I believe that Thomas, perhaps only equaled by John, had such a deep and intense love for Jesus that he could not endure existence without Him.
And I believe what he's reflecting here is, if Jesus is going to die, then let's go die with Him because the alternative is to be without Him. It was 1938, and a pilot named Douglas Corrigan took off from New York City bound for Los Angeles. Somehow, though, he ended up in Dublin, Ireland. After that, no matter what great things he may have accomplished, he was forever known as Wrong-Way Corrigan. Now it seems the disciple Thomas suffered a similar indignity. He is forever remembered as the guy who doubted the Lord's resurrection. But maybe history has overemphasized that incident and overlooked Thomas's positive traits.
John MacArthur considers that today. He's continuing his series, The Master's Men, here on Grace To You. But before John looks at Thomas, he has more to say about the disciple Matthew.
So with that, let's get to the lesson. Here's John. Matthew was a traitor. Matthew was an extortioner. Matthew was a robber and a thief. Matthew was greedy. Matthew was a social pariah or outcast. And he knew it.
And look in Matthew 9-9, and there's where you find it. You see, to be a tax collector is to be a publican. And what that meant was that you as a Jew were used by the Roman government to collect taxes from the Jews to give to Rome. You then sort of worked for the oppressor.
You were a traitor first class. And not only that, but you bought the right to collect taxes. So you paid the government. You bought into the system. And then the government would stipulate a certain amount of tax that had to be collected, and that was given to Rome.
And then you were free to collect anything more you could from the people, and that you kept for yourself. And so there were bribes and extortionist roots taken, abuses beyond what we could even dream. There were two kinds.
There were Gabai, G-A-B-B-A-I. They were the general tax collectors. They collected property tax, income tax, poll tax, standardized.
There was not apparently as much graft at that level. Then there were the mokhes, M-O-K-H-E-S. They collected the duties. They collected duty on everything. They set up their little deal where the roads crossed, and they collected on all import, all export, all items bought, all items sold. They set tolls on roads, tolls on bridges, tolls on harbors.
They set tolls on axles, how many legs on your donkey, packages, letters, you name it, everything, everything. That was Matthew. He was a mokhes, taxed everything. There were two kinds of mokhes. There was what was called a great mokhes. He was a guy who hired some hireling to do the tax collecting, and he faded into the background. He didn't really want to be associated with the actual activity itself. And he retained a little more dignity because he backed off. That was called a great mokhes.
Then there was the little mokhes, the small mokhes. He was too cheap to hire somebody to collect the taxes. He was so greedy, he did it himself, and didn't care about the social stigma. And Matthew was that little mokhes. He was, verse 9, sitting at the tax office himself.
Greedy extortioner, traitor to his people. I think what makes it so fascinating to me also, he also had a name Levi, which indicates that he really was in the flow of Jewish tradition. And what also is interesting is that in the gospel of Matthew, you might be interested to know, there are more quotes of the Old Testament than in Mark, Luke, and John combined. So Matthew knew the Old Testament. In fact, he quotes out of the three sections of the Old Testament that a Jew knew, the law, the prophets, and the hagiography, the holy writings. Matthew knew the law of God in the Old Testament. And yet we have no idea of him at all being interested in spiritual things. But when Jesus comes along, he says to him, follow me. And he arose and followed him, instantly.
Now what is involved in this? First of all, he just walked away from his career. I mean, it wasn't like the earlier guys who were fishermen. If they didn't like what went on with Jesus, there were always fish, right?
And there were always nets, and there were always boats. And they could go back. And in fact, they did in John 21. They all went back fishing.
And the Lord showed them they couldn't catch anything. But when Matthew walked away from that table, believe me, the Roman government would have somebody there the next day. And somebody was in line to buy into that, and he was cutting off his career for good.
No lingering. Also, he was identifying with somebody who was equally rejected by the establishment. Well, the Pharisees and the scribes hated Jesus as much or more than they hated him as a publican. So he was really going from the frying pan into the fire. It was a high price he paid. You say, well, why did he do that? Well, I'll tell you why he did it.
There's only one reason. This little section in chapter 9, the thread that keeps weaving its way through here is the forgiveness of sin. In verse 10, Matthew calls a feast after Jesus calls him and he gets together tax collectors and sinners. And Jesus is the guest of honor at the feast. And the Pharisees say, well, why does he hang around with tax collectors and sinners?
And Jesus says, they that are well need not a physician, but they that are sick, you better go and relearn your lesson that I am come not to call the righteous, but what? Sinners to repentance. The point of the banquet then was for Jesus to call sinners to repentance. So the whole thread here is confession of sin, repentance, and forgiveness.
And Matthew plops himself in there because I think that's the issue with him. Nobody in the world knew better his sin than Matthew knew. He knew he was a sinner. He knew his graft, his abuse, his extortion, his greed. He knew that he had betrayed his people.
He knew that he could be bought for money. He knew that and I believe he despised it. I believe he wanted out. I believe he wanted to get away from it. And he had heard about Jesus and he had heard him preach because he was in that little town of Capernaum. And I believe when Jesus came to him and said, follow me, he knew that inherent in that was the forgiveness of sin and he ran to get that.
And he was willing to say goodbye to his career and everything else because he wanted forgiveness. What kind of people does God use? Stained glass saints?
No. Vile, wretched, rotten sinners, the most despicable people in society who are willing to be forgiven. You say, yeah, but he can't use them for much. Oh, how about writing the gospel that introduces the New Testament? You see, God is in the restoration business. He takes the unqualified and transforms them.
That's his business. And I believe Matthew risked a lot more than the fishermen did because he could never go back and he was a vile sinner. What if Jesus couldn't forgive him?
There he would be stuck with the same sin and no job to go back to. But he quietly forsook all. And the genuineness of his repentance, I believe, is found in the fact that you see his humility. He is utterly humble. He has nothing to say about himself.
He has nothing to say about his talent and what he has to offer the Lord. The only thing he wants to say is Jesus forgives sin and one of the ones he forgave was a man named Matthew who was really a sinner and whose only friends were a lot of other sinners, tax collectors and sinners. And so we learn about his humility.
I think we learn another thing. He had a heart for the lost. There are some people in this world who just kind of gravitate toward the down and outers, you know? That must have been Matthew. I mean, if ever there was a discussion about whether the disciples ought to get involved with some riff-raff, I'm sure Matthew would have led the parade toward the riff-raff having been one. I'm glad that when the Lord puts together a team of men, He takes some from out of the deepest pit or some of us might never be willing to go back into that pit not knowing that something can really happen there. And that was Matthew, what a man, a criminal, an outcast, the most hated of men, yet utterly convinced of his sin and when given an opportunity to believe, he believed and he followed. He became a man of quiet humility, who loved the outcasts, who gave no place to the religious establishment, a man of great faith, a man of total and utter surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and a man who knew the Old Testament and a man that God used to write the gospel.
One writer calls it the glorious unconventionality of the Lord Jesus Christ. He chooses the most unlikely people. That brings us to the last man in group two. Thomas is his name. And immediately when I say, Thomas, what is the first word you think of?
Doubt. Thomas has gotten bad press. Thomas is a better man than you think. In fact, I'm convinced that most people really don't understand Thomas. We just say, Thomas the doubter.
I think you're going to learn some things about Thomas you didn't know in the next few minutes. Listen, Matthew, Mark and Luke give us nothing about Thomas, but John again always digging into the heart of people opens Thomas up to us. John chapter 11. We'll look at three very brief texts. John chapter 11.
Let's really get to know Thomas. Verse 14, the Lord is up by the Jordan River and the Lord is out of the city of Jerusalem. The pressure has been tremendous. The plot to take His life has been hatched. In fact, they had to get out of Jerusalem because His time was not yet come and He had to do it to preserve His life. He and the disciples are up by the Jordan. The report comes to them that Lazarus is sick. That is significant because Jesus loves Lazarus in a very special way.
Verse 14, Jesus had tarried to give sufficient time for Lazarus to die and then says this, Lazarus is dead and I'm glad. Now wait a minute, why are you glad for your sakes? I'm glad I wasn't there for the reason that you may believe. In other words, I'm going to do a miracle to increase your faith. They were a weak bunch, weren't they, as we've learned.
And they always needed some kind of demonstration of His power. And so He says, He's dead and I'm glad for your sakes that I wasn't there because now you're going to see something that will make you believe. Then verse 15, let us go unto Him.
Let's go. Now where was Lazarus? Bethany, where's Bethany? Two miles east of Jerusalem. Now that is a scary announcement because all the disciples can think about is, oh, this is suicide.
This is absolute suicide. We can't go back to Jerusalem. And the implication is that they're sort of beginning a little disintegration and some of the guys are probably saying, I think I'm going to go see my old friend in Galilee...Jerusalem. And Thomas apparently moves into this situation with some leadership, verse 16. Then said Thomas who's called Didymus, which means the twin.
He had a twin brother or sister, likely. And he says to the fellow disciples, let's also go that we may die with him. Now I see several things in that. First of all, I see a certain amount of initiative. Don't you see that? It kind of takes over, doesn't it?
It kind of rises to the top and says, wait a minute guys, let's go with him and die with him. I also see pessimism, don't you? I see some pessimism. Now he was convinced Jesus was going to be killed and that if they went, they would die.
I mean it was all very clear to him. You know the greatest courage in the world is not the courage of an optimist. An optimist has courage because he believes the best will happen. The greatest courage in the world is the courage of a pessimist because he knows the worst is going to happen and is willing to go anyway. You see? Thomas says, we'll die, so let's go.
That's a lot of courage. I think it was cut and dried with him. He had already figured out his epitaph and everything. He could only see disaster, but he was grimly determined to die with Christ.
Much tougher for a pessimist than an optimist. Now, why does he want to do this? You know, if you think of him only as a doubter, if you really think that Thomas doubted Christ, then this doesn't make any sense. I mean, why was he willing to go die with Jesus? Not because he doubted Him, but because he so totally believed Him. He so utterly believed Him. I believe this.
I believe that Thomas perhaps only equaled by John had such a deep and intense love for Jesus that he could not endure existence without Him. You understand that? And I believe what he's reflecting here is if Jesus is going to die, then let's go die with Him because the alternative is to be without Him. You see? Let's go with Him.
Let's go with Him. These are the words of Jesus. These are the words of love.
These are the words of faith. He believed He could die and be with Jesus. He had no illusions. He saw the jaws of death. He was willing to die.
A man of courage and a man of love. He did not want to be separated from Christ. Put it this way. Death?
Yes. Disloyalty? Never. He could never be disloyal to Jesus. He could never be disloyal to Jesus. He could die for Him before He'd be disloyal. That's how deep His love. Go to chapter 14 and we see Him again.
And the same attitudes come out again. Jesus gives this little message about letting not your heart be troubled and believing in God and He's going to prepare a place for you and I'll come again and receive you unto Myself and where I am there you may be also and whither I go you know and the way you know. He says, You know where I'm going and you know how to get there. Verse 5, Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not where Thou goest and how can we know the way? This is the same heart that's saying, Lord, don't you go somewhere where we can't come.
It's the same thing. The thought of separation was the issue with Thomas. I don't like what I hear. You're going to go and we're not going to know where you are or how to get there. This heart I think is nearly broken as he speaks and he's a pessimist again. He says, We'll never find the place.
It's a bleak, negative, bewildered heart. Jesus tells him, Thomas, I am the way, truth and the lie. No man cometh unto the Father but My Me. What He's saying is, I'll take you, Thomas. I'll take you there. I'm the way. You don't have to fear. I'm not going to go someplace and leave you.
You see the same pessimism again, don't you? And you see the same love again. Let's go to a third and last look at Thomas. John 20, Jesus died. You know what happened to Thomas when Jesus died? He said, I knew it. He died and I didn't die and he went somewhere and I don't know where he is.
I knew it. And all of his fears came true, all of the worst things that he'd ever thought. He felt betrayed. He felt rejected. He felt forsaken. And it was out of love that he was shattered. He was like a wounded animal and he didn't want to be around people and so he just split.
That's what he did. And when all the rest of the disciples came together, he just wasn't there. He was out and he was depressed because he loved so deeply. He would have died with Jesus but Jesus died without him. He wanted to go with Jesus but Jesus went without him.
And now his pessimism is vindicated and he's really in the pits. And in verse 24 it says, Thomas one of the twelve called Didymus wasn't with them when Jesus came. Sure, he was out licking his wounds. And Jesus appeared to the remaining disciples. Thomas wasn't there. Verse 25, the other disciples said to him, we've seen the Lord. We've seen the Lord, Thomas and you weren't there.
You didn't show up. But Thomas is depressed. You ever try to talk to somebody who's depressed? Really difficult, isn't it?
Very difficult. He says, except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, put my finger into the print of the nails, thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. Now he's a pessimist. Admit it.
I've got to see it. But before you pounce on him with both feet, would you kindly remember this, that none of the disciples believed until they saw Jesus. I mean, after all, it is not that easy to believe that somebody rose from the dead.
I mean, on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, two are walking along and the Lord is with them and they're moaning and groaning about his death. And they don't believe either. Nobody believed until they saw him. So don't make Thomas the doubter. You see, he's a loving pessimist is what he is.
That's better than being a doubter. I want to see before I believe, he says. So the Lord...by the way, in case you don't know, the Lord doesn't mind people wanting to be sure.
If you want to be sure, He'll accommodate that desire. Eight days after, verse 26 says, the disciples were inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut. I like that. Just rearranged the molecules in his body and came through the wall. And always He says when He does that, peace be unto you.
It's understandable. Seems a fitting greeting, doesn't it? The chaos that must have occurred. And then He zeroes in on this dear soul that loves Him enough to die with Him and is utterly depressed and shattered. He said to Thomas, Thomas, reach here your finger, behold My hands and reach here your hand and thrust it into My side and be not faithless but believing. Did Thomas do that?
Doesn't say he did it. It just says immediately without doing anything, He answered and said unto him, My Lord and My God, the greatest single confessional ever made. He affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ. He affirmed the lordship of Jesus Christ. He affirmed that He was God.
You know, He wanted that so bad. Jesus was back. And Jesus said, Thomas, because you've seen Me, you've believed.
And you're not alone. The rest of them had the same basis. Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.
You know who that is? Everybody who came after that. That's you and me.
We've never seen but we've believed. Blessed are they. Thomas, yes, he was melancholy.
He was moody, pessimistic, comfortless, shattered. But when he saw the Lord Jesus Christ, oh my, he gave the greatest testimony ever given. And you know what? In that one little statement, Thomas gave the speech that literally destroys every lie that has been told about Jesus not being God that has ever been uttered in the history of man. It is a monumental statement. My God, he said. The isms and shisms and spasms and yogis and all the rest that come and deny the deity of Christ are put to silence by Thomas.
Learn a lesson. Jesus wants you to be sure. Surety most frequently comes when you hang around other believers.
It does not mean that Christ cannot come to you in a solitary place, but more likely does He appear among those who are His own. Thomas' tradition tells us a lot about him. Preached.
Some say he went as far as India preaching. And one tradition says that he died in a very special way. They took a spear and rammed it through him.
Because of his faith in Christ, it would be kind of a fitting climax for one who was told to reach forth his hand and feel the spear mark in his own Lord. What kind of people does God use? Vile sinners like Matthew. Tender-hearted, moody, melancholy, pessimists like Thomas. You name it. They're all unique. And He can use you too. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for being with us. Our current study is looking at the 12 disciples, or as John calls them, the Masters Men. John, as we learn about the disciples, there is a diversity there with a lot of differences from person to person.
I mean, you have a tax collector. He's a guy who's working for Rome. And another disciple who's a zealot who opposes Rome, even as a terrorist sort of character. How significant is it that God chose people with such a variety of personalities and gifts and points of view? Is there anything in that that we should come away with? Yeah, that God uses a variety of people. That He made us all unique. Our fingerprints are unique. That's just a little bit of an indication that every human being is different when you can tell them apart by their fingerprints. So that is not only true on the outside.
It's true on the inside. God has designed us so uniquely. And His believing people are so designed that they might fit a role in the body of Christ, an effective and necessary role. The Lord chooses the most unlikely people. And we are seeing that in looking at the Masters Men, for sure. I want to mention again the book we've been talking about.
It's brand new. It just came out titled 40 Lives in 40 Days. And this book will give you insight into the lives of not only the disciples, but about 30 more key figures in Scripture. And their lives are worth learning from and worth emulating. These are people that you read about in Scripture, but perhaps you don't know the full background story, like Onesimus or Anna or the Samaritan woman or James, the brother of Jesus. The Scripture is filled with stories of men and women who God used to accomplish His eternal purpose. The common thread running through their testimonies is faith and faithfulness. So as you study their lives, their testimonies encourage you to equally be faithful through the most difficult trials. Continue trusting in the Lord, and He will use you in a way that will make you a history case to study in heaven when we get there, which will add you to the list of those whose lives will be recorded in heaven because of their usefulness to the Lord. A brand new hardcover book, 40 Lives in 40 Days, 220 pages, affordably priced, and you can order it today.
Despite their weaknesses, really because of their weaknesses, these men and women are fitting heroes, role models to help you and me serve God better. To purchase this new book, 40 Lives in 40 Days, get in touch with us today. You can reach our customer service staff at 800-55-GRACE, or you can order online at GTY.org. The fascinating character studies in this book illustrate how God uses everyday people to do remarkable things. It's a great gift for a new believer.
To get 40 Lives in 40 Days, call 800-55-GRACE or go to our website GTY.org. And while you visit GTY.org, make sure to download the Study Bible app. It's a free app that gives you the full text of Scripture in the English Standard, King James, and New American Standard versions, and it also allows you to link instantly from the passage you're studying to related online resources, including study guides, blog articles, and sermons from John MacArthur. And for a nominal price, you can add the notes from the MacArthur Study Bible.
To download the app, visit GTY.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, reminding you to watch Grace To You television this Sunday. Check your local listings for channel and times. Then be here Monday when John starts looking at some lesser-known disciples of Christ, men who you can learn a lot from. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
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