The Confession of a Skeptic

Do you ever wonder if the Bible is really true, if God is real, if Jesus is really alive? You’re not in bad company! This part of John’s Gospel is addressed to Thomas and to you. In John 20:24-31 the skeptic makes a profoundly true confession.

 Stop doubting! Thomas doubted. John has recorded Peter and John’s dash to the tomb, and John’s faith as he found the tomb empty with the grave clothes lying there. We have seen Mary Magdalene’s tears, and heard the Lord address her by name and assure her of his resurrection. That same resurrection evening Jesus appeared to the disciples (likely a group larger than the 11).

Notice how clear Jesus makes the fact of his resurrection, how he meets people in their need. Though he hasn’t appeared to you in person, he has given you the complete revelation of himself in the Scriptures. You have the record! Yet Thomas (who had been absent the first Sunday evening) was skeptical. He demanded proof: seeing the nail prints, placing his finger there, putting his hand on the wound in Jesus’ side.

A week later Jesus identified Thomas’ problem. You can identify with Thomas’ doubt. Despair, fear, disappointment all played their part. Perhaps you not only identify with Thomas, you may be struggling with similar questions and doubts. If so, take heart. While doubt can be a hypocritical cover for disobedience, the Lord deals gently with Thomas, and with those who are really questioning. He graciously spoke to Thomas after pronouncing his peace on the assembled disciples, vv.26,27.

Yet he commands him, “Don’t be doubting, but believe!” Unbelief is something Jesus tells you to stop. It is a sin that leaves you hopeless. Jesus’ resurrection, not in isolation, but as the climax of his suffering and death, is the most important single event in history.

Do you find yourself doubting? You can’t remain neutral — either you trust Christ or you are unbelieving. Jesus challenges you to move off the fence, to trust in him.

Instead of continuing to doubt, Believe that Jesus is truly risen! Confess that Jesus is your Lord and your God. Jesus revealed himself to Thomas, met his objections and challenged his unbelief.

Thomas made a vital confession. He recognized that Jesus is indeed risen. There is no record that he needed to actually touch those scars — he seems to have been convinced by the presence of his Savior. He acknowledges Jesus as Lord and God. Remember that this is Thomas, the Jewish disciple, one who confessed the Shema faithfully, who is making this statement. This counters the argument of the modern-day Arians, the Jehovah Witnesses.

Thomas makes this a personal confession. Jesus is “My Lord and my God.” That is the personal confession that a covenant child needs to make. It is the confession that each of us needs to make–and needs to keep on making. You need to acknowledge Jesus as your God, your Creator, the One with sovereign right to all that you are. Notice how the Shema leads into a life focused on living in the presence of God. Confess Jesus as who he really is. This confession summarizes the Gospel of John and takes you back to its opening. As Herman Ridderbos puts it:“In this confession of Thomas, however personally it is formulated, the Fourth Gospel reaches its its climax and returns to the starting point in the Prologue: the coming and work of Jesus the Christ, the Word that was from the beginning with God and was God has become flesh and has dwelled among us.” (The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary, p. 648).

As you believe this You are blessed. Jesus calls you blessed. You stand among those who have believed without seeing Jesus in the flesh, v.29.

Along with that blessing goes a call to service. The Savior who symbolically breathed on and said to his disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” v. 22, is the One who poured out that Spirit at Pentecost. The breath of the Lord brings to mind God’s creative activity, Genesis 2:7, and the life-giving work of the Spirit, Ezekiel 37:1-10. Christ sends you, the church empowered by that Spirit, into the world to serve him. As the Father sent him, so he sends you to continue the work of his kingdom.

On the basis of his resurrection he actually gives peace (his greeting is far more than merely a greeting–it is a reflection of the state of peace that now exists between a holy God and you, his once rebellious people), a peace that dissolves the doubt and fear that grips our hearts.

John, the eyewitness, recorded theses miraculous signs of Jesus, climaxing in the resurrection, so that you might believe, and believing, might have life through his name. Don’t keep on being unbelieving, but believe!

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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