Title: EVIDENCE HAS BEEN PRESENTED…YOUR VERDICT?…DO YOU BELIEVE?
Text: John 20:1-31
Believing something totally unbelievable is not easy. Some of us demand evidence; others have to see it before they believe it, yet there are those who will believe because of a credible testimony…and then there are those who won’t believe it until they get their hands on it and touch it for themselves. But when it’s all boiled down to the level where we can believe, it’s still a matter of whether we have faith in that evidence.
What does it take for you to have faith in something that’s normally impossible? Try to put yourself in the shoes of the disciples on Resurrection morning. You know Jesus was crucified and buried. You were not there at the precise moment of the resurrection. Mary runs in the door and says, “He has risen!” Which disciple represents you? Peter and John, who get up immediately and have a foot race to the tomb? Or the other 8 disciples who stayed in the room disbelieving? Or Thomas, who would not believe unless he put his fingers in the nail holes? Or Mary, the instant she heard her name spoken, worshiped Him?
What tips the balance in favor of belief for you? After all, believing in someone resurrecting from the dead is not your everyday occurrence! Read Text.
1. Chapter 20 opens with Mary Magdalene making a predawn trip to the tomb. What does that tell you what kind of night she had? Why do people make trips to the cemetery after the funeral is over? (To process their grief; a feeling of closeness to their loved one; hard to let go.)
2. Who’s better at cross-country? Peter or the other disciple? (Other disciple.) Who is the other disciple? (John)
3. Upon looking into the tomb, what did Peter see that John did not see? (The linen wrappings and the face cloth folded by itself.) What’s interesting about this little evidence? (If Jesus’ body were stolen, the robbers would not have been so neat as to fold the wrappings. They were folded by Jesus to catch the eye of those who would find them. They were no longer needed, so He neatly folded them and set them aside.)
4. Who was the first disciple to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead? (John) What was the evidence that made him finally believe? (The folded grave clothes.)
5. Who was the first disciple to see the risen Lord? (Mary Magadlene) At what point did Mary believe the resurrection? (When she heard Jesus speak her name and she saw Him.)
Insight: The first resurrection appearance was to a lady of the night with a poor reputation. To whom Jesus chose to reveal Himself tell us much about who He came to seek and save. Far away from the ivory pillars of the Temple, Jesus makes a surprise appearance to those His heart flows with forgiveness.
Insight: Today many people see the Jesus of history, but so few recognize Him!
6. Verse 9 infers that Peter and the other disciples did not believe because they did not understand the scripture concerning His resurrection. Read Ps. 16:10 Why did it take a while for them to believe, even though He told them in advance that this was going to happen? (Intense grief has a way numbing your mind; plus this was totally outside of the norm of everyday experience.)
Insight: It’s still the same today…faith precedes understanding. Some choose to believe early (like John), others late (like the other disciples). But for those who find the blessing of believing early, it comes before you can put sense to every detail and understand the ways of God. Not everything God does makes sense to human reasoning. He can do things beyond our scope…but then, that’s what makes Him God!
7. What did the disciples do after they heard the news of the resurrection? (They went home.) What does that tell you where they were in the belief cycle? (Not there yet.)
8. Mary Magdalene, in the meantime, is still at the empty tomb weeping. What does that tell you where her belief was at this point? (She didn’t believe yet.) Did the empty tomb give her consolation at this point? (No.) Did the vision of the two angels give her consolation? (No, because she states someone has taken away her Lord and she did not know where they had laid Him.)
9. Mary believes the resurrection after Jesus speaks her name. Prior to this, she thought He was the gardener. What is it about her name being spoken that causes her to believe? (The gardener wouldn’t know her name; perhaps she wasn’t facing Him prior to this; perhaps it is the way He spoke her name.)
Insight: Never was there a single word more charged with emotion than Mary’s name. Not just for Mary, but Jesus died for each one of us…and He calls your name individually. When He calls your name, do you believe?
10. What do you think the “stop clinging to Me” conversation was all about? (Jesus did not refrain Mary from touching Him, but He was in the process of ascending to His Father when Mary meets Him. He cannot let her detain Him. In place of a private worship service, He gives her a mission to go tell the others of the resurrection. We will all have opportunity for uninterrupted worship later,)
11. There is a jewel of a thought in verse 17 that you can easily miss if you don’t pay attention to pronouns. Do you see the jewel? (Previously Jesus always referred to God as “My Father.” Now He adds, “and your Father.” Only through the death and resurrection can Jesus bring those who believe in Him into God’s family.)
12. The disciples, in the meantime, are behind locked doors in fear of what the Jews might do to those who were so closely associated with Jesus. What are Jesus’ first words to them, and why are they so appropriate? (Peace to you. This is greater peace that He could bestow upon them than ever before. Because of the cross, reconciliation with God was made possible and so the sinner now has peace with God. Now their grief is transformed into permanent joy.) Rom. 8:1; Eph. 2:14-16; 2 Thess. 3:16
13. Why do you think Jesus showed them His hands and side at this point? (To show them it really was Him, not a ghost, and to show them the price of peace.) Jesus then commissions them and breathes upon them the Holy Spirit. How are the two so critically connected with each other? (The task is monumental; to accomplish it we will need the Holy Spirit.)
14. What do you think Thomas lacked for him to believe unless he personally touched Jesus? How can we help someone who struggles believing in a like manner?
Insight: Though Thomas was pessimistic, he was loyal to Jesus. Sight was sufficient once Jesus made the appeared to him. This special appearance to Thomas is an encouragement to all who find it difficult to believe – Jesus will go the extra mile to bring you on board.
Insight: His phrase, “I will not believe it” puts the issue of belief and unbelief right where it belongs – it’s a matter of the will. It’s not wrong to demand evidence for faith, but don’t expect proof alone to convince them. They must choose to believe. And when they do recognize Him they, too, will worship Him as “my Lord and my God!”
Some things are invisible to the eyes of faith. For those who must “see” it to believe it, that faith step is one of the biggest steps they will ever take. It’s only through the eyes of faith they will ever see Jesus. But to all, Jesus utters the benediction, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Jesus makes it very clear that belief is essential to His blessing. Heb. 11:1; 1 Pet. 1:7-9
The story of Thomas well illustrates the purpose of John’s gospel: so that others would believe! Thomas struggled to believe, but believe he did…and He stayed faithful to death. Traditional history has it that Thomas died a martyr’s death of being flayed alive with knives. Once he took the faith step, nothing was going to turn him against His Lord. You too?
1 Pet. 1:3-5