in the form of the Son being taken out of the City like the scapegoat of old and dying on a tree for you and for me
The hymn writer asks “What Kind of Love is this?” He writes “What kind of Man is this that died in agony? He who had done no wrong was crucified for me. What kind of man is this, who laid aside His throne that I may know the love of God? What kind of man is this?
John then records that Jesus stands in the midst of the meeting and declares Peace. He does the same today standing among us and sharing with us His Perfect Peace. Peace that can only be found from knowing Him and being known by Him.
The Apostle Paul writes “Having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5 v1)
There is no doubt we live in turbulent and difficult times. Apart from the current crisis as a result of Coronavirus which has shaken so many, there are many spots around the world where there continues to be War and Famine, Unrest and they are far from Peace. Most long for Peace, but at the cost of another’s life. For many life is cheap. The Peace being offered by our Lord here though is a Peace that only God can give. Forgiveness of all of our sins, new life in Him. Only His Peace can truly satisfy our deepest needs and longing. And here is the Risen Lord offering His Peace, not only to Thomas but to all seated in that room that night.
It also reminds us though that as Jesus offers His Peace, He is reaching out to Thomas. He is saying I know that you doubted I was alive; but here I am and I forgive You for doubting. It reminds us that if we come to Him in true repentance He has the power and more importantly He is willing to forgive and receive us.
How Implausible all of this if we judged it by the world’s standards but we remember that God’s standards are not those of the world. He alone has the power to come into the world to die for us, taking the punishment we deserve for our disobedience and then receiving us back into His Kingdom.
THIRD and final, RISEN CHRIST IMMORTAL v27 - 29
Notice, having addressed all of them Jesus turns specifically to Thomas. Gently, the Lord addresses Thomas and responds specifically to both of Thomas’ doubts. He invites Thomas to look at His Hands – to see the nail prints and His side – to see the wound and even to reach inside Jesus’ body. Thomas had asked for evidence. In his doubt that first night, these were the two pieces of evidence that would convince him that it was really the Lord Jesus of whom he had been told was risen from the dead and Thomas could now see in front of him.
We aren’t told if Thomas did literally touch Jesus’ hands and sides. I like to think that He did just to be absolutely sure before declaring that he now accepted that this was the Lord whom he had followed for the last 3 years, had seen going to the Cross, the One who had died but who was now standing alive in front of him. Thomas though can see the physical injuries done to our Lord’s body. We are reminded that we too will see His hands one day – John sees in his Revelation “a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Rev 5 v6). As someone said to me recently “What’s the one man made thing in heaven?”. The answer – the nail-marks in His hands.
And in response we see Thomas’ wonderful response “My Lord and my God”. He knew. He was convinced that he was now in the presence of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, the second of the Trinity. That is what God asks of us, as He looks down on a people He created but who have now gone so far away from Him. Living in their sin. Not seeing any need to come and to acknowledge their Creator, their need of Him both in this life and for eternity. In the current crisis there are many facing death, who would not have expected to do so at this time in their lives. How many though are ready to meet their maker. Remember there is that day of judgement coming when all will be required to give an account of what they have done with their lives. Will they be able to declare that He is their Lord and their God as Thomas did?
The Psalmist reminds us “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt, there is none who does good, no not one” (Ps 14 v2/3)
Paul writes to the Church at Rome “But God demonstrates His own love toward us that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5 v8).
And because of His death for us, we can be one of those who stops going our way, to seek God and to receive Him. Thomas was able to do so and it’s the challenge for us. To ask have we done it?
As Thomas does so, Jesus reminds Thomas that he was able to believe because he had seen Jesus in the flesh. For us though we have to believe in faith that Jesus did this. Performed what is in human terms an Impossible Feat. Its never been proven beyond any doubt to have happened again. Why? Because only God could have done it. We are reminded though that His first coming fulfilled thousands of years of prophecy. His second coming was similarly spoken of, even by our Lord Himself and is recorded by the Gospel writers and we wait in Hope and Faith knowing that one day He will come again and all who have sought Him for salvation will go to be with Him for eternity. We are those who are blessed by God. Let’s be those who live in the light of that blessing. Yes we live in very strange and challenging times, but today on this Easter Day lets be encouraged to declare Him whom even death could not hold, who performed the Impossible and who is now seated at the Father’s right hand interceding for us as we come seeking His Face and Giving Him the Praise He deserves.
Up from the Grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er His foes; He arose a victor from the dark domain and lives for ever with His saints to reign; He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!