Preacher: Pastor Ray
Text: John 20:24-29
Summary: Hold on to Jesus, for He is praying for you and He will meet you throughout your life.
It’s a special Sunday because the kids are back the longer. I live my Christian Life. I realize it really comes down to a few people who are on the same journey and it is a narrow road you start off with many people in your life in your teens and your 20s and your 30s now I’m in my mid-40s and I realize in the end there’s only a few and and just having them here. I feel so strengthened Andre as well. He’s been with me for quite a number of years as well as many of you here. We’ve been together for a while and I just thank you for your commitment to the Lord to keep following Jesus. Let’s pray.
Father, we come as Your children. And we want to hear from You. We want to meet You, Lord Jesus. You became God in the flesh — fully man but also fully God — so that we can interact with You and we can converse with You and we can fellowship with You. When we see You, we see the Father. When we hear You, we are hearing the Father’s very words. So Lord, we just ask that You would teach us how we can follow better, how we can persevere and hold on, especially in times of our lives when we feel like we’re starting over. Help us, Lord. Pursue us. Hold on to us as we hold on to You. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although 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, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The goal of our lives is to believe in Jesus, to believe that He is the Son of God, that He is the Christ, He is the Anointed One, He is the Messiah. And that’s the whole reason why John wrote this gospel — so that we would believe and that we would turn to Him and by turning to Him, we would have life in His Name. And not just abundant life here, but eternal life in the next life.
And I think Thomas gets a bad rap. He is called “Doubting Thomas” because here he’s been told that Jesus has resurrected, yet he doesn’t believe. Does any of us really have the full belief that is needed to finish this race? Do we have the full picture of who Jesus is? And as Andre said that he doesn’t understand what the kingdom of God is like, do we understand the things of God? I mean we can read about it. We can study it, but do we really know and belief? None of us knows the full picture. We simply don’t know.
But there is a growth. We need to know more. We need to believe more. We need to trust more.
And Thomas, I think, he’s like many of us.
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”
Jumping down to v16…
16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
It’s too simplistic to say, Thomas is just a doubter. Like we look at what Thomas is famous for and in modern day terms, it would be — Jesus, is that really you? Can I can I see your driver’s license? Can I get your Social Security number? Can I do a cotton swab and do a DNA test on your saliva? Let me make sure it’s you.
Here in John 11, John is showing a different side of Thomas. Jesus tells everyone that He needs to go to Judea. Lazarus is dead. I need to see Martha and Mary. Jesus is reminded by the disciples — some of them were saying, don’t you remember the last time we were there? How the Jews wanted to stone you and you want to go back? That’s not wise, Jesus. Let’s rethink this. Who is the first person to say, no, I will go with You, Jesus, I will die with you if need be? Thomas. He says, even if we die, I’m ready to die.
Thomas is fiercely loyal. He doesn’t care about dying. He’s not a coward like the other disciples who are cautioning Jesus about returning to Judea. Thomas, he’s ready to die. So loyal. He’s a trusted disciple. He’s by Jesus side. And and we see it even more clearly in John 14.
Jesus is talking about His departure. And Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? And then, Jesus responds to that. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. See, Thomas just wants to be near Jesus. Jesus is talking about going somewhere. And Thomas is like, where are you going? I want to go with you. Can you give us a map? Why can’t you just tell us the directions to your destination. I want to follow You, Lord.
That’s Thomas’ heart. First, I’m ready to die. Next, I want to follow. I will go with You. Just tell us the way. Give us a map. This is Thomas. He is not just a doubter. But what Thomas is famous for is the text that we read in the beginning — John 20. He said, unless I see with my own eyes His hands, the nail marks, His side. I want to touch it. I want to see it. Until then, I will never believe.
That’s very different than what Thomas said in John 11. What Thomas said in John 14 is somebody who is very confused, very hurt. He’s lost. He’s losing his way. And he’s not the only one. Peter, the leader, in John 21, what is he doing? He’s going back fishing. The fisherman is going back fishing. That is a bad sign. Like, you’re going back to your vocation before you started following?
This is symbolic of Peter returning to his old life. So after he denied Jesus, because to him, Jesus was so shameful in the way he died and Peter did not want to identify with that. And so he distanced himself from Jesus. He was so ashamed at this helpless Jesus dying so shamefully,
And then he denies Him.
And Peter is so disappointed with himself. He can’t even look at Jesus. Jesus appears 2 times before this. Peter can’t even look at Him. Peter is ready to return to his old life and and there are a bunch of disciples going with him. Because they see that Peter is not same since the denial. He is depressed. And this is the leader of the disciples.
Isn’t this where we find ourselves many times? Like Andre said he’s been walking with the Lord this many years, but it’s like playing basketball. He’s shooting three-pointers, but he forgot how to dribble the ball. And he wants to return to the fundamentals of the Christian Life. What are the fundamentals? How have I lost touch with the basics? It’s following Jesus.
Following Jesus is not as easy as it sounds. It’s easy to say, I go to church. It’s easy to say, I believe in these doctrines. It’s easy to say, I’m part of a small group. I’m a leader in this ministry. It’s hard to follow Jesus. It is hard.
Jesus says, we must overcome the world. This world system that is trying to deceive you.
And today, I want to talk to the believer, myself included, that often we feel like we don’t know where we’re going. And we’re losing our way. We’re confused. We’re on the verge of possibly throwing in the towel, and say, forget following Jesus. It’s too hard.
If we’re honest, I’m sure you felt that way. And I just want to tell you, welcome to the club. Yes, following Jesus is hard because it involves taking up a cross. Who wants to take up a cross? That heavy beam of suffering and shame. And you’re walking with Jesus into the confusion of the Passion Week, this final week of Jesus’ life.
And it is so confusing. Everything is turned upside down. Who wants to do that? It’s easier just to play. To make money is easier. Just to pursue your career, that’s easy. Just go to church, that’s easy. Following Jesus, taking up a cross, overcoming this world — these are hard.
And if you can identify with this, I just want to tell you one thing. Hold on. Hold on to Jesus. I know it’s hard. We’ve all been there. Maybe we’re there right now. Hold on. Hold on to Jesus.
There’s one text that has encouraged me — John 17.
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world…
Did you know that salvation happens because the Father draws? He draws people out of the world. And He presents these people whom He has drawn to the Son and the Son saves.
So the Father and the Son, there are a tag team. The Father draws. Jesus the Savior meets these people and saves them one by one. Unless the Father draws, you cannot be saved. And, of course, when you meet Jesus, that is your opportunity — the day of salvation has come.
6 …Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.
Did you know that Jesus is not praying for the world? Did you know that? That means He’s not praying for world peace. He’s not praying for dictators who don’t believe in Him. He’s not praying for presidents and ambassadors and business leaders who don’t believe in Him. He’s only praying for you and me.
His prayers are focused on the remnant, the true Church of God, the remnant scattered in all the visible churches around the world. He is praying for you and me. That means, He’s not so busy worrying about current events. He will intervene when necessary, but it doesn’t mean He’s praying for the heart of an atheist who has no desire to believe in Him. That person is not even on His radar.
Like when I’m watching my boys play basketball, I notice other people making good plays, but my eyes are focused on my boys. And so when the Father and Jesus, when they’re looking at this world and wondering, who should I pray for? He’s focusing on His boys and girls. The siblings of Christ. Brothers and sisters. Jesus is praying for you.
And so if you are having difficulty these days, take comfort in the fact that Jesus is praying for you. I can hold on another day knowing that today, He is praying for me. When I’m feeling weak, Jesus is praying for me.
Not only that, when we see Jesus appearing to Peter and John, Jesus appearing to all the disciples minus Thomas, Jesus appearing to all the disciples including Thomas, we see that Jesus is not just praying for us. He’s actually going after you when you’re lost.
Luke 15 — we used to read this as an evangelistic text. We should notice who the lost sheep are and we should go after them. No, that’s an incorrect reading. First of all, He says, the lost, they are the sheep. They are lost sheep. And He is the Shepherd. Meaning, He is the One going after us whenever we’re lost. Jesus is the Shepherd. He Himself goes after the lost sheep as if you’re the only one on His mind. He leaves the 99 and already that’s weird. Jesus doesn’t leave anybody. He’s talking about the 99 who don’t think they need to repent, those who are in the religious system. Jesus doesn’t care for them. They are not His sheep. He goes after His sheep whenever we’re lost.
And so if you’re feeling lost, confused, you’re losing your way. If you feel like life is not panning out the way that you had planned and hoped for, welcome to the club. Thomas is feeling that, Peter is feeling that. Don’t we often feel that way? Lost, confused, losing our way.
Thank the Lord Jesus. Not only does He pray for you. He goes after you. He’s such a Good Shepherd. He will leave the 99 who don’t think they need him. 99 who don’t think they need to repent. 99 who are just content showing up to church as part of the religious system. They don’t really care about following.
But if you care enough about following that you are distressed when you don’t see the Savior, that you’re distressed because you’ve been following Jesus and wondering, how come my life is so confusing? Why is it so messy? It’s because you’re very sincere. You really want to follow. You really want to be close to Him.
Most people they don’t care. They just want the world. They’re fine just going to church. But for you, the reason why you’re in anguish is because you know the real deal. You know in the beginning how sweet it was to follow Jesus. You remember your honeymoon stage with the Lord and you know right now you’re not in it.
And Thomas is feeling it. I was ready to die with Jesus. Jesus says, I’m leaving soon and I want to know, where are you going? He is fiercely loyal. He loves Jesus. He’s not a doubter. He’s just confused. He’s just losing his way. He’s just hurt because he had a certain picture of how the life of discipleship would turn out. I thought Jesus would be this way. I thought my life would turn out this way. And he’s losing his faith.
And if we learn anything from how the Gospel of John ends? It is a journey of belief, our faith and our love for Jesus needing to grow more and more. And thank the Lord Jesus that He is praying for you right at this moment. I know that. Each one of you who are His sheep. He is praying for each of you.
That is the most loving thing someone can do. It’s not buying you dinner. It’s not spending time with you. The most loving thing at the core is praying for you. Like when somebody prays for me, I feel so loved. Like that’s what I need. Nothing else will fix this situation. I need prayer. The fact that Jesus every day, every moment, His gaze is fixed on His followers. The fact that the Father’s eyes are fixed on His children means He’s not caring about world events. He cares about you.
May that encourage you. That’s how much He loves me. He is praying for me not to be deceived by the evil one. You can read John 17 for yourself. He wants you to be saved. He wants you to be sanctified. He wants you to be protected. He wants you to reach final salvation.
He wants us to be unified as brothers and sisters. Just read John 17. He is praying for His Church. And He loves us so much. Always, He’s praying for us. But on occasion, Jesus actually comes after us. He showed up at least three times during this short window. He showed up at least three times to the disciples.
Thomas is famous for his doubting in John 20. He is one of us. For the believer, when you’ve lost your way, hold on. Not only is He praying for you, wait for Him. He will meet you. He will meet you multiple times over your lifetime. He will meet you. Just hold on. You’re not seeing Him now. You’re confused. Where are you, Lord? I’m lost. The Good Shepherd knows. At the right time because His timing is perfect, He will come and meet you.
So hold on because Jesus, not only does He pray for you, hold on because He will meet you many times over the course of your lifetime. And if you understand that Christian life is about following a Person, believing in a Person, then you understand why it is harder than just being religious. But this is the only way. Jesus says, this is the only way because I AM the Way. You must meet Me. Wait for Me. Hold on to Jesus.
Are you confused? Frustrated? You don’t know where your life is heading. You were so excited in the beginning. You were so loyal. And Jesus met you and you had such a sweet honeymoon period with Him. But weeks become years and we lost touch with Him. We can feel so lost even though we profess with our mouth that we believe.
Jesus wants more for your life. Don’t just settle and be resigned to the fact that this is how it’s going to be. Hold on to Jesus. He’s praying for you right now. And His prayers are what matter. We pray for one another, but but take comfort in the truth that He is praying for you. And His prayers have power.
Hold on to Jesus. Not only is he praying for you, also, He will meet you as He met Thomas, as He met Peter. Without these meetings, they would have lost their way. They would not have been kept. The evil one would have taken over and deceived them and led them astray.
Peter and Thomas were moving away from Jesus, but Jesus met them and restored them. Without these meetings with Jesus, we will never make it to the end. Let’s ask the Lord to meet us. If He hasn’t met you in a while, hold on. He will meet you. He might meet you now. He might meet you tomorrow. He might meet you next week, next year. Hold on to Him. He’s praying for you to hold on.
We have the potential to be so blessed. Thomas believed only through seeing. We are so blessed. Even though we don’t see, we believe. We are so blessed. You can be that kind of person. You can wait for Jesus. You haven’t seen Him. You’re waiting at least for that voice.
And you might wait for weeks, or months, or even years.
You’re not wavering. You’re holding on. You might not be thriving, but you’re holding on, you’r e persevering, your enduring. When Jesus is praying for you, He must be so pleased and say that brother, that sister is blessed. Even without seeing, unlike Thomas, we believe, we’re holding on.
Father, thank you so much for praying for us. You’re not praying for the world. You’re not praying for world leaders. You’re not praying for world peace. You’re not praying for all the wars in the world. You’re praying for believers to hold on. We are so comforted by the fact that you are looking upon each of your sheep. You’re praying for each one of us by name.
And your main prayer is to hold on. Your main prayer to the Father is, Father, keep them in Your Name, do not let them be deceived, help them to hold on and to persevere. Not only do you pray for us, we hold on to the promise that at the right time, You will meet us. The same way You met Thomas, the same way that You met Peter, we believe that You will meet us. Without these meetings, these brothers would’ve been lost.
Your prayers were not enough. You needed to meet them at the right time. So Lord, we hold on to the promise that you, Jesus, will meet us. Maybe not in a visible way that we can see with our eyes, but at least through our ears, through the understanding of our hearts, we will know that we’ve met the Lord Jesus. Let it be now. Let it be now as we come to Your Table and by taking the Lord’s Supper, symbolizing Your death, burial and resurrection.
We plead Your blood over our lives and we ask You, Lord Jesus, to meet us. Even if we cannot fully understand what is happening in this Lord’s Supper, I pray that You nourish us and encourage us. Edify us. Lift us up, Lord Jesus.
We are the body of Christ. You are the Head. We want to be joined to You. We want to fellowship with You. We want to be connected to You. We want to abide in You, the Vine. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen