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Do You Believe This? Or That?

April 12, 2015

By John Partridge
Scripture: John 20:19-31

1 John 1:1 - 2:2

Acts 4:32-35

Have you ever attended classes that your employer paid for? I am not only referring to college classes, but any
sort of special training that you might have been sent to. I was once sent to Berkeley, California to take a three
day programming class for a particular kind of controller that we were using, and later, for a different
employer, I was sent to Aurora, Ohio for another programming class for a different kind of controller.
But what is strange is that I never got to use either of them very much at all.
It is strange because if your employer pays for you to attend a class, and pays you to go to that class, then your
employer almost certainly has some expectation that you will need to use that knowledge. Certainly, there are
times that we learn things just for fun because we are interested. Many people have read books and watched
movies about NASA, the space race with the Soviet Union, Project Gemini and the Apollo missions that
landed men on the moon. None of us have any expectation that we will ever land on the moon, but we are
interested and so we read and learn things just because we feel like it. That is true of many of our hobbies
from quilting to flower arranging, but more often than not, if our employer sends us somewhere to learn
something, we will probably be expected to need or use that knowledge in some way.
But it might surprise some of us to realize that we find exactly this sort of message in a part of the Easter
message. We begin this morning, not with classes or education, but with the continuation of the Easter story as
we hear more about what happened after Jesus rose from the dead. (John 20:19-31)
19

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear
of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you! 20 After he said this,
he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21

Again Jesus said, Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. 22 And with that he
breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyones sins, their sins are forgiven; if
you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.
24

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), [Didymus means the twin in Greek] one of the Twelve, was not
with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, We have seen the Lord!
But he said to them, Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put
my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were
locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you! 27 Then he said to Thomas, Put
your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.
28

Thomas said to him, My Lord and my God!

29

Then Jesus told him, Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have believed.
30

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But
these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may
have life in his name.
1

As we mentioned over the last few weeks, and especially last week, the Disciples didnt always get it when
Jesus was explaining things to them. In particular, whenever Jesus tried to explain how he would be arrested,
executed, be buried and after three days rise from the dead, the Disciples had no idea what he was talking
about. Even on Easter morning when the two Marys and the other women told them that Jesus had risen from
the dead, that some of them had seen him, heard him, and spoken with him, and even after John and Peter saw
for themselves that the tomb was empty, they still didnt understand what had happened. But now, after they
met Jesus face to face for themselves, they finally got it and began to understand that it was all real.
Except for Thomas.
Thomas gets a lot of grief and people call him doubting Thomas but in reality, he wasnt any different than
the rest of the disciples. None of them believed the eyewitnesses. It was too difficult to believe that anyone
could rise from the dead. They were too stubborn to believe even when the witnesses were friends that they
had known and trusted for years.
But finally even Thomas sees for himself and believes.
And once we understand how difficult it was for these men to accept that Jesus had conquered death and rose
from the dead, we can be more understanding and sympathetic to our unbelieving friends. Although we
believe, and although many of us have had experiences that have convinced us that the story is true, we do not
have the firsthand, eyewitness testimony that the disciples had.
Even they had a hard time believing until they saw Jesus for themselves.
But more important to our discussion this morning is what they did once they had seen, and once they did
believe because once Jesus came to them, once they saw, and touched him, that was not the end. Jesus did not
rise from the dead so that the disciples could tell stories about an interesting thing that had happened to them.
Jesus did not find them, and meet them in a locked room just so that they could believe that it was true, write a
book and go on David Letterman. Jesus met the disciples because he expected them to do something with the
knowledge that he had given to them. In 1 John 1:1 - 2:2, John writes this:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have
looked at and our hands have touchedthis we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we
have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has
appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with
us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy
complete.
5

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at
all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus,
his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is
faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not
sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
2:1

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate
with the FatherJesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for
ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
John emphasizes that the things that they teach are things that they have seen, and heard, and touched. They
teach what they know, because they know that it is real and not a story that they made up. John says that they
teach others what they have seen and heard so that others can join them and be a part of the family of God but
also because something about them is incomplete if they do not. While they are joyful because of what
happened to them and because of what they know, their joy is not complete unless they do something with
2

what they have learned. Somehow the learning is not enough. The Disciples have learned that something is
missing; a part of them is incomplete, unless they share what they learned with others.
And so what is it that they know?
They know that God is light and in him there can be no darkness. But some people say that they are
followers of Jesus, but still do the things that they did before. They walk in darkness. They hold on to the sins
that they always did. They say but they do not do.
They know that they are people who make mistakes and who sin against God. But some people claim that they
are without sin. Those who think that they are without sin deceive themselves and have lost hold of the truth.
Instead, if we confess our sin, we know that God will forgive us and purify us. When we claim that we do not
sin, we make Jesus out to be a liar and, this is huge, he is not with us. What John is saying is that if we claim
that we do not sin, we are, in fact, not a follower of Jesus at all.
This is our faith: We know that we have sinned. It is our hope that, as we mature in our faith, that we will sin
less often but we know that we all continue to sin throughout our lives. But we also know that if and when we
sin, Jesus stands between us and God. Jesus is the sacrifice who died to pay the penalty for all of our sins,
past, present, and future.
And so, John is giving the followers of Jesus a test to see if the people in the church are followers of Jesus, if
they are Christians, or not. Much like James (whose book we will be talking about for the next few weeks),
John teaches that if you are a follower of Jesus, then your faith can be measured by the things you are doing
and saying.
In Acts 4:32-35, Luke does something similar except rather than give the church a test, he gives an example.
32

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but
they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the
Lord Jesus. And Gods grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among
them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales
35
and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
Luke says that the believers not only met together, but loved together. They shared what they had, not only
with one another, but with anyone who had need, regardless of whether or not they were a part of the church.
Historians have recorded that Christians were often thought of as fools or stupid because they would give
food to anyone who was hungry and clothing to anyone who was in need.
It is harder for us to believe than the Disciples because we have not seen, firsthand, the events of Easter. We
have not seen Jesus face to face or put our fingers in the holes left by the nails and the spear. But all the same,
our faith is real. What we believe is something that really happened. And when we believe that, something
happens to us that transforms not only the things we believe, but the things that we do.
If we believe, then we are compelled to tell others what we have seen and heard.
If we believe, then we cannot claim to follow Jesus and then act as if we do not.
If we believe, then we admit that we have sinned, and that we continue to sin, but we also know that we are
forgiven when we confess our sin, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
In the end, Lukes example pulls everything together.
If we believe, then we will testify about the good news of Jesus Christ and we will love others so much, that
we will work together, and do all that we can, to care for one another and anyone who is in need.
Jesus said, Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.
For Luke, John, and even Jesus, faith is not just something that we believe
but something that we do every single day.

You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first
page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part
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New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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