John 20:24-31 | Jesus is God | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 20:24–20:31
Please open, if you will, to John, chapter 20. Our text is to be found in verses 24-31. This is the passage we come to after 25 months in the Gospel of John. This passage tells us the point of the whole book, and I’ve been telling you all along about the point of the book. I’ve been reading this passage or rehearsing this passage for you a number of times, but now we come to the part where we explain it.
This will be followed by chapter 21, which is really the epilogue of the book. It’s kind of the final tying up of loose ends of the book, and so we’ll spend a couple of weeks in that and then we’ll be done. And then we will study after that—something to be announced later. I’ll give you a hint . . . it’s within these two leather covers [of the Bible].
I’ve entitled this message this morning “Jesus is God.” Please follow along as I read John 20, verses 24-31.
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.
Jesus is God.
Just this past August a new medical study came out saying (as it was reported on CBS, online), that it’s been recently proven that carbs are the reason for your bad health and not fats. This research said, “the new research suggests that it’s not the fat in your diet that’s raising your risk of premature death, it’s too many carbohydrates—especially the refined, processed kinds of carbs—that may be the real killer.” And then they end with this uplifting sentence, “The research also found that eating fruits, vegetables and legumes can lower your risk of dying prematurely.” Okay. So if you want to live a little bit longer, then cut down on the carbohydrates; and those are a bigger deal than the fats that we previously worried about. I’m just guessing there will be a study in five years that says that carbohydrates are good, so eat as many as you can—but we’ll see, we’ll see.
You read something like that and (something I often tell you when you read things like that), that’s certainly a common grace of God. Okay. God gives us information on how to eat right and to kind of help our bodies as we live in them during this time on earth. But to remind you of something that I often remind you of, there are no 137-year-olds. You are going to die. It will happen unless Christ returns again. But these things can extend our life a little bit. And people read these studies and start new diets because they want to live longer. But really, as the Bible states over and over again, this life is a vapor. This life is here today and gone tomorrow.
If this study is true, you should cut down on carbs. If the Gospel of John is true, you should trust Jesus Christ for ten thousand years from now. You should trust Jesus Christ for ten minutes from now. If the Gospel of John is true, you must bank everything on the fact that Jesus is God; and that he came to give life, which is actually the opposite of what the world gives (and really what we give ourselves when we start sinning).
Jesus came to reverse the curse. Jesus came as God to invade the curse: to defeat it and to give those who trust in him eternal life.
We’ve been studying this, as I’ve said, for 25 months. And I was telling the elders this morning, I feel so unable to convince you. We need the Holy Spirit to preach to our hearts this morning. We’ve been walking through John’s gospel for 25 months, message after message, story after story, account after account, sign after sign, claim after claim, to try to get every single person in this room to entrust their entire life to the lordship of Jesus Christ. This is something that only his Spirit can do.
So I want to ask you to consider four testimonies this morning: four testimonies to believe in, in order to have eternal life—four testimonies to believe, in order to have eternal life.
1. Believe the Disciples’ Testimony
The first is this testimony found in verses 24-25: “Believe the Disciples’ Testimony” . . . “Believe the Disciples’ Testimony.”
Thomas is the key figure in this narrative, other than Christ. This narrative points to the fact that Thomas should have listened to the other disciples—just like we should. Verse 24: “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.” So this is referring back, and notice, to verse 19. Verse 19 was our last time-marker in this passage. “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
So on the evening of his resurrection (he was raised to new life in the morning), the evening he came to appear in that room with the disciples, Thomas, evidently, wasn’t there that first night. This we learn eight days later—we see that in the verses coming up. But Thomas, one of the twelve disciples, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. Now, why is Thomas called “Twin”?—because he was a twin. That’s all we know, so we’ll move on. Be careful of trying to draw out some huge theological conclusion from just simple, plain statements.
Thomas was one of the twelve, called the Twin, and he wasn’t there (here’s the key) when Jesus came the week before. Verse 25: “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’” Think of that. The last Thomas knew, Jesus was dead—died on a cross—was buried. Now the disciples (the men and women he’d been traveling with for three years) have said, we’ve seen the Lord. That should have been enough right there for Thomas to believe.
If Thomas just would have taken a moment and reflected back to what Jesus said in the upper room. Jesus was telling the disciples: you will be my witnesses, I’m sending you, and I’m going to give you my Spirit; you’re going to know what to say when the time’s right. Thomas should have remembered—this group is supposed to be witnessing for Jesus so I should listen to this group. Thomas doesn’t do that.
He, as one commentator has said, often takes the dark view. He’s the pessimist in the group. At lease he was the pessimist in the group: he was then changed, as we’ll see. But before his change, before his realization of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he was the pessimist. So the other disciples told him, we’ve 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” (John 20:25). You could say this in a positive way—he chooses to say it in a negative way. You could say, I will believe if I see him before me; he doesn’t say it that way. He says, unless I see the prints in the hands, if I place my hand in his side . . . I will never believe. He says it the negative way. This is Thomas.
Now, some people have said that Thomas is to be seen as virtuous in this statement. Thomas is someone who needs evidence, and that’s a good thing. And I would highlight the fact that, yes, the Christian faith is something where there is evidence to believe in. And here’s the beauty of the Christian faith—we have plenty, plenty of evidence: biblical evidence, historical evidence. We have plenty of evidence. So being a Christian doesn’t mean you throw your mind in the trash can. But it’s not evidence, and holding to that evidence, that saves. It’s going to Jesus Christ and receiving his mercy and grace for your own sin that saves. It’s not just about evidence, it’s also about trust and faith.
Thomas has enough evidence at this point. Think of all that Thomas has seen: the water turned to wine, Jesus walking on water, the blind man healed. Thomas has seen sign after sign after sign. He’s heard Jesus preach sermon after sermon after sermon. He could have connected all the dots before this, but he needs one more thing.
Seeking evidence isn’t a bad thing, but discarding the evidence that God has already given and saying, I, myself, need more—can be a very arrogant position. Thomas has enough evidence. I don’t believe this is written to commend Thomas; and another reason I don’t believe that, is because we learned in Luke that Jesus actually rebuked the disciples the week before—because when Cleopas and the other disciple came into the room then, they said: we’ve seen the Lord, we walked with him on the road to Emmaus, we’ve seen him. They were slow to believe, and Jesus came (in Luke) and rebuked them for being slow to believe. So he wouldn’t show up a week after that and tell Thomas, no, no, no—they were just slow to believe, but you’re just skeptical and that’s a good thing.
Thomas isn’t to be commended, yet. He should have believed the disciple’s testimony.
The disciples of Jesus were tasked by Jesus to proclaim his saving message. He was going to see to it that he would leave this earth, leave his spirit with his disciples; and they would go on passing the message down throughout the ages. And we know that that’s the case because we have been the recipient of their message. That’s why we learn in the epistles that our faith is built on the foundation of the apostles’ doctrine. They carry on the message. This is what the plan of Jesus was: Scripture is to record their teaching (the rest of the Scripture, the rest of the New Testament).
Like Thomas, we’re called to believe what they say. So someone can come to faith in Jesus by simply reading the Epistle of First Peter. Someone can come to faith in Jesus by reading Romans because what the disciples are teaching is what Jesus had taught them to teach—the message of salvation. Thomas should have listened to his brothers and sisters who were saying, we’ve seen the Lord.
Turn, if you will, to Acts 2. I want you to see the importance of the disciples taking this message and passing it on, and that being enough to provide a credible testimony so that people would believe and place their faith in Jesus Christ.
Acts 2 . . . I’m not going to read the whole sermon of Peter. I want to pick it up in verse 29. Peter, speaking about the fact that David has died, a greater David has come, and he’s alive now. Peter says this in verse 29. I want you to see what Peter’s doing here. Don’t just listen to the words, but just kind of understand; he’s preaching as a witness to the resurrected Jesus and that should be enough. Peter’s preaching—not even Jesus is preaching—but Peter’s preaching about Jesus. That should be enough for people to be saved by Jesus.
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, …
You see what Peter is witnessing to. You see what Peter is pointing this crowd to . . . the resurrection of Jesus.
. . . that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
Peter assumes that what he’s saying (and the other disciples behind him)—what they are saying is enough for the crowd to believe in Jesus Christ.
33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, 35until I make your enemies your footstool.”
So he’s saying, David called this one, Lord.
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
So much for a feel-good sermon as Peter’s pointing his finger, probably at the crowd.
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, …
Now here’s the intent. When you hear the apostles’ testimony (the disciples’ testimony), the goal—the only real response—is that it would cut you to the heart. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart.
… and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
They know they’re in trouble.
38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness …
He kept teaching—kept proclaiming the gospel.
… and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received [notice] his word were baptized and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Now look at verse 42: “And they devoted themselves . . .” Once they had repented and been baptized, “they devoted themselves to . . .” It doesn’t say, Jesus’ teaching—it says “the apostles’ teaching.” Now the apostles’ teaching was not contrary to Jesus’ teaching. They just continued Jesus’ teaching all along while he was physically in heaven . . . but sent his Spirit to work through them. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
What am I trying to highlight? Believe what the apostles say. The apostles saw the risen Lord, and when they say we’ve seen him, he conquered death, he’s alive—that’s plenty of evidence. What’s clear, as I’ve told you before, is that these men and women were changed by what they saw. They were fearful and afraid. Now, Peter’s preaching sermons like this to people who crucified the Lord. He’s seen the resurrected Messiah.
It’s as if a president sent an ambassador to a foreign nation and said, I want you to go to this nation and tell them you are coming on behalf of me with terms of peace. And if they will not embrace the terms of peace, there will be war; and there will be catastrophe and judgment. It’s either peace or judgment. Go and tell this nation they’ve got those two options. And so the ambassador goes to the nation and the recipients of that message say: we don’t want to listen to you, we want to listen to the president, himself; he needs to come here and say this directly to us.
Well, that would be foolish because the president has chosen that the ambassador would carry his message; and the recipients should believe the ambassador’s message because it is the president’s message. The recipients don’t get to dictate the terms on who speaks to them about what.
The sovereign king gets to say how and when he brings this revelation, and it’s incumbent upon us to believe—to trust him. And this is the plan of God: to have his disciples carry on the message of Jesus. And it’s enough for Thomas to believe, but at this point, he does not
2. Believe Jesus’ Resurrection
There’s a second testimony to believe—not only “Believe in the Disciples’ Testimony”—“Believe Jesus’ Resurrection,” verses 26-27. While Jesus holds Thomas responsible to believe the other disciples, he is still gracious to appear before him. This is interesting because later on he’ll highlight to Thomas: you believe because you’ve seen me, blessed are those who believe when they don’t see me. He’s highlighting the true faith that comes from others. So Jesus holds Thomas responsible and indicates that he should have believed without seeing; but he still does come to him and allows Thomas to see him.
Verse 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.’” This is eight days later—eight days, remember from verse 19—the night that he had risen from the dead—eight days later. Now we think, well, okay, now that’s the following Monday, because if it’s a Sunday, seven days later would be the next Sunday, and eight days would be the following Monday. Well, that’s not how they calculated it. Any part of a day was counted. So the Sunday that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples, that evening—that was one; and you go forward and you get the next week. Eight days from the previous time-marker, this is the next Lord’s Day, the next Sunday.
And notice, by the way, right here Jesus starts to do things in the New Testament on Sundays—on the Lord’s Day. He appears to John—gives him a vision in Revelation 1 on the Lord’s Day. Paul writes to the churches about bringing their offerings when they assemble on the Lord’s Day. This is a new pattern for the New Testament church. They celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ every single Sunday when they gather, as do we. Nothing has changed since then.
Eight days later, his disciples were inside and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Now here’s one of those parts of Scripture where we think some amazing statement has just been made. We’d like more information, but John says, nah, that’s not important; let’s move on.
The doors were locked and then Jesus is all of a sudden inside. Tell us more, John. No. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” What John wants you to know is the fact that, yes, Jesus came, even though the doors were locked—he can’t be kept out of any room. He will enter any room he wants to. Know that, but also know this: he came, and again for the third time since verse 19 said, “Peace be with you.” This is our Lord (fearful disciples—fearful of other men—perhaps still fearful of him) . . . announcing peace. “Peace be with you.”
That’s why Paul starts so many of his letters, “grace and peace.” He wants the believer to always be at peace, and you can be at peace. Peace is not based on what’s happening around you. If it’s chaos around you, you’re not going to be at peace—no, for the believer, no matter what’s happening around you or inside of you, you can be at peace because of the one you trust: the same one that conquered death. If he can conquer death, you can be at peace with any trial you’re going through. Jesus comes in and says, “Peace be with you.”
Verse 27: “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here.’” Now evidently, Jesus was not present in the conversation before—that the disciples had with Thomas—we’ve seen the Lord. He says, unless I see and touch and feel, unless that all happens, I will not believe. And evidently Jesus was not there. But it’s interesting . . . Jesus shows up now and goes right to Thomas and says everything that Thomas wanted him to say: put your finger here, put your hand here, put your finger here and see my hands, and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve—but believe.
He gives Thomas physical proof of his resurrection. We talked about the physical nature of the resurrection last week, but he gives Thomas physical proof of his resurrection. Jesus received these marks from his enemies, and he is going to show Thomas that—I’m the one that died on the cross and I’m alive.
And don’t you love (I said this again last week) … don’t you love that Jesus still has the wounds? He still has them. As I’m preaching today, Jesus still has the wounds. These are trophies. The wounds at one point (you might have thought) signified his defeat . . . the nails driven by his enemies (the Romans directly; indirectly, the Jewish people—the leaders of Israel); the wounds given to him by his enemies (you could even say, the wounds given to him by Satan). But it’s just like Jesus: he uses what seems to be a defeat . . . for good. And his wounds are not signs of his defeat; his wounds are signs of his victory.
And he shows Thomas his wounds. He doesn’t say, look at my mouth, I can move it—I’m alive. He could have done that. He could have said, feel my hair, this is real hair. He doesn’t do that. He could say, look at my reflexes, my knees work. He showed them specifically, his hands and his side. Jesus is showing Thomas not that he just is alive, but that he’s victorious, as well.
Notice this about Jesus. Thomas should have believed when his brothers and sisters gave him testimony, but he didn’t. But Jesus is still gracious. He shows up and shows Thomas evidence that he’s alive. Jesus is gracious. He’s physically alive.
Now, in a court of law, eyewitness testimony is huge (credible eyewitness testimony). Eyewitness testimony is much more important than circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is . . . everything appears like this guy did it, but we don’t have any definite proof. So the gas station was robbed, and the person specifically said, “Give me $600”—and the guy who we think did all of this owed $600 in rent.
Now, that’s not definite proof; it’s circumstantial evidence. We can kinda make a conclusion, but eyewitness testimony is better: someone saying, no, no, no, I saw a man go in on that night. He was wearing a yellow shirt, a red hat (for some strange reason he was going with that shirt combination), but he was wearing that. I saw him—he had this hair. And the authorities know, yes, that was the description of the man who we are looking for. That’s more credible than circumstantial evidence.
The resurrection of Jesus wasn’t something that no one was ever a witness to. It wasn’t that Jesus was prophesied to be the one that would rise from the dead (like Psalm 16), but no one ever saw him. They just can’t find his body in the tomb. So his body’s not in the tomb; no one sees him—so we conclude, as we bring in the Old Testament Scriptures—he probably rose from the dead, and that is what our faith is based upon. No! We have a faith that’s based on eyewitness testimony. It’s sure. Listen to I Corinthians 15:5: “[H]e appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time.”
When Jesus is alive, he’s going to show people that he’s alive. You don’t have to guess and place your faith in something that’s a little sketchy. I love that it’s five hundred witnesses at one time. It’s not five hundred crazy people who individually had this vision that no one can really corroborate. No, no. We were there. You mean your whole family saw this? Yes, our whole family saw it, along with four hundred ninety-five other people. Ask any of us. Jesus shows up to five hundred people at one time. You can place your trust in the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, bodily, and that there were at least five hundred witnesses throughout these days that saw Jesus—whom he appeared to.
3. Believe Thomas’ Claim
“Believe the Disciples’ Testimony,” “Believe Jesus’ Resurrection,” and for you I would say this morning, thirdly, “Believe Thomas’ Claim.”
Now Thomas, all of a sudden, becomes a witness to you. Thomas was the one who would not listen to the witnesses of the resurrection. Then he sees the resurrected Christ and, all of a sudden, becomes a witness to you and I and to the world today.
Jesus appears to Thomas, and Thomas makes an outlandish claim about Jesus that would change his entire life. Verse 28: “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” Thomas responds in amazement and declares that Jesus (now he’s seen the resurrected Jesus)—and now you are my Master, and you are my God! You don’t just call anyone Master, and you definitely don’t just call anyone God. My Master, my Lord, and my theos—my one true and living God. Thomas is calling Jesus, God, in this passage.
The New American Commentary says, “To suggest that such a confession might go unnoticed by the Jews would be highly naive.” A Jewish reader of this would read it as if for the first time and say: oh, my goodness, Thomas is calling Jesus, God! They wouldn’t gloss over that; that would stop them in their tracks, because you don’t call anyone God, unless they are God.
I’ve said this to you before: people do verbal gymnastics to try to get around the deity of Christ. Jesus’ enemies knew what he claimed. They knew who he claimed to be. John 5:18: “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” This is the position of his enemies. This is not even Thomas saying, Jesus is my God. This is his enemies saying, we know he’s making himself equal with God; and therefore, we’re trying to kill him for heresy. You have to work real hard and deny simple, revealed truth to take a position other than the fact that Jesus is God.
Verse 29: “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” “Have you believed because you have seen me?” Yes, is the answer. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Thomas believed after he saw. Jesus is saying that the people who do not see Jesus but trust in him—believe in him, believe in his testimony, believe in his death and resurrection—those are the ones to be blessed; and that’s more than just kind of divine favor. There’s a joy that comes along with that.
A synonym of to be blessed is to be happy. There’s an enjoyment of that. And you could also use as a synonym, congratulations. This is something good that you trust in—you are receiving something good because you believe. Congratulations! You believe without seeing: this is what Jesus is saying. There is to be a reward for people who believe in the testimony of Jesus, even though they have never seen him. This is faith.
Notice what happened to Thomas. Notice what happened to the skeptic. He sees the resurrected Christ and devotes himself entirely to Christ.
In today’s day and age, you might hear someone say, oh yea, Jesus is my Lord; and you kind of look at the sum of their life and you go, really? You do know what Lord means, right? Boss, master, which implies that you are a slave: you do what they say (and I’ll grant you, maybe not perfectly) but the pattern is that you do what they say. So today people throw the word “Lord” around. Thomas is not just kinda throwin’ around a term. You’re my Master; you’re my God.
The Bible doesn’t tell us, but history tells us (and most people agree on this) that Thomas ultimately went as far as India preaching the gospel message. That’s quite a task for someone who didn’t believe in the resurrection at first. So, when he sees the resurrected Christ, his life changes. He evidently died a martyr, as he was stabbed with a spear. Thomas, this man who was slow to believe at first (“doubting Thomas,” as many know him to be) had his life changed by seeing the resurrected Christ; and gave his life entirely to Jesus Christ. This says something to us. This tells us something.
4. Believe John’s Gospel
This passage is full of testimonies for you to believe. Here’s one final one: “Believe John’s Gospel.” “Believe the Disciples’ Testimony,” “Believe Jesus’ Resurrection,” “Believe Thomas’ Claim,” and finally, “Believe John’s Gospel.”
We’ve been studying this book for just over two years. This whole account is written carefully to make a case. John’s just not writing a journal: this day I did that, that day I did that, I say this, I saw that. He’s writing to make an argument that we see at the end, that’s now crystalized. Aha, I see why he wrote chapter one. I see why he wrote chapter 2. I see why he included this story and included that statement. I see why he did all that—it leads to this, verse 30: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book.”
John could have written volumes and volumes about every day that he was with Jesus. He chose to write the things that would lead us to conclude: Jesus is the anointed one, Jesus is the Messiah promised in Genesis 3:15, and Jesus, himself, is God. That’s what John was writing to us for. Verse 31: “[B]ut these are written …” And it’s not just the last few verses that we said this morning; “these”— the whole Gospel of John—these things are written (chapters 1 to 21). “These [things] 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.”
John’s not writing a biography. Don’t call the Gospel of John a biography about Jesus. John’s not writing a biography. He’s writing about certain parts of Jesus’ life: seven particular signs that he did, seven particular “I am” statements and claims that he made. He’s writing this book to get you to trust that he (Jesus) is the one that you have to take your life and put it in the hands of, so that you would have eternal life. He’s writing so that you would read this and know your destiny 339 years from now—and 300,039 years from now.
John wants us to know everything he saw, everything he’s heard, that point to this fact: believe that Jesus is the Christ as I said, the anointed one, the Messiah promised back even in Genesis 3:15. Jesus was promised. As soon as death came into the world God made a promise that one day one would come that would eradicate death and crush the serpent. Jesus. Jesus is the one who is here, the Son of God.
And remember what I told you—in John 5:18 he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Again, his enemies knew, when he referred to himself as the Son of God, he was making himself equal with God. This is a statement of divinity. This isn’t just saying, well, he’s just God’s son—so he’s not God. No, this is to be understood as a statement of divinity. His enemies understood that when he claimed to be the Son of God, he was claiming to be equal with God.
Jesus is the anointed one, the Messiah. He is the Son of God, and if you believe in him and trust in him, you will have life in his name. Sin brings death; we’ve seen that in Genesis 3. Trusting in Jesus brings life. Jesus is the only one who can reverse the curse. Jesus is the only one who could deal with the sin that you’re born with. As you’re born and start to manifest sin in all sorts of ways—before your parents on the changing table when you’re ten months old, and then when you’re in kindergarten with the kid next to you, and then when you’re an adult—all the ways that you manifest sin, Jesus is able to forgive and to change you so that you now want to live as a worshipper of him; whereas before, you wanted to live as a way to fulfill yourself with all sorts of pleasure.
Jesus is the only one who can do that saving work and that transforming work. And this is what John is saying: believe in him—have life in his name. That’s why in John 17:3 he makes that famous statement, “this is eternal life”; and we think that he might follow that up with an amount of years. This is eternal life . . . ten billion years. It doesn’t say that. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This is life, that you know Christ; that you are in Christ, forgiven by Christ, changed by Christ—that you have Christ.
I want you to listen to what one writer highlighted for us. Think of all that John has shown us. In the process of writing this gospel, the evangelist has proclaimed that Jesus was active in creation. Jesus was the Word of God who became incarnate, the sin-bearing Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Israel, the new temple, a teacher sent from God, a new symbol of God’s power exhibited through Moses, the evidence of the love of God, the Savior of the world, equal with God, the authority and judgment, the agent of God, the fulfillment of Scripture, the expected prophet, the ‘I AM’, the supplier of living water, the one who is from God, the Son of Man, the Holy One, the lifted-up One, the glorified One, the preparer of his followers’ destiny, the One who will not abandon, the One in whom we must abide and who is the basis for the fruitfulness of his followers, the sender of the Helper, the bearer of truth, the crucified King, the risen Lord, and now . . . God.
If you are not devoted to Jesus Christ, who are you waiting for? This is the One. Believe these testimonies. Believe the testimony of the disciples. Believe the testimony of Jesus, the resurrected Jesus. Believe the new-found testimony of Thomas. And believe in John’s Gospel; believe in why he is writing.
I want to end with a warning because it comes all throughout the pages of John. One of the themes of John, the major theme of John is believe. One of the themes in John is also that there are false disciples. He makes this case in a number of places.
John 2:23-25. I’ll read this to you again, as I have before. What I want to highlight is that belief is not just intellectual assent. I believe all the facts that you said today. I believe what you said. A synonym for believe in the Bible (same Greek word translated a different way) is trust. Trust him—not believe the facts, but trust him. So when he says something, you’re going to do that; or when he makes a claim, you believe that. When he says something about the future, you’re going to believe in that promise and operate today as if you believe that promise. That’s true belief.
Belief isn’t, I just believe the facts about Jesus: I believe he died and rose again—I’m going to heaven. Biblically it’s more than that. It’s entrusting yourself to him. You’ve heard the illustration before: you know, anybody can say I believe in that bridge. Well then, walk across it; as it’s got a ten thousand foot chasm. Do you actually believe, or do you not believe? If you believe, you’ll entrust yourself to him. John 2:23-25:
23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
There are a lot of people who will say, I believe, whose hearts really do not trust him when the rubber meets the road.
I went through this week and wrote down characteristics of true disciples that we see in the Gospel of John. Listen to these. They are willing to give up any sin or relationship in order to follow Jesus. Think about that. I’m talking to everyone here, whether you just showed up this morning or whether you’re an elder. A disciple of Jesus is willing to give up any sin or relationship in order to follow Jesus. I didn’t say, a disciple of Jesus will be perfect in how they follow Jesus, because salvation is not based on works. But there is a willingness to truly give up everything, if need be, to follow Christ. That’s at the heart of a true disciple.
Secondly, they follow him as God. They follow Jesus as God; true disciples do.
Thirdly, they believe that he is the one who gives them eternal life. He’s the only one who can give them eternal life.
Fourth, they’ve been born again. They’ve been changed. So that means they have new desires and new perspectives. They look different. Any man in Christ is a new creation; the old is gone and the new is come. Remember Nicodemus would have been at church every Sunday. Nicodemus would not have been someone who stole from people. Nicodemus was known for being an upright and moral man; and Jesus told him, you must be born again: you must be started over. And by the way, it’s going to happen from outside of you, not inside of you. You need to be changed. True believers haven’t changed themselves; they’ve been changed, and they operate as if they’ve been changed.
Another characteristic of a true disciple: they love him. Now please listen. They don’t say they’re willing to give up any sin for Jesus. They don’t just say that they’ll follow him. They don’t say that they believe that he gives them eternal life. They don’t just say that they’ve been born again. They actually have—they actually do follow him as a pattern of life. They actually have been changed. They actually have given up certain sins to follow him. It’s not what they say; it’s what’s actually happened. There are many people that say they love Jesus, flippantly, but you never hear them talk about him. They only think about him once every Sunday when their wife drags them to church.
Do you actually love him? Do you want to see him, want to be with him? Do you talk to him? Do you need him? Do you think about him? Do you read about him? Is there any love in your heart, honest love in your heart to God?
Another characteristic of true disciples: their normal practice is to keep his word. Again, we have a time in our service every week where we confess our sins. Disciples of Jesus aren’t perfect. They’re treated as perfect by God the Father, but they’re not actually perfect yet. But their normal pattern is to keep his word. A disciple is not someone who says, I am a disciple; it’s someone who actually has as a normal way of life—following him, keeping his word. Listen to Matthew 7: 21-23:
21 Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” 23 And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Their pattern of life is not following Christ; it’s actually working lawlessness. It doesn’t matter what they say—what’s true of their life?
Another evidence of a true disciple based on John’s gospel: they love other people. Are you known for your love of others, or are you known for your hatred of others? The pattern of your life is that you would love others. And, by the way, according to John and his letter in First John, it’s not just loving the people that are lovely and loveable that you love; it’s . . . you love your enemies. If they bear fruit—a disciple of Jesus (it’s just a fact) bears fruit.
There’s been this horrible teaching in the church today that if you’re a “super disciple,” you bear fruit. But like, “lower disciples,” they might not really bear fruit. Disciples bear fruit. (See our series in John 15.)
Finally, disciples of Jesus remain: they stay. They do not fizzle out . . . kind of a funny statement that people sometimes say. The faith that fizzles had a flaw from the first. True disciples stay. Stumble? Yes. Reject and walk away? No. True disciples remain and do not fizzle out.
I’m not asking if you are all these things, perfectly, but are these the pattern of your life? This is the pattern of the disciple of Jesus. This is the pattern of someone who actually trusts him. It’s more than going to church on a Sunday. It’s entrusting him with your life. And when you say that Jesus is your Lord, there’s evidence. When you say that he’s your God, there’s evidence.
Now let me say this at the very end. If I go through that list and you go, yeah, that’s not me . . . that’s not me . . . that’s not me, the worst thing you can do is try to become what’s on that list. Yeah, maybe I don’t love my enemies. I’m going to start being nicer when I watch T.V. and grumble at the news. The first thing to do is to repent of your sin and to tell Jesus, I have not looked like a disciple in this area—and maybe I’m not even a disciple. I’m telling you that, because I need you to change me. Forgive me; change me.
If you just hear that list and think, yeah, I gotta do those things better so that I prove I’m in. What if you’re not in? So don’t start climbing . . . fall to your knees and admit your true standing.
I think that up until about ten minutes ago, many of you might have thought that this sermon was for other people. This is for all of us. Do you trust in Jesus Christ? Place your imperfect faith into the perfect Son of God and receive life in his name. It’s not the perfection of your faith that saves you: it’s the object of it. But be honest before him and trust him. Let’s pray.
Father, grant regeneration today. Give new hearts today. Breathe life into once dead hearts. Lord, I’m asking that you—for the believers in this room—continue growing us. Continue giving us more and more faith so that we trust you in ways that we didn’t six months ago. Keep us trusting you.
And, Father, I’m asking by your Spirit that you would rid perhaps some in here of deception. There may be some that think that they’ve been okay with you all along because they’ve gone through their religious emotions. Show them, I beg you, what’s in their heart. And maybe, I’m asking, that you would save people for the first time, who may have been outwardly a part of your family for years.
So for the believers, give us more faith. For the deceived, give us truth in our hearts. For those who are out-and-out rejecters, I pray that you’d give them the understanding that you sent your Son, and he is the only one that you sent; but you are gracious because you have sent one.
I pray this in his name. Amen.
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