Scripture : John 20: 24-30 Sermon Title: Our Blessed Assurance---The Wounds of Jesus
Text: John 20:27-28
27”Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”
1. Doubt Is a Common Part of the Christian Experience. The sense of doubt haunts us all, no matter how strong our faith. Doubt will creep into our thoughts, and we will have to gain reassurance somehow. And by the grace of God we do. We have Jesus to thank for such wondrous grace, for without it we would be lost!
2. The Reason for Thomas’s doubt and Unbelief is the normal human need for proof, to be shown, like they supposedly say in Missouri, “Show me!” You have probably heard people say, “I’m from Missouri, show me”
3. The Limitations of Thomas’s Revelation is that it didn’t show faith as we know it today, as Jesus indicated. Jesus says, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.” And that’s something to take seriously. Hebrews says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” We are highly blessed if we take it all on faith.
4. The Willingness of Thomas’s Surrender is admirable, however, and later his faith was demonstrated in his ministry for Christ. We know that all the disciples (called also Apostles) labored untiringly for the gospel of Jesus and devoted their lives to this ministry. There are stories of what happened to different and where in the world they spread the word of Christ. They say “Thomas may have laboured for the Gospel in Parthia (including modern Iraq and Iran), but stronger traditions link him with southern India. Indian Christians from the west coast Kerala area claim they were evangelized by Thomas, who was later speared to death near Madras on the east coast. Mount St. Thomas, close to Madras is associated with his name.” Without a doubt, he proved his faith in Christ, whatever the case may be.
Apocryphal writings include the 3rd or 4th century Acts of Thomas, and the Gospel of Thomas,” two books of extra-canonical scripture that immortalize his name.
5. What Finally Changed Thomas—And Can Change us all, no doubt are:
a. The Fact of Christ’s Resurrection and
b. Feeling Christ’s Wounds
One could feel bad for the Apostle Thomas. He gets a bad rap. One instance of doubt and he is forever known as “Doubting Thomas,” as if he was just this hardened skeptic. Other apostles do not get named for their faults: Peter was known to be a coward at times, but no one calls him “Petrified Peter,” or something like that. What makes it even worse is that it is not what the writer John intended in telling the story of Thomas’ experience, not to showcase him as a doubter; but John puts Thomas’s story where he does to act as an example an expression of faith, not to beat up on Thomas. In fact, Thomas makes one of the clearest and boldest confessions of faith found anywhere in the Bible. And that’s what it is, an expression and confession of faith.
So what was it that overcame Thomas’s doubts? It was not just the fact of Christ’s resurrection that changed Thomas forever; it was feeling the wounds of Christ’s resurrection, touching the wounds that evidenced that resurrection. He no longer doubted but believed as Christ stood before him.
Thomas would go on to give his life for Christ, to take wounds into his own body for Jesus’ sake. He would give everything for Jesus because Jesus had given everything for him. And when he called out to God to deliver him from those trying to kill him—and Jesus did not answer—Thomas would not doubt Him again, because he had seen the wounds of Jesus.
We may have heard of the Stigmata, which is some kind of an experience of the wounds of Jesus claimed to have occurred to serious seekers after a genuine Christ-like occurrence in themselves. Stigmata (singular stigma) is a term used by members of the Christian faith to describe body marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ, such as the hands, wrists, and feet. An individual bearing the wounds of Stigmata is referred to as a Stigmatist or a Stigmatic.
The term originates from the line at the end of Saint Paul's Letter to the Galatians where he says, "I bear on my body the marks of Jesus." Some of us may have read or heard of the war novel Red Badge of Courage, written by American author Stephen (1871–1900). Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound, a "red badge of courage," to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer. The only wound he ever gets in the entire novel is a superficial head injury, which in some cases he got praises for as a “war hero,” which of course he was not. And it’s very ironic for all this young man’s war experiences. Well, this is certainly not the case with experiencing the wounds of Jesus. It’s a “for real” experience, whether physical or spiritual.
Stigmata are primarily associated with the Roman Catholic faith. Many reported stigmatics are members of Catholic religious orders. St. Francis of Assisi was the first recorded stigmatic in Christian history, and his story is phenomenal. He truly experienced the stigmata. According to the account of his associates, “It was around the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Kneeling before his cell, Francis was praying with outstretched arms awaiting dawn and was subject to an outstanding grace. The Lord crucified appeared to him in a figure of a six-winged seraph. After spending time with him in conversation, he departed leaving in the body of Francis the sacred stigmata printed. Thus, this disciple and a passionate lover of Christ, who longed to resemble him, received this similar trait with Jesus Christ.” This was two years before his death, and we cannot doubt what another experiences of Christ.
A high percentage (perhaps over 80%) of all stigmatics are women. In his Stigmata: A Medieval Phenomenon in a Modern Age, Edward Harrison suggests that there is no single mechanism whereby the marks of stigmata were produced.
While the average person may not cherish having such an experience literally, it is something that we all may experience emotionally and imaginatively, that is, to feel the wounds of Jesus, as if, I said as if they are actually taking place in your own body. If we can do that by faith, I am sure it will all have more meaning to us and give us greater assurance of the great depth of suffering He underwent for our sake. It will most like help us to know our faith is real.
In Conclusion, let me ask the question,
Do you ever wonder why Jesus’ resurrected body has wounds? God the Father certainly could have healed them before he rose from the grave. But they remain most likely because Jesus’ wounds are always supposed to be in front of us, reminding us of his steadfast loyalty and love. As the song says about the “Near the cross, O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me, let me walk from day to day with its shadow o’er me!”
Jesus’ wounds show you that while brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, neighbors and friends may fail you, Jesus never will. They show you that even though your dreams may crumble, Jesus is the rock who will never falter. They show you that though you may not understand everything God is doing in the world, you can trust Him.
Have you seen and felt the wounds of Jesus for you? Thomas did not respond by saying, “Jesus is Lord!” He said instead, “My Lord and My God!” When Jesus’ wounds become more than a historical fact, but a personal reality, then you will be able to trust Him through all your doubts.
Others in our life may have let us down. We may have been used or abused by them. But Jesus will never do that. He was used and abused in our place. And if He was willing to endure torture for you and me to save us, we can be sure that He will never abandon us.
So when your days are dark, hold on to His nail-scarred hands. Press into His wounds as though they were in your own body. They are there to remind you and me that sometimes the answer to questions beyond our comprehension is a love too wonderful for words. And the words of the song testify to it: “Yes, God is real, for He has washed and made me whole. His love for me is like pure gold. Yes, God is real, for I can feel Him in my soul!”
******************(Adopted and adapted from J. D. Greear’s “For the Skeptic Who Can’t Believe,” in O. S. Hawkins, Ed., Nelson’sAnnual Preacher’s SourceBook, Vol. 3, 2013, pp. 200-201)******************