April 7 – John 20:24-29


Main Focus: Jesus is not just patient with our doubts but willing to prove himself real to us.

Typically we start a new sermon series after Easter, but this year we’re gonna keep on going with Jesus & People to see some folks encounter the risen Jesus (but also get hype, our Ecclesiastes series starts May 19). This week we’ll look at Jesus’s encounter with Thomas, his patience with Thomas’s doubts, and Jesus’s similar patience with us.

Scan your eyes up the chapter and you’ll see this follows closely on the heels of Jesus’s appearance to Mary at the tomb (20:11-18). The evening of Resurrection Sunday, Jesus paid a visit to the disciples, showing them his scars likely in order to prove he wasn’t a ghost of some kind, much like he ate some fish in front of them in Luke’s account (Luke 24:38-43). But, as our text this week points out, Thomas wasn’t among them, and when he hears about it he utters his infamous challenge to their testimony: “Unless I…place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Thomas has historically been known as Doubting Thomas, and you can see why; he doesn’t just not believe, he will never believe unless his conditions are met. However, we don’t get much of a window into Thomas’s reasoning here. Perhaps he was deeply skeptical, or influenced by the Sadducees’s disbelief in the resurrection, or so grieved over Jesus’s death that he couldn’t risk hoping in something that seemed so unfathomable.

Whatever his reasoning, he threw down the gauntlet but Jesus was up to the challenge. A little over a week later Jesus paid the disciples another visit, and this time he pointedly called on Thomas to test his doubts against the living proof of his risen Lord. But note how patient he is with Thomas—rather than scolding Thomas for his doubts, Jesus makes himself accessible to Thomas, quite literally, by inviting Thomas to poke and prod his crucifixion wounds. To Thomas’s credit, he immediately traded his firm doubt for firm belief with the remarkable confession, “My Lord and my God!” In fact, he’s the only person in the Gospels to call Jesus God—so much for him just being Doubting Thomas.

In discussion we’ll focus on this turning point for Thomas, his faith-filled response to Jesus, and Jesus’s gentle willingness to entertain Thomas’s need for proof. By the end of discussion we’ll connect this to our experience with Jesus, to find reassurance in Jesus’s gentleness towards us and realize we too can bring our doubts to him. As we consider this, pay attention to Jesus’s word to us in this passage: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” It’s common for Christians to think that the disciples had it easier than us since they could see Jesus and interact with him. Perhaps that’ll come up when you ask folks, “what doubts…do you struggle with the most?” Either way, we’ll use that question as an opportunity to vocalize our doubts in community, which is an excellent resource for actually handling them, and then end by reflecting on Jesus’s willingness to meet us at the point of our disbelief just like he did Thomas.

Discussion questions

– Could someone read John 20:24-29 for us?

– What stood out to you from the passage?

– How would you describe Thomas before he meets the risen Jesus? What about after?

– How does Jesus treat Thomas here?

– What doubts about Jesus or the message of the Bible do you tend to struggle with the most?

– Based on this passage, how do you think Jesus deals with our doubts and disbelief?