Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. To Thomas and every doubter, Jesus gives an answer. But let me warn you, it is not the answer that you think. It is not explanation. The answer he gives is revelation. It is not so much an answer to the questions. It is a glimpse of who he is, proven by what he did. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D. Greer.
I'm your host, Molly Vidovich. Whether you're an atheist, a brand new believer, or a seminary professor, whatever your background, I think it's safe to assume that everyone has doubts and questions about God that they struggle with. Questions like, how can God allow suffering?
Or how could Jesus rise from the dead? So how can we have faith when we don't really understand it all, when there aren't always clear answers? This is this important topic today on Summit Life as he continues our new series called Unknown God. If you missed any of the previous messages, you can hear them at J.D.
Greer dot com. Now let's join Pastor J.D. in the book of John. Last weekend, we consider the question of whether or not we can know that God exists. I showed you how the Apostle Paul compares it in the book of Romans to unplugging your ears to a voice that is constantly whispering in creation. Suggesting to you that he is there.
I told you that whether or not you pay attention to that voice is one of the most important decisions of your life. The date was August 31st, 2010. It was about two o'clock in the afternoon and I had jammed myself onto an elevator with 14 of my closest pastor friends. We had an appointment to visit with the chief representative for Muslim relations on the sixth floor of the U.S. Capitol offices in Washington, D.C. We were running a few minutes behind and so in an attempt to save a few seconds, all 15 of us had mashed ourselves onto one elevator that was designed for probably about five moderately sized middle school girls. But no problem, right?
No problem. It was a short ride and surely if there's one place you can count on everything working properly and on time, it's Washington, D.C., correct? Well, between the third and fourth floors, the elevator came to a complete and sudden halt like a Republican Congress with a Democratic president. There we hung. There we hung suspended between the third and fourth floors for over an hour in August.
15 pastors wearing suits and ties, sweating, cranky and y'all, you know there is nothing that makes you have to use the bathroom like knowing physically it is not possible to get to one. We pressed the little emergency call button repeatedly but nothing happened. At that point as I was pressing that button, I noticed two elevator features that I'd never noticed before in my life. One was the maximum weight capacity warning. I was pretty sure that we had exceeded that by the weight of a small minivan. The other was a little speaker below the emergency call button that I'd honestly never noticed.
You probably haven't either. But it was clearly designed to be able to get messages to somebody in a situation like ours. But that little speaker was completely silent. We're stuck and he starts hollering down the elevator shaft, pray to Jesus, pray to Jesus, maybe he will resurrect the elevator.
That's what he kept saying to us. Well, eventually we pried the elevator door open and we got him and some other people on the fourth floor landing to do the same. And we created this little kind of small, I'd say about two and a half foot gap just barely big enough to squeeze one of us through. And so we were just about to hoist the first one of us up and out when that little speaker finally crackled to life. The voice on the other end of the line said, she introduced herself and she said, I'm with the elevator company, please just hang tight and do not move. Somebody will be there within five minutes to get you out. Well, I explained to her that we already had the situation well in hand and explained how we were planning to make our escape. She said, no, no, please do not do that because if that elevator drops even a few feet while you're crawling out, it could cut you in half.
So just hang on and we'll be there for you. So we paused from our potentially divisive pursuit and we waited. And sure enough, within about 15 minutes, the fire department had gotten us out. We each had sweat off about six pounds, but you know what?
Nobody had been cut in half. So all in all, I marked that down as a win. Well, somehow we managed to go through life like I did with that elevator. Oblivious to the fact that there is a, this is called a speaker right in front of us and that speaker bears the quiet voice of God. But see then something happens in our lives, like I pointed out last week, sometimes it's something traumatic that turns our attention toward that speaker. In the chaos of life, we hear a voice whispering to, sometimes screaming at us. That voice may not, in fact, it rarely does answer all of our questions, but it assures us that we're not alone and that help is coming for us. That voice lets us know that God is there and that he is willing to speak if we are willing to listen.
Last week, we talked about how that voice speaks through creation. The question that I want us to consider today is whether or not we hear that voice speaking in Jesus. Because see, really the only question of faith is, is Jesus really who he said he was? Because if he was who he said he was, then everything that he taught us about God, about morality, about eternity, about the way of salvation, all those things are true.
But if he is not really who he said he was, then he is merely one religious option among many whose spiritual advice we can take or leave as it suits us or works for us. So to get at this question, I want us to consider the story of the disciple that perhaps more people today in our culture identify with than maybe any other disciple. And that disciple has the name Thomas. Now, what one word description always goes with Thomas?
Say it. Doubting. That's right, doubting Thomas.
To be honest, I feel a little bad for Thomas. Other disciples didn't get named for their faults. Peter had a problem with fear, but he didn't get labeled petrified Peter or Peter the pansy or anything like that. Luke the luster, John the judgmental or something like that. But Thomas, Thomas got named.
He got commemorated for his flaw. John chapter 20, if you have a Bible or maybe the person around you has one, you could open there and look on with them. If neither of those things are true, I'll put it up here on the screen for you and you can follow along that way. But as you're turning there, John 20 25, let me give you the story behind the story. Mary Magdalene, who was one of Jesus's followers had gone to the tomb early on Sunday morning to anoint Jesus, because that's what they did in those days, keep the body from smelling terrible. And when she got there, she was worried about how the stone was going to get rolled away because it was really heavy. It was like a sealed grave. But when she got there, the stone had already been rolled away and everybody was gone. Well, she assumed that somebody had stolen the body.
And so she ran back to tell the other disciples. Peter and John then ran to the tomb to check it out. Peter goes all the way into the tomb and there he finds no body. He sees only Jesus's headscarf neatly folded up and laid on the bench, which indicated to Peter that this wasn't a burglar because burglars usually don't take time to tidy up after they steal things. And it leads Peter to conclude that a miracle has happened. In fact, two miracles, if you ask me.
Number one, miracle number one, Jesus's body is gone. Miracle number two, a single man has taken time to make his bed. I say that. I say that because one of my friend's mothers used to always use that as reasoning in college for why we should make our bed in the morning. Look, Jesus rose from the dead and he still took time to make his bed.
You should too. I kid you not. That's what she said. Well, later that night, later that night, Jesus appears to the disciples and he reveals himself to them. But Thomas isn't there.
He'd probably gone out on like a Starbucks run or for everybody or something like that. But the point is, when Thomas gets back, they tell him that they have seen the risen Jesus. But Thomas says, oh no, oh no, oh no, unless I see personally in his hands the mark of the nails so I know that it's really him. Unless, in fact, I got to place my finger into the mark of the nails. I got to put my hand into his side.
If those things don't happen, I will never believe. Now, honestly, this has got to be at the top of the list of the things that you regret saying, right? I mean, think about it. You ever say something stupid in small group?
Right? I mean, you say it, you're embarrassed by it, but in five minutes everybody's forgotten about it and moved on. Thomas says something stupid and it's written down in the Bible for us to read for the next 2,000 years. Here's the other reason I feel bad for Thomas. Lots of people in the Gospels doubt it.
Lots of them. Jesus' cousin, for example, John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest prophet ever to live. He got confused because Jesus didn't seem to be bringing in the kingdom as quickly as John had expected him to. So John sent a message over to him, Luke 7, 19, that basically says, hey, man, are you really the Messiah?
Was this whole thing wrong? He doubted. Job, in the Old Testament, has an entire book named after him that is essentially 37 chapters of him flinging his doubts back in God's face. Or one of my personal favorites, the Gospel of Matthew tells us that after Jesus was resurrected and after he had appeared several times to the disciples, he gathered them one last time on the mountainside and in their presence he began to ascend to heaven. So he started to ascend to heaven and then Matthew 28, 17, and when they saw him, they worshipped him. But some doubted. How crazy is that?
He's floating in the air. And they're like, I don't know. I'm going to leave my religious affiliation as none for just the time being because I don't know. The point is lots of people doubted, not just Thomas, but only Thomas gets the name. That's because so many people identify with Thomas. And I believe that John highlights Thomas' story right at the end of his gospel, which is all about belief, because John sees Thomas as the example how those of us who struggle to believe can actually learn to do so.
Many people think that believing in God is the product of wishful thinking and a mark of intellectual weakness. But in our new teaching series, Unknown God, we see that there are certain truths about God, whether we believe in him or not, that are absolutely undeniable. This is a great series of teaching to share with other people. And this month on Summit Life, our aim is to set you up for success with shareable teaching along with a resource to help you reach out to others. We've packaged together a set of inspirational greeting cards with Bible verses on the front and plenty of space to write inside for you to use around Thanksgiving or really any time throughout the year to encourage others with a handwritten note. Let's really take the time to send a meaningful, thoughtful message to someone that we care about this season. You might even encourage them to join you in listening to this program each day. For your gift of thirty five dollars this month, we'll send you a boxed set of these 20 greeting cards.
Give us a call at 866-335-5220 or go online to JD Greer dot com to reserve your set today. So let's pick up in verse 26 and let me show you the evolution of his belief. John 20, 26, eight days later, his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.
Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, peace be with you, which is a little ironic if you ask me, because if you're in a locked room and a guy that you think is dead suddenly shows up in your midst, the last emotion I think you would feel is peace. But that's what he said. Then he says to Thomas, Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands and put out your hand and place it in my sight. Where do you recognize that? That's what Thomas had said, right?
Yeah. Do not disbelieve, but believe. Here's a question. How did Jesus know to say those specific things to Thomas? He had not been there when Thomas had said those things. Well, you see, it's because the resurrected Jesus is omniscient, meaning he knows all things at all times.
And he is also omnipresent, which means he is everywhere at once. And so Thomas sensing Jesus's omniscience and omnipresence, in other words, sensing his deity, falls prostrate before Jesus and says, my Lord and my God. Jesus responded to him, have you believed Thomas because you've seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
All right, let me just make a couple of observations about this story. Thomas was a doubter. Thomas was a doubter, as are many of us.
Let's just first consider, so we're kind of on the same playing field. Why was Thomas so skeptical? I mean, 10 of his trusted friends all told him that they'd seen the exact same thing. Why was Thomas so slow to believe? Why was he so cynical?
Well, a couple of reasons. First, dead people don't get out of the grave. That was as unbelievable back then as it is today. Jewish people had no category for this. You shouldn't think that they thought around, sat around all the time expecting people to resurrect because that's just how things work. They were not looking for a crucified and resurrected Messiah. They were looking, if anything, for a conquering victorious Messiah. If God had really been at work in Jesus, it surely would not have ended with Jesus shamed and mutilated on the cross.
Which leads me to a second thing. When Jesus died, Jesus shattered every category Thomas had for what God was supposed to do, for how God was supposed to behave. In Thomas' day, the Jews were under cruel and unjust Roman oppression. So Thomas, like most Jews, expected that the Messiah would come and crush the Romans.
Right? And that's reasonable. Isn't that what a fair and compassionate God would do, is liberate those who are enslaved? Yet Jesus had shown up preaching mercy to the Romans and telling the Jews to be kind to them and to turn the other cheek and to go the extra mile. And then Jesus had died in weakness and shame under Jewish and Roman cruelty. Thomas had no category for that.
A dying Messiah or a suffering God? Thomas wanted to believe. He'd given three years of his life to follow Jesus. He wanted to believe.
But his mind had been blown and his heart had been broken. Can I ask you this? Do you resonate with that? Do you find yourself sometimes saying, look, I want to believe? I'd love to make my parents happy and believe, but the ways of God are just so confusing and I got too many unanswered questions and I just can't understand why this would happen and where was God when this happened and why would God let that happen?
Right? So that leads me to the second kind of observation. Our areas of confusion may be different from those of Thomas. You probably aren't asking questions anymore about how God could have allowed Roman oppression, but I've talked to many people today with their own questions. For example, I've talked to a student recently who said it's the Bible itself that confuses me. He took a New Testament class last semester and his professor showed him where there were some places where the Bible seems to contradict itself and the details don't seem to line up. Or she told him that there's some things in archaeology contradict what the Bible teaches about history. Or, you know, I've had many people confess that some of the things the Bible teaches just seem hard to believe. And they're like, really, like a worldwide flood? Like God sent a worldwide flood and he saved one family in a boat and in came the animals two by two, the hippopotamus and the kangaroo.
Really? Or maybe you've just found it really difficult certain doctrines in the Bible like biblical teachings about hell or the questions of why, if there really is a loving God, there is such pain in the world. Or what about dinosaurs? Or where did Cain get his wife? Or maybe you just feel like some of the Bible's teachings about morality are at best outdated and at worst just wrong and cruel. You ask, well, why is God so hung up on sex? Or do you ever sometimes just hear the Christian message and think, really? I mean, sometimes I feel like those of us who spend a lot of time in church, we just get used to it and we forget how strange this whole message is. A guy was born 2,000 years ago who saved the world by dying. He brought peace on earth, even though there's been a ton of violence since then, and one day soon he's going to come back and restore peace by riding through the clouds on a white horse.
I mean, what's hard to believe about that? It makes perfect sense. It's intuitive, right? To Thomas and every doubter, Jesus gives an answer. But let me warn you, it is not the answer that you think. It is not explanation. The answer he gives is revelation.
It is not so much an answer to the questions. It is a glimpse of who he is, proven by what he did. Here's what we can learn about the development of faith from the story of Thomas. And in fact, let me tell you, this is how I, as someone who I think by nature is skeptical, how I really have struggled to believe and how I've learned to believe, even in the midst of struggle. Number one in Thomas' story, we see that our faith is not anchored in an explanation. Our faith is anchored in an event.
Our faith is not anchored in an explanation, it's in an event. Jesus, did you notice, didn't really take time to address the substance of Thomas' doubts. Instead, he confronted Thomas with the fact of the resurrection. He invited Thomas not to understand all the reasons in his mind.
He invited Thomas to touch the scars in his hands. One of my favorite definitions of faith. Faith is when the unexplainable meets the undeniable. Faith is when certain things that remain unexplainable meet, come into conflict with the undeniable.
Listen to this, hear this very clearly. Christianity did not begin in the first century with a group of people who believed something. Who were convinced of some ethical approach or some philosophy. It began with a group of people who saw something. What I would invite you to do is, since what happened to Thomas, I would invite you to take your doubts and ask yourself, what would happen to my doubts if I encountered the resurrected Jesus?
Let's just do it as a little mental experiment. You got all your questions about whatever it's about. What would happen to those doubts if you encountered the resurrected Jesus? I've told you before that several years ago when I was in college, I became friends with a Muslim girl from Central Asia. She became a part of our circle of friends. We all began to study the Bible together. Over the course of probably three or four months in Bible study, she said, I have become convinced that Jesus really is the Messiah. She said, I know that he is the Messiah.
I believe in his love. She said, but what I can't accept is that Jesus is the son of God. That there's a trinity and God is one and God is three. She said, because one, I've been told since I was a child that's not true. She said, number two, it just doesn't make mathematical sense. How could you be one and three at the same time? She said, I can't accept that. We tried every possible analogy to explain to her how it was true and showed her all the Bible verses, but she just said, look, I just can't see it.
One, it was a Friday night. I'm in the midst of one of our Bible studies. She brings this up again. I just looked at her across the group and I said, what would happen if suddenly in the midst of our group Jesus himself showed up? It just appeared right here and did something to prove to you that it was really him. And he said to you, he said, hey, I want to tell you that the trinity, what the Bible teaches about God being one and three, it's true, but I'm not going to explain it to you. I'm not going to explain to you how it works because you probably couldn't get it anyway and the people who say they get it, they don't really get it either. So I'm not going to explain it to you.
I'm just going to tell you that it's true and I'm going to tell you that one day when you get to heaven, I'll enlarge your mind enough for you to understand it there, but for right now you're probably not going to get it. I said, if he did that, would you suspend your doubt until you get to heaven in which you follow Jesus? She said, well, I guess that's the question. I said, yeah, because that's exactly what happened to Thomas in John 20. He didn't answer the question.
He just said, this is me as the resurrected one. Here's the question that I have for you. Would you be willing to do that with your doubt?
Let me ask it this way. Would you be willing to doubt your doubts in light of the resurrection? Would you be willing to say, wow, you know, there's just some things I don't understand yet? Listen, I'm not saying the questions are not legitimate.
They are. Nor am I saying that there are no answers. They're usually good answers, whether we're talking about the supposed contradictions of the Bible or difficult questions about the Old Testament.
And we often, by the way, explore those answers here on the weekend. But the point is that Jesus did not tell Thomas to believe just because his explanations made the best sense. He urged Thomas to believe because of what Jesus proved about who he was by the resurrection. The foundation of the church, listen, is not what the apostles taught. It's what Jesus did. That's what the foundation of the church was.
You see, maybe you've grown up hearing Christians defend what they believe by simply appealing to the Bible. Oh, that's what the Bible says. That's why I believe it. God said it. I believe it.
That settles it. And you're like, why do you appeal to the Bible to defend the Bible? You're standing up here saying, I'm the smartest man in the world. Well, why should I believe you? Well, because I said so. Well, why should I believe what you say?
Because I'm the smartest man in the world and I would know something like that. You maybe grew up hearing people do that with the Bible. Well, the reason we believe the Bible is it's the word of God and the reason we believe it's the word of God is because the Bible says so. And the reason we believe the Bible is because it's the word of God.
And you're like, my mind's going to explode. But see, there is a reason that we believe the Bible. We believe the Bible because it was authorized and given to us by Jesus who proved he had the authority to do that by raising from the dead. And so I approach the Old Testament the way that he approached the Old Testament because I believe he is in a place to understand how the Old Testament should be approached. General life hack rule I've developed is when somebody predicts and accomplishes their death and resurrection and then pulls it off, I just follow what he says about the Old Testament.
That's just how I roll. You say, okay, well, if I were Thomas, if I were Thomas and I got to see what Thomas saw, yeah, then I guess I'd believe too. Well, first of all, ask yourself that, honestly. Would you really suspend your doubts if you encountered the resurrected Jesus? Because, listen, if so, you're admitting that the doubt itself is not the problem. You're admitting that the problem is that you are not thoroughly convinced that Jesus is who he said he was or that the resurrection happened.
And that's an important distinction. In fact, we even give at least 10% of what is brought in each year to planting new churches. So we'd love to have you join us and support where God is at work through this ministry. For your one-time gift of $35 this month or when you join a gospel partner family, we'll say thank you by sending you the box of 20 inspirational greeting cards that we mentioned earlier in the program. Call right now. Our number is 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.
Or you can always give online at jdcareer.com. In addition to pastoring the Summit Church and teaching on this daily program, Pastor J.D. is also a bestselling author. His books include Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart and Gaining by Losing, as well as Gospel and his most recent book, Just Ask. Dig deeper into the truths that we share every day on this program and share them with others. You can purchase a copy of these books when you visit us at jdcareer.com. I'm Molly Bidevich inviting you to join us next week when Pastor J.D. continues our study called Unknown God. Tune in to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
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