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Todd speaks from John 20 on the Resurrection and subsequent appearances of Jesus Christ to Mary Magdalene and the disciples, as they begin to see and recognize who Jesus is. In the same way, we must also honestly and courageously respond to who Jesus says He is.
The Mandate Men Motivation and Mindset of a Disciple
Well, good morning, Fort Worth, Plano, and my Dallas friends? He is risen! Yeah, if you are a guest here, you may not know around this time of year, and specifically on Easter morning, it has been a tradition of people of faith to greet one another with the words, "He is risen!" and the response is, "He is risen indeed!" It's something we focus on not just on Easter, but we focus on that all of the time.
If Easter didn't happen, we above all men are to be pitied, the Scripture says, but as we focused on last week, we are not fools. We're glad you're here with us again today, and we're going to take a look at John, chapter 20, which really picks up the moment in John's record of the story of Christ that people began to really understand what Jesus said was going to happen has happened indeed. Let me pray for all of us, and we'll dive into his Word.
Lord, thank you for what we get to look at, that you have reminded us in the gospel of John that you are alive. Even the process that sometimes people go through in the midst of grief to really live in the reality of what you have accomplished is really hard. I pray we find a lot here this morning that encourages us, and I pray there is strong application that comes out of this historical narrative to our lives today. Thank you for friends who are gathered with me here and throughout the city, and I pray right now you'd speak to us that we might live for you. In Jesus' name, amen.
Let's do this. Let's just start by making one quick observation. I'll make it out of John, chapter 19, verse 30. They were the last words Jesus ever spoke, and those words were, "It is finished." Now, let me make a quick comment about those simple words to kind of set up where we're going to be the next couple of weeks, as we look at John, chapters 20 and 21, which really deal with the post-resurrection accounts of Jesus' interaction.
It would be a statement about this, "It is finished," that I want you to understand. Believing the gospel means believing it is finished, and it allows you to believe at the same time it is never finished. Why do I start that before we read John 20? I want to let you know here at the very beginning what the whole gospel account is about.
It's called good news. That's what gospel means. Believing in the gospel means you believe it is finished and it is paid in full. The Bible says, "For the wages of sin is death…" In other words, what we earn because we sin, because we are an offense to God, and because we don't believe his way is right and good and true so we go our own way, when we leave the God who is life and light and truth, we get death and darkness and error. That's what we get. That's what we earned.
Now, the story of the Scripture is that God is not looking for you to try and pay back that debt, because you can't. It is an infinite debt to an infinitely holy God. You and I are proverbially lost. We are dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead men have no ability to rescue themselves, but God, in his kindness and grace, rescues us.
What Jesus was doing on the cross was going to a place we could not go so he would do for us what we could not do. God made him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in him. This is what he says in the very beginning. "This is why I'm here, to rescue you. The way I'm going to rescue you is by paying your debt." An infinite and holy God demands an infinite and holy sacrifice, and only God himself can provide that unblemished Lamb.
That's the way Jesus was introduced in the gospel of John. "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" It was really interesting. I was talking to some friends who were with friends of theirs who are of the Jewish faith, and they went to one of their Passover seders, and they invited their Jewish friend to come to their Easter service and, specifically, our Good Friday service. Throughout it, they kept asking them in the middle of our Good Friday service, "Why is Jesus consistently referred to as the Lamb? Why are they calling him the Lamb?"
Because the Lamb is the one who was slaughtered, the innocent one whose blood was shed so God might grant to you forgiveness. We know from the book of Hebrews it's impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away our sins, but it was a foreshadow. Let me just take you all the way back to Exodus 12. In Exodus 12, during the Passover, God told Moses, "I'm a God who takes judgment seriously, and what I want every family to do, as an expression of faith, is to adopt a lamb."
They brought the lamb in. It was an unblemished lamb, and they cared for that lamb. He said, "On a specific day, I want you to take that lamb outside your door. I want you to slit its throat right there in the door basin, and the blood would puddle up right there. Every believing Hebrew family should take the branch of a hyssop tree and dip it in that blood and put it on the mantle and on the doorposts."
I'm going to tell you this is an amazing thing. I've done this before physically for you here on stage when we've talked about this, but you think about taking the branch of a hyssop tree. Watch what every Jewish family did in Egypt under bondage looking to be set free. An innocent lamb's blood was shed. They dipped that branch. They went up and put that blood on the mantle and on this doorpost and on this doorpost.
That night, when the angel of death came through Egypt, it passed over every single family who hid behind the blood of the lamb, which, by the way, think of this again. What was on every door of every Hebrew family? A cross. A bloody cross. When this Jewish friend was here and said, "What was Jesus doing on a cross? Why do they call him a Lamb? What do you mean you're hiding behind the blood? That sounds very familiar to me," and so it should.
"It is finished." No longer a sacrifice necessary because the perfect sacrifice has been made. That's what Jesus said. "Tetelestai." Paid in full. It is done. What's amazing about that is it's hard for us to believe and to attain to what God was up to. In that moment, we are overwhelmed by what he has done, and until you really come to understand who Jesus is and what he has done and you listen to all of his words, sometimes our grief can so overwhelm us that we stop listening to the promises.
You're going to see that happen throughout John, chapter 20, and so it happens to you. I'm going to show you what you have to do to make it through grief and what our obligation is when we really come to have the hope God intends for us to have. Listen to my very first point I'm going to say to you.
1._ Believing the gospel means it is finished._ I no longer have to do anything in order to be reconciled to God. This is what it says in the book of Romans. " Therefore, having been justified by faith…" In what? The Lamb of God who causes death and judgment to pass over us because the wrath of God has been poured out.
God has no wrath left for you if you're a believer. It has all been given to Jesus, and you've been reconciled to him, and the free gift, if you'll accept it, is God's provision for you. "It is finished." It gives you peace. " Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God…" Remember that. Shalom with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Here's what else should happen, though.
2._ Believing the gospel means you know it is never finished._ If you really understand the gospel, not only do you understand it is finished, but when you get this full account you also know it is never finished. What do I mean by that? People of the gospel know they're at rest before God, and they can rest before God as they wait for God to accomplish everything he said he's going to, but we are people who live in the midst of a Friday world waiting for Sunday.
I've said this now for the last several weeks. We're waiting for our someday when God will roll up all of history and finish what he said when he will have all people give an account for their separation from him, and our account will be, "Christ died for me." Other people will account, "I didn't believe in you. I rejected you. I thought my works would be enough." To those people, he says, "It's not finished. You have to pay a debt, because the debt I said would pay it you rejected. You can't ever pay my debt completely, but you're going to do your best forever."
What you and I can do right now is live with a sense that it's never finished. In other words, when we see God doing something that doesn't make any sense to us that there's no way he could possibly turn for our good, we can go back to the gospel of the cross and go, "Hey! It's not over. I don't know how God is going to turn this crucifixion of our Master into good, but I believe he will because there's evidence that it has happened before."
Let me say it to you again just as simply as I can. I've tried to make it kind of a fun little memorable statement. Believing the gospel means believing it is finished and there's nothing you need to do to reconcile yourself to God. It allows you to believe, no matter what you experience, it is never finished, that God can turn this thing and make it right.
Where we are in John, chapter 20, is there are a bunch of people who, when they heard Jesus say on the cross, "It is finished," they didn't think in terms of the debt being paid; they meant, "It is finished. We left everything to follow this guy. We put all of our eggs in that one basket, and it is finished. It's over! What are we going to do?"
You're going to see three very long days, and you're going to see people even when confronted with the resurrection who were slow in attaining to it, but if you understand the fullness of the gospel (Jesus crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected on the third day), you'll never be that person who lives without hope. You'll go, "It's never over! There's always hope. My God is good. He will do what he said. He makes no mistakes."
When I ask you this morning in the midst of a very difficult world, this Friday world waiting for our someday to come…Are you a person who looks at other people with hope? A buddy of mine who works here on staff… His wife's father died suddenly of a heart attack, totally unexpected, just yesterday. I talked to him last night. He said, "We are grieving but not as those who have no hope, because we don't know what God is up to, but we know it's good. It's always good, and in everything we're going to give thanks."
With that as our precursor, let's take a look at John, chapter 20. The disciples were still living with that sense of, "What are we going to do? It is finished." Remember when Jesus said on the cross, "It is finished," he didn't say, "I am finished." That's not what he said at all. He didn't say, "You were fools for believing in me. Your dream is over. You're finished because you were my followers."
Again, he said, "It is finished. It's not over." Now, he's going to show up to them and he's going to tell them, "I told you I was going to die. I told you I would take my life back up again. Here I am taking my life back up again. I want you to see it, and I want you to tell others who have no hope in this world that hope can be found in what I've done and who I am." Let's read this. Let's read John 20 together. Are you ready? This is what it says.
" Now on the first day of the week [Sunday] Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb." The stone, by the way, was rolled away not so Jesus could get out. You're going to find that. The stone was rolled away so others could see he wasn't there. Jesus has no problem with a resurrection body in a way we don't fully understand with this world. He moves freely in and out of grave clothes, in and out of tombs, in and out of rooms.
Jesus was already taken away from the tomb. The stone was rolled away. "So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved…" That's the way John describes himself. "…and said to them, 'They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.'"
I want you to see this. I want you to note the detail of John, chapter 20. This has all of the telltale signs of an eyewitness account, and there is no reason… If somebody ever says, "What's the historical evidence for the resurrection?" Well, what's the historical evidence for what happened in Ferguson? What's the historical evidence for what happened in Dallas in 1963? The answer is eyewitness accounts. This is an eyewitness account. We have many of them of people who were there and saw this.
If you were going to write a story and you were trying to make a case, you would never tell a story this way. First, you don't make yourself look good, and people have a tendency to want to do that. Secondly, especially in that culture, you would never make women the primary and first people who saw what had happened that was supposed to change the world because, according to the Mishnah, which is the rabbi's interpretation of the law, a woman's testimony wouldn't have even been admissible evidence.
Let me just remind you again. Jesus is the most liberating of all men. He knows men and women are not the same. We are very different, but we are equal in value and dignity. He doesn't need a man to be the first to witness his resurrection. He just says, "You give me somebody who seeks me and who loves me and I'll let them tell others about who I am." That's exactly what happens here.
We know from the other gospel accounts it wasn't just Mary. It was a group of women. It was Joanna, who was the wife of one of Herod's stewards. We know it was Susanna. We know Salome. We know Mary the mother of James. There was a group of women who all went there together.
"So Peter and the other disciple…" When they heard this news that the Lord had been taken out of the tomb and they don't know where he was… Verse 3: "So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple [John] ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in…"
I love this because what you're about to see is John is going to show you the progression he and Peter went through. He uses the English word saw three times, but it's three different words in the Greek, and I'm just going to walk you through because it's kind of interesting. I'll read them to you first in English.
In verse 5, it says, "…he [John] saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he [Peter] saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple [John] who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed."
What's really great about this is what John basically does is just describes a little bit of the progression of faith and what happened. The very first time the word saw is used, it's the word blepō, and what it basically means is to note with a physical function of the eye. John said, "I looked and I physically saw inside the tomb." He didn't go in there. He just saw the grave clothes that were there.
Peter came. Maybe John didn't want to be defiled because he was maybe a little bit more reserved. Peter just goes bowling in and saw the stone had been rolled away. John is looking outside. Peter finally gets there. Old, fat Peter gets there and runs past young John. He goes in there, and it says, "He…" This is not the word blepō. It's the word (see if you can get the English word that comes from this) theōreō. It's the word we get theorize from.
He went in and saw, which means he began to study and ponder. He attempted to surmise. Peter goes in there and looks, and there are the grave clothes. Depending on who you talk to, they say the grave clothes were one of two things. You think about how sometime when you have a cast, if you will, and you cut that cast off of somebody, the cast, obviously because it has a little bit more substance to it, has the shape that was around the arm.
The same is true of sometimes a sheet that is wet. It maybe is on a body, and the body decomposes inside of it. The sheet doesn't always fall right down around it. Some people say it even still looked like the shape of Jesus there, but they wrapped the head separately from the body. He saw the two were separate and they were there maybe even in the shape like a locust shell that was still there, but Jesus had come out of those grave clothes.
Others might say maybe they were folded separately and put in two different places. Whatever the case, it was clear what they saw and they were trying to understand wasn't like a bunch of robbers had gone in and hauled the body out or in a hurry had undressed the body to make sure it was Jesus and then stole the body and left everything in a ruckus. There was something there they were looking at, and they go, "We can't understand this!"
Then, it says, because Peter wouldn't come out, John finally went in, and John didn't theōreō. He didn't surmise anymore. John said, "I went in and I eidō." The first time, John said, "I looked in there, and I looked with my eyes." Peter went in and looked and tried to figure it out. John went in, and the second he saw what Peter was looking at, John says, "I believed at that moment."
In other words, it all came back together. John was the first one who goes, "I'll tell you what happened." He goes back to what Jesus said in John, chapter 2, verses 19 through 22. Let me read this to you. In John 2:19-22, "Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' The Jews then said, 'It took forty-six years[for Herod]to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?' But He[Jesus]was speaking of the temple of His body."
What you see in John, chapter 20, verse 8, is John, chapter 2, verse 22 happening. It says, "So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken." John said, "I knew as soon as I saw those grave clothes. I knew. He said he was going to take his body back up again. He said they were going to destroy that temple and he was going to raise it back up again. That's exactly what happened!"
Listen, gang. This is what you need to do, by the way. You have to go and look at what Jesus said. I'm going to show you all of us are going to be maybe like Thomas who just needed a little bit more and we want to figure it out, so John saw with his physical eyes, Peter tried to figure out what his physical eyes were seeing, but there has to be a moment you go, "You know what. This all lines up with exactly what God said he was going to do." You have to make a decision with what you're going to do with historical evidences that are there.
When I first trusted Christ, I didn't come out of a family that was a strong believing family that was in any way discipling or paying attention to Scriptures. I really, frankly, didn't see anybody in the church I would be periodically dragged to who had a compelling life that indicated to me there was something about this Jesus that radically changed people's lives.
It was through a parachurch ministry. For me, it was through Young Life. A bunch of folks began to really love me, and I watched them live their lives and care for other people in a way that made me curious, but I then wanted to know more than just about their lives. I wanted to understand, so I started to read in high school everything I could about this faith and whether or not it held water.
One of the books I came across was written by a British attorney. His name was Frank Morison. He wrote a book called Who Moved the Stone? I'll never forget the very first chapter of that book is titled, "The Book that Refused to be Written." You see Frank Morison was an attorney who was more influenced by humanists.
He was a Darwinist. He believe in Darwin's ideas, and he was sick and tired of his Christian friends talking about their hope so, as a lawyer, he decided to take the rules of evidence and show them it was unintelligent to believe in the resurrection event because he knew if the resurrection could be disproved, then all of Christianity fell down with it, so Morison began to study, and as he studied it and he applied the rules of law and evidence to looking at the resurrection, he was overwhelmed with what was there and he said, "I could not write the book I set out to write."
The very first chapter of Frank Morison's book called Who Moved the Stone? is titled, "The Book that Refused to be Written." He shares his story of looking, surmising, being overwhelmed with the evidence, and believing. He became one of the great Christian defenders of the faith of his day.
Here's what I want to say to you. You're going to hear me show you an example a little bit later of a guy who had doubts, and it's okay if you have doubts, but you need to use your doubt to drive you to truth if it's there. Your hero, your example, and your model is about to come up, but first, let me show you another hearing example.
Her name is Mary Magdalene. There's an area up there around the Sea of Galilee called Magdala. That's why she's called that. She's Mary from this town. What we know about Mary we get from Luke, chapter 8, verse 2. It says, among the women who followed him and supported the ministry of Jesus and the disciples was, "…Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out…"
This was one tortured woman. We don't know much more detail about her except she was afflicted, and Jesus brought clarity to her life, and the one who is forgiven much loves much. You have a women who loved him. She saw him. She was there, we know from John, chapter 19, verse 25, at the cross when the body was taken down, so on her Sabbath day she did exactly what she should do.
After Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus put him in the tomb, the Sabbath day she spent alone, but early the next day while it was yet dark, she ran there with some other gals. "But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping…" Peter and John run back to their homes to surmise some more and to think about what they had seen, but Mary stood outside the tomb.
"…and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb…" The guys Mary went and got looked, checked it out, and one of them believed and the other one, I guess, believed as well. Those two just took off, and Mary is still standing there alone again. It says, "…and she saw two angels…"
By the way, when angels show up in the Bible, they don't usually show up with wings. They don't show up as creatures we wouldn't recognize. They usually (almost always) show up in human form. That was the case here. "…in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet…" Just hanging out there in the tomb. Apparently, they showed up after Peter and John left. They didn't help Mary, so God sent some other messengers.
"And they said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them, 'Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.'" Still trying to understand even though she was around the same teaching. "When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there…" This is the very first person who saw the risen Lord.
"…and did not know that it was Jesus." Overwhelmed with her grief, "Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?' Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, 'Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.'"
By the way, where was Mary going to take him? I mean, it's pretty funny. By the way, how was she going to carry him? I want to tell you what's so great about this is you see a person caught up in grief. She doesn't make much sense. She's just trying to figure it out. She goes, "Where is he? I'll take him!"
"Where are you going to take him and how are you going to carry him? You're just a woman. He's a grown man." "Jesus said to her, 'Mary!'" Don't you love that? He says, "I call you by name." "She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, 'Rabboni!' (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, 'Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, "I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God."'"
Jesus said, "No longer do I call you slaves. Slaves don't know what the master is doing. I call you friends. You go tell my friends everything I told them the Father was up to (that I was going to go to a place they couldn't go, I was going to prepare a place for them and that place was the place of peace with God because the debt would be paid). You go tell them. Don't hold on to me, Mary. I'm not leaving. I'm not going anywhere. It's not time for me to ascend yet. I want you to be busy right now telling others what I told them was going to happen is, in fact, what happened."
I love this in verse 18. "Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord,' and that He had said these things to her." What's great is the disciples, we find out, didn't buy a word of it. I don't know where Peter and John went, but apparently they didn't go back to the other nine.
We know in Mark 16:11, it says, "When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it." In Luke 24, in the event we're about to read, when it happened it says they were frightened, and they thought it was a ghost, but here's what happened. Mary did her job. Make a note to self: those who earnestly seek him will see him first. That's who sees more of God.
By the way, some of you in here have this vague awareness of this story. You know the Easter story, but you really don't know Jesus. You don't have this sense that he's there and he's real. He's not your teacher. He's just this tale, and it's not enough for you to know the tale. He wants to be your individual, called by name who you respond to, your rabbi, your teacher.
The Bible says, "He who has My commandments and keeps them…" In other words, "He who abides with them and listens to me and knows I'm good and can trust me…" "…is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."
This is who Mary was. She is a beautiful picture of people who have an intimate relationship with the risen Lord because she seeks him. She watched his death. She listened to his words. She ran to his grave. She was attentive when he was alive. She used every resource she had to support him.
I hear people say this to me all of the time. "Todd, I don't have this abundant life. Where is the abundant life?" Almost without exception these are people who are not living with other believers in community. They are people who are not studying God's Word, reading God's Word, asking questions of others of what things mean.
I was with a dear friend this week who was going through some really struggling times. I was just sitting there with him, and what I loved was, before I got there to be with him, he had his Bible open. When I got there, he said, "Todd, I want to ask you a couple of questions." He didn't want just some Dr. Phil counselor moment.
He was trying to seek Jesus. He was with God's Word. He was specifically hanging out with John the Baptist who was the greatest prophet who ever lived who Jesus said of, "There has never been anybody born of a woman who was greater than John the Baptist," and that guy struggled with what he understood about Jesus, and this guy was just wrestling through some stuff, and he was looking at John the Baptist.
He said, "What was going on with John the Baptist? What does God want to show me from this text? Jesus said this guy who was the greatest of any man ever born among a woman wasn't sure Jesus was still the guy he said he was." I go, "John the Baptist is a great encouragement to all of us, and so is the guy I'm about to show you."
John the Baptist had been given revelation from the Spirit of God that this is the Son of God. This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, but because of the way the world went, John needed to be reassured he wasn't putting all of his eggs in the wrong basket, because John had spoken out against the error of the day.
For him, it wasn't the perversion of marriage in the way it's being perverted today, but it was perversion of marriage in the way it was being perverted then, because Herod had taken his brother's wife. It was an offense to God, and he was willing to speak out on that, and it had him end up in prison. He couldn't understand why he was in prison.
It wasn't going to be long after this where, at Herod's party when his daughter danced in a way that pleased him, he said, "Ask whatever you want, and I'll give it to you," that she said, "I want John the Baptist's head on a platter." When you go through stuff like that, you're like, "Jesus, am I your guy? Am I your cousin? Do you love me? Am I your prophet? I'm in jail! What are you doing?"
Do you know what Jesus did? Jesus told John the Baptist… This is what I did. I walked him through it. I said, "Look at Jesus' response." Jesus took him back to the Word of God. He didn't tell him everything he was going to do, but he told him he was doing everything the Word of God said the Son of God would do. Take comfort in that.
John the Baptist is an encouragement to you that even sometimes men of great faith who are greatly loved by God go through some really hard times, and if they don't keep their eyes focused on what God said would happen, they're going to get discouraged, but John ended up trusting in the word he got back from Jesus, and he had peace, I think, right until his head was served on a platter, and so should we.
Let me remind you of my very first point. If you believe the gospel, you know it's finished. You don't have to work any more, and you'll know it's never finished, and you can trust. "I don't know why I'm in a jail cell. I don't know why that woman is going to dance and it's going to cost me my head, but God is going to somehow use this for his glory."
People who struggle again and again with abiding and having strength in their relationship with God are people who are not spending time with God's people and in the Word. You can't just have this vague understanding of Jesus. He's not just a tale; he's your teacher. Do you know him? Are you seeking him? Are you meditating on what he said? Are you asking others to help you?
John 20:19. "So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were…" **Because they were scared to death of the Jews who were going to come after them and try and suppress anybody with anything to do with this Jesus,"…Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them…" Don't you love these words?"Peace be with you." That's exactly what he said he was going to say in John, chapter 14, verse 27. He told them he was going to offer them that."Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled…"**"Don't be afraid." Jesus went and did exactly what he said he was going to do, and he shows up and just says, "Shalom." When God says to you, "It is well with your soul, you're okay with me now, and the world is all as it should be," that's good news.
"And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.""Our hope is not gone!" They looked at what was there. They began to theorize or surmise. Then, they believed and had their own John 2:22 moment. "So Jesus said to them again, ' [Shalom] be with you…'" But here's the deal.
Do you remember what he said to Mary? "Mary, stop clinging to me. This is not about you and me right now. You have everything you need from me, but you make sure others have what you have now, faith that is never over even when it looks like it's over, that I am in control, and I'm doing what I said I would do."
For you to live is Christ; to die will be to gain. He says, "…as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." That is a direct quote from John, chapter 17, verse 18. It is the High Priestly Prayer. "Father, as you sent me, I'm now sending these guys." "And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
This is a confusing passage to some people because a little bit later Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit. What's going on here? I'll tell you what's going on here. All of our true life comes from a relationship with Jesus. Jesus said, "It's better for you that I go away, because if I go away, I'll send the Helper." The Helper, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ (they're all the same name) is what allowed the disciples to serve Jesus when Jesus was here.
They had comfort because of Jesus. The waves were stilled and the sea was calmed because of Jesus. They were given the same power God gave to men throughout the Old Testament, and they had lost that power when they were separated from Jesus and they weren't living in relationship with Jesus when they thought Jesus was dead, and Jesus is saying, "I'm still alive, and the power I gave you when you were with me before my crucifixion, I give to you now."
A little bit later when he ascends to the Father and they watch him go up, he says, "You wait. I'm going to show up again. This time, not in my resurrected state but through the person of my Spirit who will empower you and give you the ability to be my witnesses." We have a relationship with God.
There is a dynamic power. It's called the Holy Spirit, and we need to abide with him continually, and we need to be taught by him, convicted by him. The Spirit's job is to exalt Christ. You'll never see the Spirit trying to draw attention to himself. The Spirit is incredibly humble, and people who are led by the Spirit will be the exact same thing. They're not here for their own comfort. They're here to do what Jesus did.
First Peter 2:21: "… Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…" **A person led by the Spirit bringing glory to God and telling the story of his finished work. Verse 23:"If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."**
He's saying, "You guys have to go do what I did." Remember what Jesus said when he was here. He said, "My son, your sins are forgiven," and people said to him, "You can't do that! Only God can forgive sins!" He said, "You're exactly right." "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and [walk] .'"
The same thing you're going to see early on in the history of the church, the miraculous signs that attested they were, in fact, the agents of God. The church is not given the ability here to forgive. The church is here to carry the message of what makes people forgiven. What Jesus is saying right here is exactly what he said in Matthew 16 and Matthew 18.
He's saying, "Hey, guys. Just like the Father sent me I'm sending you. As the Father has sent me to declare to the world how they can be forgiven, that I would be the perfect sacrifice and if they trusted in it they would have peace with God, you go tell them now, 'If they have a relationship with me, they will have peace with God.' You are the ones carrying forward the message."
It doesn't mean people get forgiveness from them. It means they now know Jesus is who he said he was and they can tell people, "Yep! This is the one you need to have faith in. If you have faith in him, you will be forgiven." You don't come to the church to get forgiveness; the church comes to you and declares forgiveness as agents of God.
The church should tell you, "You are not forgiven. You think you're forgiven, but God has said in his Word that I am his messenger. I'm an agent of his Spirit. You're not forgiven. You're deluded if you believe your good works are enough to save you." Do you see where this comes from? Here's my question for you right now. How are you doing at that? Think about how God feels about individuals who have been given that message for people he loves who go, "I'm just not going to talk about that. I'm not going to go there with people." This is what Ezekiel 33 says.
"If you, the watchman, know of judgment that is coming and you don't tell the people to prepare themselves, then I'm going to hold their blood in your hands, but if you do what you're supposed to do and they ignore it, then you're good, but you make sure you're not just clinging to your little Jesus and trying to be comfortable. You go, and you speak." You go, "Todd, I don't know what to say!" Say what Mary says. "I have seen the Lord," and share your story.
Well, here's one who wasn't there. Verse 24: "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came." Thomas gets a bad rap, but Thomas did not lack courage. He didn't lack courage in terms of suffering, and he didn't lack courage in terms of really facing his doubts. Thomas used his doubt to drive him toward truth, and he came right out and said, "This is what I'm going to need to believe."
How do we know Thomas didn't lack courage? We know that because in John, chapter 11, when word got to Jesus that Lazarus his friend had died, Jesus said, "Let's go to Jerusalem," and they went, "We can't go there! We just left there because they were trying to kill you!" Jesus said, "We're going to delay a little bit, but we're going to go." They were all complaining except for Thomas, and we know in John, chapter 11, verse 16, Thomas goes, "Let's just go and die with him."
Thomas was not exactly an optimist, and he wasn't one just to go along with what everybody else was doing, but he was committed to Jesus. He was overwhelmed with his grief. He was overwhelmed with his human understanding, but he was courageous. He was like, "Let's go die with him!" Jesus, a little bit later, said, "In My Father's house are many [rooms] … I go and prepare a place for you…And you know the way where I am going."
Thomas said, "I have no idea where you're going. These guys are going to act like they're following you, but I am not following you. This makes no sense to me." That takes a lot of courage. Have you ever been in a room when somebody says something and nobody knows what they're talking about but everybody is kind of nodding their heads like, "Oh, yeah"?
Don't you love that guy who goes, "I am so lost! What are you talking about?" Everybody kind of looks at that guy like, "Are you going to answer him? Because we're just as clueless as he is. We just don't have the courage to admit it." I love Thomas! I'd hang around with Thomas. "Ask him, Thomas. Look like the idiot, because I'm an idiot, but I'm such an idiot that I won't tell him I'm an idiot."
I love Thomas. Thomas here speaks up. "So the other disciples were saying to him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.'" Let me just say this to you.
Thomas had isolated himself as well. All of the other disciples were together. What had happened up there in verses 19 through 23 is there weren't nine who were there, but there were eight who were there. For sure, maybe Peter and John were back in their midst at that point. Judas, we know, is already gone. That's down to 11. Thomas wasn't there. Now we're down to 10. Those 10 had been with Jesus.
Thomas was grieving by himself. There's a message here for you. When you're grieving… Isolation is never your friend but especially when you're grieving. Let me just say this. We have a ministry here called GriefShare where you can come and it's okay to say, "I'm really hurting. I'm beginning to question whether or not God is good. I don't know why I lost my child. I don't know why I lost my spouse. I don't know how to handle this."
It drives me crazy that sometimes we just tell people, "Go away and figure it out and always be strong in our midst." No. The Bible tells us to comfort those who need to be comforted, which means you have the freedom to grieve here and to raise your hand and say, "I'm really struggling."
Do you want to get depressed? Then, you try and work that out on your own with some doctor who is going to give you some pills to work through it. That cycle is not going to get better for you. God calls you into community where they will sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, where you'll be in the midst of people who, in that season, are strong and will comfort you with a comfort with which they have been comforted.
That's what the other disciples are trying to do now with Thomas, but look at Jesus. The other disciples were doing a good job saying, "Thomas, it's real." They're trying to comfort him. He's now back in their midst, but it's eight days later we're going to find out. Thomas says, "I will not believe," so Thomas starts to hang out with them.
"After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them." Here comes Jesus. Do you think Jesus is going to be mad at Thomas? I don't think so. "Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said…" There it is again. Shalom. "Why not knock? You're freaking us out all of the time! You just show up!"
I love that every time he shows up, he says, "Shalom. It's still good." It had been eight days. "Shalom." "'Peace be with you.' Then He said to Thomas…" He said, "Thomas, I heard what you need." "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing."
In other words, "It's okay, Thomas. You can put your faith in me." Thomas said, "That's what I need." There's no record that Thomas ever actually did put his fingers there. It just says, "Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'" Once he surrendered, he was completely committed. He said, "I'm all in. I'm 100 percent in."
By the way, let me say this to you, gang. Use your doubt. Say, "This is what I need." I want to just take a moment here. I told you I would talk about doubt. God is not afraid of your questions. Jesus said, "Come now, and let us reason together..." If something is true, no amount of scrutiny can affect it. God welcomes your questions. He's okay with your questions. Come with your questions. One of the things I do, and this will be helpful to you, because sometimes I'm interacting with people and they'll say, "Well, I don't believe." I go, "Why don't you believe?"
"I don't believe because of the problem of evil."
"Great. I got that down. The problem of evil. What else? Is there anything else that causes you not to really believe?"
"Well, all of the other world religions. What about those who have never heard?"
"Okay. I got that, so you have a problem with a loving God who is sovereign and there is evil in the world. I've heard you also say you don't know what's going to happen to those who have never heard about Jesus or maybe who grew up in other faith systems and they never had a chance to maybe hear what you're hearing in the way you're hearing it. Okay. I got those two things. Anything else?"
"No, that's it."
"Okay, so if I can answer those two and I can give you a cogent argument… If I can give you a rational explanation for those two things, are you ready to get down on your knees right now and say, 'My Lord and my God' and follow him with all of your heart?"
They'll go, "Well, no, no, no. I also have a question about…" I go, "Great! What's your question about?" "How do we know the Bible is true? There have been a lot of different translations with a lot of copies made. How do I know the Bible is true?" "Great, so now I have that one, that one, and the Bible thing. Okay. If I answer the Bible thing…"
Here's what I'm doing. Make your list of 30 if that's what you want. Then, let's go at these together, but I want a commitment from you that at the end of these 30 you're going to get on your knees and do what Thomas did. Your doubt is real. In other words, the reason you doubt something is you're not sure, so what does a wise man do?
It says, "But the glory of kings is to search out a matter." So be a kingly man. Be a great man. I sometimes do this. I use what is called a Judo technique which is when you use another person's aggression and flip it and use it against them. When somebody is coming at me and they go, "The Bible… I don't know about the Bible," I go, "Let me ask you a question. Do you know what the central story of the Scripture is?" If you ask people that, they have no idea. "It's a rulebook."
"It's not a rulebook. That's not what the Bible is. It's not a rulebook." The Bible is without a doubt… Do you guys know it's the best-seller every year? The number one selling book in the world every year. Every great civilization has been built on ideas that come from this book. "It's the pivot point of all of history, and for you to reject the central message of that book without even understanding what it is… That's a rather non-intellectual approach, don't you think? So do you mind if I just take a second and explain to you what the central message of the Bible is?"
Then, I get to share the gospel, but if I go through that and they have all of these questions…watch this…what I want to say is, "Thomas, what's your issue? If we answer those, are you ready to get down?" Because I'm going to tell you, friends, we are not going to play games with your intellectual arrogance. If you want to disbelieve, then disbelieve, but don't blame it on intellect.
If you have an issue with intellectual integrity, let's go. Let's reason together, but I'm going to let you know people suppress truth in unrighteousness. This is not a logic problem; it is a will problem. I had a roommate like this in college. We'd have great conversations. At the end of the day, he'd say, "Todd, I don't want to believe this."
"Because I want to keep having sex with girls." I was like, "Well, thank you! Let's quit worrying about the problem of evil, then. Let's quit worrying about the Bible. Let's quit worrying about other faith systems. Let's just acknowledge you don't want to submit yourself to God because you don't think God is good."
By the way, Christopher Hitchens, who is one of the new atheists who wrote the book God is Not Great… I was at a meeting with Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig, who is one of the greatest philosophers and apologists of our day, and they had a 90-minute conversation about things of the faith, and at the end of the day, they were summarizing their points. I went back and listened to it again and I wrote it down. At the very end of the time, William Craig said,
"Listen, Hitchens. I look over my notes from the last 90 minutes, and I see 10 arguments that have been given to you to support Christian theism and almost none of them have been responded to or refuted. I think we've established today that atheism is both falsifiable and has been falsified. We've given you 10 reasons to believe in God, Continuancy, which is the argument for why something exists rather than why things exist rather than nothing, the argument from the beginning of the universe for both philosophy and cosmology.
We've talked about the fine tuning of the universe. We've talked about the moral argument for God, the biological complexity and DNA evidence, the logical argument for God, Wilson's rationality defense, Strobel's consciousness or mind defense, and the christological resurrection evidence. We've talked about testimonial evidence. We've given you at least 10." He says, "Your only argument for atheism is that you don't like the Christian God and, therefore, you reject him.
Christopher, you have also in this conversation acknowledged the worldview of the Bible is cogent. In other words, it makes sense. It is internally coherent with the suffering we see, and if it's true that human beings are given freedom and the ability to choose and make significant moral choices and there is coming justice and consequences after that, that fits the world you see and is even just, and you said it makes perfect sense.
But you've gone on to say, while you've been quick-witted, you've used colorful phraseology and language, and you've had a congenial personality, you've had little or no intellectual engagement with the topics at hand, so I might recommend to you that you do a little bit more preparation next time and come prepared to discuss the questions given in substance in future debates. In other words, Christopher, you can sit there and be winsome all day long, but you're not dealing with the issue," because he didn't have real doubt.
He just wants to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Let me just tell you something. When somebody comes to you and they have questions, write them down. Bring them. Say, "Are those your questions?" Before you waste the time of individuals at the Great Questions class on Monday night, ask your friend, "If you come and they answer that question, will you get down on your knees and say, 'My Lord and my God?'"
Because what you're going to find out is those aren't even the questions. There's something else going on, and you have all that it takes to testify to them about your risen Lord and that his grace is sufficient to help them. Sometimes there are genuine intellectual questions, and I say to you, if you have them, you're not going to offend us.
Let's go. Come, let us reason together, but we're not going to sit there and waste our time when your issue isn't the issue. Gang, here's the thing. Once you make that decision, it requires a personal response, and every single person every day is going to have to say something. I would close by saying this.
Courageous men are unafraid to engage their doubt and they're unafraid to respond to truth when they engage it. Let me say that to you again. Courageous men are unafraid to engage their doubt and they are unafraid to respond to truth when they engage it. This story is true. There was a man who lived and died.
He said his name was Jesus and he was the Son of God. He went to do something for you because he loves you that you could never do for yourself, and there's evidence he did it perfectly. Death lost its victory and death lost its sting. He is calling you to decide if it's just a tale or if he's your teacher and if you're going to follow him in every way. When you decide to follow him in every way, you say, "You're my Lord and my God."
Note this, by the way. Every time an angel was fallen down in worship, what did the angel do? "Get up! I'm just an angel." What did Peter and John do? "Get up! I'm just a man." What did Jesus do? He took it. People sometimes say, "Did Jesus ever claim to be God?" You bet he did. He received worship. "I am your Lord, I am your God, and it is finished. The question is…Have you finished your business with me?" When you do, he expects you to do what Thomas did. We're going to celebrate that in a couple of weeks. Check this out.
There's a moment in everyone's life when you have to decide who Jesus is, and when you decide, he tells you to declare him as Lord and God or as a lunatic and a liar. The Bible says your eternity will pivot on that moment. The Bible says you're going to stand before him and you're going to recognize him one day as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and you're no fool if you expend all of your energy and all of your time and all of your effort right now to determine if that's who he is. Your doubt is okay. God is not bothered by it.
He says, "Let's go! Come, let us reason together." If you have questions that are the reason you've not yet trusted in him, come. We'd love to engage you. You can see in the Watermark News in this issue in Dallas about this thing called Great Questions. If you have questions in Fort Worth or Plano, let us know. We'll meet with you.
If you've made that decision, God wants you to not isolate. Be with other people because you're going to go through seasons where, if you're not with community, you're going to think it's over. You're going to go through seasons when your grieving and isolation will not serve you well, so come. Let us comfort you with the comfort with which we have been comforted.
We're going to need to be encouraged by you at some point. Be together with the family. Then, Jesus says, "Don't just cling to the family, but encourage the family and go and tell others how to be forgiven and what the consequences of not being forgiven are." Come. Go. Worship him.
Have a great week. We'll see you.