Thomas: The Proof Producer
By Dr John Solomon
Senior Pastor, Miracle Ministries International, India
Foundation Scripture: John 20: 24- 29
Sunday 26th October 2014
In the account in John 20, we see the disciples in the immediate aftermath of Jesus' betrayal, accusation, trial, crucifixion and burial, all of which had been closely witnessed by His followers. Jesus rose from the grave and appeared to the two Marys before appearing to the disciples who had met together. Thomas however, had absented himself from the disciples. We are not told the reason for his absence; he may had been taking it easy, having concluded that as Jesus was no longer with them, there was no need to be present.
Jesus had taught them all about fellowship; during His earthly ministry, had lived, travelled and ministered with His disciples. Everything that Jesus did, His disciples were present or at the very least, nearby. It was not until after Pentecost and the baptism of the Holy Spirit that they dispersed and began establishing churches all over the world.
The disciples were gathered together and Jesus suddenly appeared. Great things happen in the time of fellowship. We do not know when Jesus will appear but we should be found in the place of fellowship. Jesus came when Thomas was not there. By absenting himself, he missed out on a personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus. When he re-joined them, he was told, "We have seen The Lord". We, in New Wine Church, enjoy encounters with the Lord whenever we gather together. He is closer than the person sitting next to you. We enjoy visitations with the Lord on a regular basis when we join together in fellowship. We too however, have a duty to tell others about Jesus. The disciples reached out to Thomas who was not there and told him of their encounter with the Lord. We have a similar duty to reach out to others who have absented themselves from the fellowship of believers and have not encountered Jesus. We have a responsibility to tell them that Jesus has visited our lives in New Wine Church. It is not enough for us to simply enjoy fellowship and visitation with the Lord. We must reach out to others - they too need to know that Jesus has visited; it is not enough for us to bask in HIs presence, it is mandatory to tell others about the Good News. They need to experience the wonderful fellowship of the Lord Jesus Christ for themselves; they must be told. We need to tell people about Jesus. This house experiences the power of God and others must be told.
Six or seven years ago, in one of many conversations with my best friend in the world, Dr Tayo Adeyemi, we were discussing our ministries and I asked him whether, when he was away, the congregation of New Wine missed him. His answer was, "Yes and No". When I asked him to explain, he said, "Yes, they do miss me when I am away, but when Pastor Michael is there, they do not miss me." I thank God that Pastor Tayo trained, supported, encouraged and mentored Pastor Michael during his lifetime to take over, continue and run with the ministry and vision of New Wine Church now that he has gone home to be with the Lord.
When Thomas was told that Jesus had appeared to the disciples his answer was, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." Thomas has traditionally been referred to in terms of his unbelief, doubting Thomas, but in fact, if anything, he was a proof producer. He wanted proof. He had witnessed first-hand, the reality of Jesus' crucifixion and now demanded similarly incontrovertible proof of his resurrection. In order to be a witness of the resurrected Jesus, he needed and demanded proof.
Bible history records that so compelling was Thomas' encounter with the resurrected Jesus that he went off and established churches in both India and Iraq. It is recorded that when he first arrived on the west coast of southern India, he went in the early hours of the morning and walked along the coast line and soon came across a number of Brahmins, high-caste Hindu priests similar to Levitical priests who were coming out of the water and worshipping the sun as it was rising. When they explained to him what they were doing, he began to tell them about Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness. They refused to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and demanded evidence. He told them that he knew Jesus personally, that he had spoken with him, had witnessed His crucifixion and burial and after His resurrection, had seen and touched the risen Christ. Historians record that the priests, still not believing, set him a challenge by way of proof. They said that if he were to scoop some of the water in his hands and throw it upwards towards the sun and instead of falling back to the ground, it remained suspended in the air, only then would they believe that Jesus was the true God. Thomas accepted the challenge and God backed up his faith; he scooped water in his hand and threw it up and it remained suspended in the air. The priests were convinced and the church of Jesus Christ in India was born. The location at which Thomas proved that Jesus was the Son of God and risen Saviour has since become a pilgrimage site – such is the power of knowing Jesus for yourself.
When Jesus returned amongst the disciples the second time, Jesus did not ignore Thomas or remonstrate with him as to why he was previously absent but immediately addressed his demand for proof. He gave Thomas a second chance to encounter Him; we serve the God of second chances. Thomas had waited for eight days. Eight days in which no doubt he had been filled with sorrow, despair and pain. Decades earlier, the prophet Simeon had held the baby Jesus in his arms and prophesied to Mary that a sword would pierce her heart. We have often assumed that this referred to Jesus' crucifixion, however, I believe that the episode that had occurred when Jesus was 12 in which her and her husband had searched frantically for their lost son. Those three days must have been worse than the three days after His crucifixion. At least then, she knew that He had died; she had heard Him cry out and had seen Him give up His Spirit. Thomas had waited for eight anguish-filled days. If you miss out on Jesus, there is nothing but pain and anguish.
Alone in a field, Manoah's wife had had a supernatural visitation with an angelic being named Wonderful. Manoah was not present and therefore prayed for the angelic being to be sent again; he wanted a chance to experience this visitation. If you have missed out on something, God will give you a second chance. You will experience a visitation from God. Shortly after his prayer, Manoah's wife was visited again by the angel. Upon seeing him, she ran out to call her husband. If Manoah had been an Indian man, he would have demanded an explanation as to why the angel only visited his wife when he was not there! However, Manoah hurried back after his wife. Let me speak to you, men: if your wife is more spiritual than you, prays more and reads the word of God more and has a deeper relationship with the Lord than you, let me give you a word of advice: do not be proud; do not resent her, follow her.
Thomas waited for eight long anguish and regret-filled days and then one day in the house in which the doors were locked, Jesus suddenly appeared. This time, Thomas was not absent. He, having missed out on the earlier encounter, was no doubt determined not to miss out again on the opportunity, he was determined to remain with the disciples in case Jesus re-appeared. Later, when Peter announced his intention to go fishing, Thomas was probably the first to volunteer to go with him; "where you all are, I will be", he must have declared. We must never lose out on the opportunity to be in fellowship with the people of God and the presence of the Lord.
This time, Jesus came for only Thomas. The others had seen Him and spoken with Him but for Thomas' sake, He reappeared. If you have time for God, He has time for you. If God is your priority, you become His priority. Jesus appeared to the disciples despite the fact they were behind locked doors. You may be facing locked doors but do not let that be your focus; focus instead on the God you serve whom cannot be stopped, for whom locked doors are not a challenge – Jesus can penetrate any locked door!
Jesus appeared and said, "Peace be to you." Jesus brought a message of peace, not condemnation for Thomas. God wants to restore peace to your life. He gives us a peace that the world cannot give and the world cannot take away. He immediately addressed Thomas and told him "Reach your finger here and look at My hands; and reach your hand here and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving but believing". The bible does not record whether Thomas actually took up Jesus' invitation to put his hands inside His side but clearly from that moment on, he believed. Jesus did not accuse Thomas. Jesus reappeared just for Thomas. God specialises in encountering individuals. The Old Testament records Jehovah encountering far more individuals than He did crowds of people; think of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Samuel and Solomon. In the New Testament, think of Jesus and Peter, Mary Magdalene, Nathaniel, Zacchaeus, the woman at the well. We read of Jesus crossing stormy seas in order to meet just one man; not a dignitary or the local mayor but a naked, blood-soaked, snarling, violent, demon-possessed man called Legion who met Him shouting, "Go back!" Jesus came to Gennaseret for that one man; He healed, delivered and set him free and only then was He content to return.
My Lord has time for you; you matter to Him. This is at the very core of 'Grace to Expand', our theme for Autumn Glory – you matter to God and for each of us Jesus appeared, died and rose again. It is now our duty to take this grace and share this with others.
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