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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Spring 2019
Study Theme: He
Said What? Hard Sayings of Jesus
What This Lesson Is About:
focus for our study this week is on our need to ask God to use this day,
when we focus on the resurrection of Jesus, to cause us to consider
God Won’t Forgive This Sin (Matt. 12:22-32)
You’ll Never Die (John 11:25-27; 20:24-29)
Sell Everything You Own (Matt. 19:21-30)
Love Your Enemies (Luke 6:27-36)
Let The Dead Bury Their Dead (Luke 9:57-62)
Hate Your Family (Luke 14:25-35)
Exploit Your Friends (Luke 16:1-12)
The resurrection of Jesus
makes our own resurrection possible.
John 11:25-27; 20:24-29
Jesus Promised That Those Who Believe In Him Will
Never Die (John 11:25-27)
Resurrection Can Be Difficult To Accept As Reality
Jesus Backed Up His Promise
Of Eternal Life By Rising From The Dead (John 20:26-29)
study of Christ’s resurrection in today’s session focuses on two
passages in John’s Gospel, one from chapter 11 and the other from
chapter 20. John 11 is a pivotal section in John’s Gospel. As the
chapter begins, Jesus received news that his friend Lazarus was ill
(11:3). Jesus deliberately stayed away from him, however, until after
Lazarus died (v. 6). When He arrived in Bethany where Lazarus was buried
and where his two sisters, Mary and Martha, lived, Jesus raised Lazarus
from the dead (vv. 17-19,38-44). With this miracle, Christ gave us a
miniature picture of what He will do one day for all who believe in Him.
This incredible miracle caused such a stir that news of it spread to the
Jewish leaders, who, instead of believing in Christ, determined to have
Him put to death—and Lazarus too since he was living proof of Christ’s
power over death (12:9-11). It was at this point that the Jewish leaders
started making definite plans to have Jesus killed. On previous occasions,
the Jewish leaders had sought a way to seize Jesus and have Him killed
(Luke 19:47-48; 20:19), but now Jesus’ demonstration of His power over
death was more than they could tolerate—they had to find a way to kill
Jesus and remove Him as a threat to their own authority over the people
20 records several of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to some of
His followers. This session considers Jesus’ appearance to Thomas, who
had not been present at a previous appearance to the other ten apostles
and did not believe them when they said He had risen from the dead. These
two passages, like numerous others in the Bible, explain that Jesus’
resurrection was an absolute necessity for our salvation. His triumph over
sin and death provided salvation for those who believe in Him and at the
same time guarantees our own resurrection when He returns in glory.
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
A poll conducted by the Pew
Research Center in 2014 shows that a large percentage of people in America
still believe in an afterlife. Taking all religious affiliations into
account, 72 percent of those polled believe in heaven while a
surprisingly high 58 percent believe in hell. The numbers are even higher
among those professing the Christian faith (as defined in the poll): 85
percent for heaven and 70 percent for hell. Even for those in
non-Christian faiths, the numbers are high: 47 percent for heaven and 31
percent for hell. Strange as it may seem, the numbers for the religiously
unaffiliated are high also: 37 percent for heaven and 27 percent for hell.
Most bizarre of all was that agnostics weighed in at 14 percent and 9
percent, while atheists did so at 5 percent and 3 percent.
What this poll doesn’t show, of course, is what
these people believe about how one gets to heaven and how one avoids going
to hell. The Christian group included Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah’s
Witnesses, all three of which have their own system of good works to earn
favor with God and get to heaven. People have a tendency to accept the
idea that a person can live a moral life, keep the commandments, obey
church dogma, avoid big sins, and/or other things like these to avoid hell
and earn heaven. But the Scriptures are very clear that no one can be
saved through good works. All people are sinners and all sins are
condemning sins that deserve God’s wrath, which means we all deserve
death and can do nothing on our own to pay for our sins. The Scriptures
are also clear that only what Christ did for us, His death for our sins
and His victory over death, can provide salvation. And it is only when a
person comes to a point of faith in Christ that he or she receives
salvation—that is, salvation from sin and hell and salvation to a home
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Promised That Those Who Believe In Him Will Never Die (John 11:25-27)
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the
life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26
Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe
this? ” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe
you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.”
Can Be Difficult To Accept As Reality (John 20:24-25)
24 But Thomas (called “Twin”), one of the Twelve, was
not with them when Jesus came. 25
So the other disciples were telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord! ” But he said to them, “If I don’t see
the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the
nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
1. What experience did the disciples have that Thomas
was denied because he was not present with them? (See John 20:19-20.)
2. How did Thomas respond to their claim to have seen
the risen Lord (v. 25)?
would you explain how Thomas had gotten the nickname of “doubting Thomas”? (See Adv. Comm., pg 5, “Doubting Thomas” . . . “ )
4. What do we know about Jesus’ post-resurrection
appearances? (See chart in article: “Jesus
Post Resurrection Appearances” in
Additional Background Reading, on bottom of
5. Do you consider Thomas a skeptic or an honest
searcher? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “The
story of Jesus’ . . . “ & “Thomas
responded . . . “ )
do you think would have been your response to the disciples’ report about
do you usually respond to any reports of something that requires you to believe
without seeing? What are some things you might consider before you would be an
8. What obstacles do you think often hinder people from
believing in the resurrection of Jesus?
9. What do you think is the most common obstacle most
people use to keep them from believing in Jesus?
Why do you think the resurrection can be difficult to
accept as reality?
What does verse 25 tell us about the crucifixion that
doesn’t appear in any other account? (See BSFL, pg. 7, Verse 25, “After
seeing Jesus . . . “ )
What do you consider the most compelling evidence of
Lessons in John 20:24:25:
Jesus provided clear evidence of His resurrection by making numerous
appearances to His disciples prior to His ascension.
Thomas wasn’t the only disciple who doubted Jesus was alive before
seeing Him in person.
The disciples continued to be good witnesses about Jesus’ resurrection
even though Thomas refused to believe them.
Backed Up His Promise Of Eternal Life By Rising From The Dead (John
26 A week later his disciples were indoors again, and
Thomas was with them. Even though 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
look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in to my side.
Don’t be faithless, but believe.” 28
Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God! ” 29 Jesus
said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those
who have not seen and yet believe.”
1. Is it possible for a person to have doubt and faith at the same time?
do you think is the most significant aspect of verse 26? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5,
turning point . . . “ )
do you think this appearance of Jesus was similar to the one the previous
Sunday? How was it different?
would you explain Jesus’ challenge to Thomas and what Jesus meant whe He said,
“Don’t be faithless, but believe “?(See
Adv. Comm., pg. 6. “But then Jesus . . . “ )
did Thomas respond to Jesus’ challenge? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6,
“But apparently Thomas . . . “ )
was the significance of Thomas’s confession of faith? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, “Thomas
exclaimed: . . . “ )
truth did Jesus declare about our ability to believe even though we have not
seen Him physically (v. 29)?
were som other doubters mentioned in the Scriptures?
do you think most people find it hard to believe in Jesus’ resurrection?
do Matthew 16:16., John 1:49, John 6: 69 and John 11:27 add to this discussion?
would you explain to a non-believer how Jesus backed up His promise of eternal
do you think is the most significant aspect of Jesus’ resurrection?
Lessons in John 20:26-29:
Jesus is Yahweh God, as His resurrection confirms.
Jesus’ resurrection provides eternal life to those who believe in Him.
Jesus pronounced a blessing on those of us who believe in Him even though
we have never seen Him.
His own resurrection, Jesus gave validity to His claim that He is “the
resurrection and the life.” And because He lives, we live. His
resurrection assures us that we too shall be resurrected. Thus, we claim
the hope, we receive the new life; and we invite friends, neighbors,
family members, and yes, all the inhabitants of the world to believe that
He is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Hope of
eternity! We do not worship a martyr on Easter or any other Sunday. We
worship the risen Lord!
Recall a time when the claim of Jesus to be the “resurrection and the
life” brought comfort and hope to you in a time of sorrow and grief.
In what way were you encouraged to reenter life because of your belief
that a loved one who died was alive in Christ?
Whom do yhou know that will be celebrating the first Resurrection Sunday
this year since the death of a loved one?
How can you reach out to give the ministry of encouragement and hope to
that person during these days?
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
God’s Word: John 11:25-27; 20:24-29
King James Version
John 11:25-27 (KJV)
25 Jesus said unto her, I am
the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead,
yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall
never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I
believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the
24 But Thomas, one of the
twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The
other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto
them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger
into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not
believe. 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and
Thomas with them: then came
Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be
unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and
behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it
into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas
answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto
him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are
they that have not seen, and yet
New King James Version
John 11:25-27 (NKJV)
25 Jesus said to her, "I
am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he
shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.
Do you believe this?" 27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I
believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the
John 20:24-29 (NKJV)
24 Now Thomas, called the
Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The
other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he
said to them, "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." 26 And after eight days His disciples were again
inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the
midst, and said, "Peace to you!" 27 Then He said to Thomas,
"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." 28 And Thomas answered and said
to Him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him,
"Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are
those who have not seen and yet
New International Version
John 11:25-27 (NIV)
25 Jesus said to her, "I
am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though
he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do
you believe this?" 27 "Yes, Lord," she told him,
"I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into
John 20:24-29 (NIV)
24 Now Thomas (called Didymus),
one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So
the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to
them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the
nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." 26 A
week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them.
Though 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; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.
Stop doubting and believe." 28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord
and my God!" 29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen
me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have
for the focal passage comes from three sources: “Advanced Bible Study
Commentary,” “Bible Study For Life Commentary,” and “The Pulpit
Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
Lesson Outline — “You’ll
Never Die” — John
Jesus Promised that
those who believe in Him will Never Die (John 11:25-27)
Resurrection can be difficult to accept as
reality (John 20:24-25)
Jesus backed up His promise of eternal life by
rising from the dead (John 20:26-29)
Advanced Bible Study Commentary: John
Promised that those who believe in Him will Never Die (John 11:25-27)
Man’s search for immortality is the stuff
that myths, legends, folklore, and science fiction are made of. Possibly the
oldest, called The Epic of Gilgamesh, dates back at least to the eighteenth
century BC. According to this ancient Babylonian story, Gilgamesh, king of Uruk
in Mesopotamia, went on a long and exciting quest to discover how he could live
forever, but his quest failed.1 People today can appreciate
that this is a compelling and interesting story, but no one takes it seriously
because it’s rooted in ancient Babylonian mythology and superstition.
Today, however, some scientists believe they may be able to
continue to expand our lifetimes, perhaps until they have defeated death itself
and provided mankind with the realization of a quest that has lasted for
centuries—human immortality. All causes of death—old age, disease, famine,
war, murder, and so on—will be eradicated by scientific discovery and advances
in cultural unity and acceptance.
But as we look at the teachings of Scripture, we have to admit
this is folly. The sinful condition of all humanity renders such optimism a
fantasy. Immortality comes only through the power of Christ’s resurrection
applied to those who have believed in Him to save them from their sins, and even
then it does not occur in this life—only in the next life when Jesus returns.
Immortality means a person is not susceptible to death, but this is a condition
God imparts to us in the afterlife—not this one. As Paul stated, “For this
corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body
must be clothed with immortality. When this corruptible body is clothed with
incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the
saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, death, is your victory? Where, death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:53-55,
emphasis added). This lesson shows that Jesus and Jesus alone provides victory
over death for us.
After Jesus arrived in Bethany where His friend
Lazarus had died, Lazarus’s sister Martha went to meet Him and said, “Lord,
if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died” (John 11:21). This was
a statement of faith in Jesus since she had no doubt that He could have healed
her brother if only He had arrived in time. Although Jesus had raised someone
from the dead on at least two other occasions (Mark 5:35-43; Luke
7:11-15), Martha may not have known about those miracles, and the people in
Israel had not heard of such a thing since the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24)
and Elisha (2 Kings 13:14-21). Some view Martha’s words to Jesus as a
rebuke for not arriving soon enough to save her brother’s life, though this
seems too harsh. Her next words show that she was confident in His power because
of His close relationship to the Father: “Yet even now I know that whatever
you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:22). Martha was confident that
Jesus could raise her brother to life again.
Jesus’ words in verse 23 are almost certainly a double
entendre, a statement that has two different but related meanings: “Your
brother will rise again.” Martha revealed her confidence in the truth of
Jesus’ prediction since she too believed that he would “rise again in the
resurrection at the last day” (v. 24). This was indeed Jesus’ primary
meaning, as His words in verse 25 indicate: “I am the resurrection and the
life.” This is the fifth of Jesus’ seven “I am” statements in John’s
Gospel; this one focuses on Jesus’ power over death. That He made this
statement to a woman who was still mourning the loss of her brother makes it
even more powerful. These two claims to be the resurrection and the life
addressed two different aspects of salvation: Jesus likely placed resurrection
first since Lazarus’s death dominated the conversation. The term life refers
to “eternal life” as in John 3:16. We have this eternal life at the point of
believing in Jesus, and death does not change this. We will still exist after
death in paradise (heaven) enjoying the presence of God in Christ and awaiting
the resurrection (Luke 16:19-31; 2 Cor. 5:6-8). Jesus not only provides life,
eternal life, to those who believe in Him now, but also resurrection life at His
Further, Jesus stated, “The one who believes in me, even if he
dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Just
as resurrection and life in the previous verse are not exactly synonymous,
neither are these two statements. The first statement promises resurrection life
to those who believe in Him even if they die, and the second promises that
believers who experience resurrection will never die again. This is eternal life
and immortality! Jesus provided a miniature picture of these truths when He
raised Lazarus from the dead just a few minutes later (John 11:41-44).
Martha responded to His question, “Do you
believe this?” by affirming her faith: “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I
believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.”
Martha’s confession ranks up there with Peter’s at Caesarea Philippi when he
said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Her
belief in who Jesus was provided the foundation for her belief that Jesus was
able to raise the dead—not just her brother, but all who believe in Him. And
thus it must be for all who come to Him in faith. Before a person can be saved,
he or she first has to know and accept the truth of who Jesus is.
1. Gerald L.
Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New
American Commentary, gen. ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman &
Holman, 1996), 356.
Resurrection can be difficult to accept as reality (John 20:24-25)
During Jesus’ forty days on earth from the
time of His resurrection to His ascension (Acts 1:3), He made numerous
appearances to His disciples—using the term “disciples” broadly since He
appeared to many more than just the Eleven. Several of these appearances
occurred on the very day of Jesus’ resurrection, while many others occurred
over the next several weeks. The last one is recorded in Acts 1, when several of
the disciples watched Jesus ascend into heaven (vv. 9-11). John’s Gospel
records an appearance on the evening of Jesus’ resurrection to ten of the
apostles—minus Judas, of course, and minus Thomas also (John 20:19-23). The
apostle John did not inform us why Thomas was absent on that first occasion when
Jesus appeared to the others, but the Lord in His grace made another appearance
to them with Thomas present, one designed especially for him.
“Doubting Thomas” we call him. What a horrible nickname! And
I’m afraid we’re not being fair to him either. Thomas wasn’t the only
doubter in this situation. In fact, the only disciples named in Scripture who
believed Jesus had risen from the dead in those early weeks following His
resurrection were John (John 20:8) and possibly Peter (Luke 24:12). Mary
Magdalene was greatly distressed that the tomb was empty since she thought
Jesus’ body had been stolen, and she subsequently had a brief conversation
with Him, thinking He was the gardener, before He revealed Himself to her (John 20:11-16).
After hearing reports from several women who had seen Jesus alive, the Eleven
and others thought their “words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not
believe the women” (Luke 24:11). Shortly before Jesus gave His disciples the
Great Commission, Matthew recorded that some were still doubting (Matt. 28:17),
though the nature of this doubt in their minds is unclear. So let’s not be too
hard on Thomas, and let’s also remember that, had we been there, we might have
reacted in a very similar way.
The story of Jesus’ appearance to Thomas begins in verse 24:
But Thomas (called “Twin”), one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus
came. Both the Aramaic Thomas and the Greek “Didymus” (KJV) mean “twin”
and were used as nicknames for him, so Thomas must have had a twin brother or
sister who is not mentioned in the New Testament. His absence from the previous meeting is not explained, but on this
occasion, with all eleven in attendance this time, the other disciples were
telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” No doubt they said these words with
great excitement and much conviction, but Thomas was not convinced.
Thomas responded with great skepticism: “If I don’t see the
mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and
put my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Thomas demanded verification
from two of his senses—sight and touch. He had to see Jesus risen from the
dead for himself; furthermore, he had to touch the places where the nails
pierced His hands and the gash the spear made in His side. Short of this, he
would never believe, meaning he would never accept the word of other
eyewitnesses, even the other disciples who had followed Jesus with him for about
three years. Jesus addressed this issue in John 20:29, which we discuss
The tense of were telling in verse 24 indicates
continuous action. This hints that the other disciples probably contacted Thomas
as soon as they could and had tried to convince him time and again over the next
seven days that Jesus was alive. They would have wanted Thomas to hear the good
news as soon as possible. They remained persistent witnesses of the good news of
Jesus’ resurrection despite Thomas’s unbelief. Sadly, Thomas’s standard
response for a whole week whenever any of them testified to Jesus’
resurrection was the same: “I have to see Him and touch Him for myself.”
Verse 25 is the only place in the New Testament
that tells us nails were used in crucifying Jesus. The Romans would either nail
or tie a victim to a cross, and both were quite common. Nails seemed to have
been used when the soldiers wanted to be especially cruel to the victim, for
whatever reasons their wicked hearts may have found. One may wonder how Thomas
knew about the nails. The apostle John, the only one of the Twelve who witnessed
the crucifixion, may have been one source (19:25-27). And it’s likely that the
other nine disciples told Thomas about these wounds also. Jesus had showed them
His hands and side during that first appearance, causing them to rejoice when
they had seen Him and had such clear evidence that the crucified One had risen
from the dead (v. 20). And then, while trying to convince Thomas that Jesus was
alive, they used this same evidence that Jesus had used when He appeared to
them. But Thomas had to see it for himself like the other ten had.
III. Jesus Backed Up His Promise Of Eternal Life By
Rising From The Dead (John 20:26-29)
turning point in
Thomas’s life occurred a week after Jesus’ resurrection: A week later his
disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Again, we are not told
why Thomas was present this time or why the Eleven were having a meeting. For
John’s purposes, those peripheral issues didn’t matter. What did matter was
Jesus’ action on that day: Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and
stood among them. Locked doors didn’t keep the risen Lord from entering the
room on this day any more than they had the week before (v. 19). Jesus also
greeted them the same way: “Peace be with you.” Jesus had spoken words to
comfort their hearts the night before the crucifixion and promised them peace,
and now they saw that the basis of that peace was His triumph over sin and death
turned His attention to Thomas: “Put your finger here and look at my hands.
Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” Jesus began by inviting Thomas
to do just what the apostle said would be necessary before he would believe
Jesus was alive. But apparently Thomas didn’t have to lay a
finger on Jesus after all. Seeing Jesus in person, seeing His wounds, and
realizing (with some embarrassment no doubt!) that Jesus was even aware of his
doubts—all this surely must have been overwhelming to Thomas. This would be
especially true of Jesus’ words regarding Thomas’s unbelief: “Don’t be
faithless, but believe.” Jesus did not mean that Thomas was lost, but that he
had refused to believe Jesus was alive—until this moment.
Thomas exclaimed: “My
Lord and my God!” Thomas’s response ranks up there with other great
Christological confessions in the New Testament (Peter’s in Matt. 16:16 and
John 6:69; Nathanael’s in John 1:49; Martha’s in John 11:27). Thomas’s
specifically calls Jesus God, a powerful statement that affirms the Deity of
Christ. Thomas immediately went from stubborn unbelief in Jesus’ resurrection
to total commitment to Jesus’ identity as God. The truth of the resurrection
made the difference for him, as it will for all who believe in Him to save them
from their sins.
In verse 29 Jesus gave us
His last beatitude: “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are
those who have not seen and yet believe.” Only a relative handful of people
actually saw the resurrected Christ during His forty days on earth before His
ascension: Mary Magdalene, some other women, the apostles, five hundred
believers at once, and Jesus’ half-brother James (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24;
John 20–21; Acts 1:1-11; 1 Cor. 15:3-7); then He made a special appearance to
Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-9; 1 Cor. 15:8). Other than these,
all other believers in Christ over the past twenty centuries have believed in
Him without seeing Him in person raised from the dead, beginning with the three
thousand converts on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and continuing on until
today—including you and me. We believe that He died for our sins and rose from
the dead because of the testimony of Scripture, because of the Holy Spirit
working in our hearts, and because of the testimony of other believers who
shared the gospel with us. Jesus pronounced us all to be blessed. And truly we
Bible Study For Life Commentary:
John 11:25-27; 20:24-29
Promised that those who believe in Him will Never Die (John 11:25-27)
His conversation with Martha after the death of her brother, Lazarus, Jesus
promised that those who believe in Him will never die. Jesus had left the region
of Judea after the Jews sought to stone Him in Jerusalem for claiming to be God.
Crossing the Jordan River into the region where John had been baptizing, many
came to that place and believed in Him (John 10:22-42).
When Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother,
Lazarus, was sick, their message clearly implied that they expected Jesus to
come immediately to Bethany (about two miles southeast of Jerusalem) and heal
him. The wording of their message stressed Jesus’ close relationship to their
brother, further encouraging Jesus to hurry to Bethany. Although Jesus loved
Lazarus and his sisters, He did not leave immediately. Instead, He remained
where He was for two more days. After that, Jesus called for His disciples to
return with Him to Judea. After some discussion and confusion among His
followers, Jesus told them bluntly that Lazarus had already died. He added that
what they were about to experience would encourage their faith. While Jesus’
disciples believed that going back to the area near Jerusalem would result in
Jesus’ death, Thomas spoke up and boldly challenged the group to go with Jesus
so that they could demonstrate their loyalty by dying with Him (11:1-16).
By the time Jesus neared Bethany, Lazarus had been buried in a tomb
for four days. When Lazarus’s sister Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she
went out to meet Him (vv. 17-20). When she came to Jesus, Martha told Him:
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Yet even now I
know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (vv. 21-22).
Martha’s statement to Jesus reflects an emotion common at times of intense
grief, with the sense of “If only… .” If only Jesus had been present when Lazarus had fallen
ill, He would have healed her brother and Lazarus would not have died. Martha
believed that Jesus was God’s Messiah, the Christ; she knew He had the power
to heal the sick. That belief is reflected in her further statement that God
would give Jesus whatever He would ask.
Jesus offered Martha comfort by assuring her that her brother would
rise again (v. 23). Martha took His words to mean that Lazarus would rise in the
resurrection of the righteous at the end of the age (Dan. 7:9-18; Luke 14:14).
Jesus challenged Martha to use her faith to go further in her spiritual
understanding. Instead of allowing her to think merely in terms of a general
resurrection of the righteous at the end of the age, Jesus urged her to see the
one speaking to her as the resurrection and the life. Jesus is the only
source of eternal life (John 1:4; 5:25-29; 1 John 5:11-12). Paul’s letters
often reflect this reality (Rom. 6:1-11; 1 Cor. 15:20-26). Those who put their
faith in Jesus as God’s Son and His atoning sacrifice for sin (1 John 4:9-10) will
Jesus then told Martha, “Everyone who lives and believes in me
will never die.” However, Jesus was not saying that those who believed in
Him would never face physical death. “Resurrection and life were two related
dimensions of Jesus’ proclamation. Jesus clearly possesses the power of
resurrection so that the one who believes in Jesus, even though he were to die,
will experience that power of resurrection (‘will live,’ 11:25) in their
dead bodies. But beyond resurrection, Jesus is also life. Accordingly, whoever
experiences resurrection (‘lives and believes,’ 11:26) also will experience
the great Johannine goal of life (20:31) or eternal life (3:16) and will never
die (11:26, or perish, 3:16).” 1
Those who place their faith in Jesus experience new life in both
this age and the age to come. They will be able to experience a new quality of
life here and now that is free of the guilt of and slavery to sin (Rom. 6:6-7;
8:1-11; 2 Cor. 5:17). God empowers believers with the indwelling presence of His
Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 3:16) so that they can do all the “good works,
which God prepared ahead of time for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). Although believers
are still subject to pain, sickness, and even physical death, which are the
realities of living in this fallen world, when believers die we go to live in
the presence of the Lord in heaven. Furthermore, at the end of this age when
Jesus returns, “we will all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51) so that we can
“inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 50). This world will pass away, giving way
to a new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1-2). The Book of Revelation provides
details of this future event: “Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he
will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them
and will be their God. He will wipe
away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain
will be no more, because the previous things have passed away” (vv. 3-4). For
those who refuse to believe in Jesus, they face what Scripture terms “the
second death,” eternal separation from God in the place known as hell, “the
lake of fire” (20:11-15).
At that future time, believers in Christ will experience the full
reality of what Jesus told Martha. To ensure that Martha’s belief was more
than merely intellectual agreement, Jesus challenged
her to confirm her absolute trust: “Do you believe this?”
Verse 27. Martha did not
hesitate. She could not have used any clearer words. First, she called Jesus Lord,
His title of authority (Luke 6:46.) and stated, “I believe.” She
confessed that Jesus is “the Messiah,” the Christ, the Anointed One
sent by God to reveal the Father (John 1:18). And, finally, she called
Jesus “the Son of God, who comes into the world,” affirming His
oneness with God the Father and His role as the Savior of the world (John
1:1-18; 3:31; 6:14; 1 John 4:14-15).
Resurrection can be difficult to accept as reality (John 20:24-25)
Verse 24. The reality of Jesus’ resurrection can be
difficult for some to accept. Early on the morning of His resurrection, Jesus
had appeared first to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)
as well as to His other women followers (Matt. 28:1,9-10;
Luke 24:1-10). Later that day, Jesus appeared to
two disciples on the road to Emmaus (vv. 13-33).
Sometime during that day, Jesus had appeared to Peter as well (v. 34). Later
that evening, the disciples were gathered in a room with the doors locked
because they feared the Jews (John 20:19). Despite the locked doors, Jesus was
able to come into the room. He greeted His disciples with the words, “Peace be
with you” (v. 19). After this, Jesus showed His
disciples His hands and side. The disciples rejoiced that their Lord was risen (v.
20). However, for some reason which is not explained, Thomas
(called “Twin”), one of the Twelve, was not present when the Lord
appeared to His disciples. (“Thomas” is Aramaic for “twin.”)
Verse 25. After seeing
Jesus for themselves, the other disciples later told Thomas about their
experience. The Greek term for telling him
that they had seen the Lord may suggest that they kept telling him what they had
experienced. Thomas was clearly reluctant to believe what the other disciples
were reporting to him. He told the disciples, “If
I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of
the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Through the years some Christians have
referred to Thomas as “doubting Thomas.” They do this because at first
Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was really alive since he had not seen
Jesus for himself. He adamantly said that he would not believe that Jesus had
been resurrected until he, like the other ten (20:20), had the opportunity to
see (and in his case touch) the indentations where the nails had held Jesus’
hands to the cross and the spot where the spear had pierced His side (19:31-34).
Thomas was one of the twelve disciples (also
called apostles) chosen by Jesus to be His constant followers (Matt.
10:2-4; Mark 3:14-19; Luke
6:13-16). As was noted above, when Jesus called on His disciples to
return to Judea with Him after receiving the message about Lazarus’s illness (John
11:1-16), the disciples had tried to persuade Him not to go because the
Jews wanted to kill Him (v. 8). However,
Thomas was the one who boldly spoke up and challenged the others to return with
Jesus, even if they would have to die with Him (v. 16).
When Jesus called Lazarus to come out of the tomb, Thomas was there as a
witness. In fact, before they went back to Bethany, Jesus had told His disciples
that what they were about to see would strengthen their faith in Him (vv.
In the hours before Jesus was arrested, He
encouraged His apostles to keep trusting in Him and His Father (14:1).
When Jesus told them that He was going away and that they knew “the way” (v.
4), Thomas spoke up, telling Jesus they didn’t
know where Jesus was going or the way to get there (v. 5).
Clearly, Thomas wanted to know the
way to follow Jesus wherever He was going. Thomas’s question led to Jesus’
declaration that He is in fact the only way to the Father and that when one sees
Jesus, one has seen the Father: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one
comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will also know my
Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (vv.
After he had seen the resurrected Jesus for himself, Thomas would
continue to follow Jesus. When Jesus ascended back to heaven, Thomas was there (Acts
1:2,9-13). When the disciples obeyed Jesus by waiting and praying for the
Holy Spirit to come, Thomas was there (vv. 12-14).
When the Spirit came in power, Thomas was there with the other disciples (2:1).
According to the Gospel accounts, Thomas was always ready to follow Jesus. He
just wanted to be certain about the way. He and all the disciples knew that
Jesus had died on the cross. How could anyone follow a man who had claimed to be
the Son of God but who had been crucified? Thomas was not afraid to follow
Jesus. He simply wanted to be certain that it was truly Jesus who was leading
the way (Luke 24:11; John 20:20).
III. Jesus backed up His promise of eternal life by
rising from the dead (John 20:26-29)
Verse 26. Jesus’ resurrection backs up His promise
that those who believe in Him will have eternal life. A week after His
appearance to His followers on the day of His resurrection, Jesus joined them
again, probably in the same house. Although the
doors were locked as they had been before, through His divine power Jesus
was able to come into the room where his
disciples had gathered. This time Thomas was present with the other ten
apostles. John used wording similar to that of Jesus’ first appearance in verse
19 to describe Jesus’ arrival: Jesus
came and stood among them. As before, He spoke the familiar Jewish
greeting, “Peace be with you,” to
reassure them after His sudden appearance despite the locked doors.
Verse 27. Jesus knew how Thomas had responded to the
exciting news the other apostles had shared after they had seen their risen
Lord. Thomas would not believe unless he saw the risen Jesus for himself. When
Jesus had come to the ten disciples on the past Sunday evening, Jesus “showed
them his hands and his side” (John 20:20). John did not record that any of the
other apostles had reached out and touched Jesus’ wounds on that occasion.
Now, however, Jesus addressed Thomas directly. He invited Thomas not only to
view His wounds, but to touch them: “Put your
finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.
Don’t be faithless, but believe.” Jesus urged Thomas to put away all
his doubts and believe in the risen Savior. Literally, Jesus told Thomas to stop
being without faith and start exercising his faith.
Verse 28. Scripture records several clear affirmations
of Jesus’ deity (Matt. 16:16; John
11:27; Acts 2:36; Col.
1:15-20; Heb. 1:1-3). None is clearer or
more forceful in its passion than these words from Thomas: “My
Lord and my God!” Though so simple and brief, these words demonstrate
three aspects of true faith.
First, true faith must
be personal faith. Thomas confessed Jesus to be “My
Lord and my
God!” (emphasis added). Thomas’s confession was of his own, personal
belief in the Savior. Thomas knew that Jesus had kept His promise to rise from
the dead. All four Gospels record Jesus’ predictions of His death and
resurrection: Matthew (12:39‑40; 16:21; 17:22-23;
20:17-19), Mark (8:31-33; 9:30‑32; 10:32-34), Luke (9:21-22,43-45;
18:31-34), and John (2:18‑22; 10:17-18).
With the resurrected Jesus now standing before him, Thomas no longer had any
doubts. In the same way, our faith must come from our own solid convictions (John
18:34; Rom. 10:9-13).
Second, true faith affirms that Jesus is God.
Jesus is the incarnate Son of God (John 1:1,14). During His earthly ministry,
Jesus clearly stated that He was divine (John 10:22-33; 14:6-11). Those who are
true followers of Jesus confess that He is God Incarnate (Matt.
16:13-20; 1 John 4:2-3).
Third, true faith affirms that Jesus is Lord.
True believers acknowledge that Jesus is Lord over their lives. True faith
always results in obedience to Jesus’ commands (Rom
1:5-6; Jas. 2:14-26). Jesus Himself warned
of the danger of honoring Him with words but failing to recognize His authority
(Luke 6:46-49). Only those whose faith yields the fruit of obedience to the
Lord’s will are truly believers (Matt. 7:13-27).
Verse 29. Being able to see the risen Jesus for himself
had erased all of Thomas’s doubts that Jesus was truly alive. Jesus pointed
out that Thomas believed because he had seen Him and the scars from His
crucifixion. Of course, this was true for all of the first disciples. All of
them had been downcast after the death of Jesus, bewildered and fearful. But
fear and doubt were transformed into faith. They all believed for the same
reason (1 Cor. 15:3-8); they had seen the risen
Lord (Luke 24:13-48). This
transformation is actually proof of the reality both of Jesus’ death and His
resurrection. Only the certainty of the disciples that Jesus was alive could
have resulted in their giving up everything, even their lives, in order to obey
His command to go and make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20).
While Jesus affirmed Thomas for believing, He went on to pronounce a
blessing on those who would later believe without
having seen Him. Think about the day of Pentecost when Peter shared the good
news (Acts 2:14-40) and about three thousand people
believed his message (v. 41). Soon that number grew
to about five thousand (4:4). How did people who
had never seen Jesus after His resurrection come to put their faith in Him? They
believed because those who had seen Jesus after His resurrection shared the same
message as Peter. Later Peter wrote how many who had not seen Jesus came to
faith in Him. “Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing
him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious
joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your
souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9). Thomas received a great
blessing in that he was allowed to see Jesus for himself and because he
responded with his confession of faith. Those of us who have believed without
having seen Jesus are also blessed because we share the same faith and
confession with Thomas and Martha. We know in our hearts that not only is Jesus
risen from the dead but that He is also the resurrection and the life for all
who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).
Bible Studies For Life: Life Ventures Leaders Guide; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234
Believer's Bible Commentary; (John
11:25-27; John 20:24-29)
Jesus Backed Up His Promise Of Eternal Life By Rising From The Dead (John
It is as if the Lord had said, "You do not understand Me, Martha. I
do not mean that Lazarus will rise again at the last day. I am God, and I have
the power of resurrection and of life in My hand. I can raise
Lazarus from the dead right now, and will do it."
Then the Lord looked forward to the time when all
true believers would be raised. This will take place when the Lord Jesus comes
back again to take His people home to heaven.
At that time there will be two classes of believers.
There will be those who have died in faith, and there will be those who are
living at His Return. He comes to the first class as the Resurrection and
to the second as the Life. The first class is described in the latter
part of verse 25—"He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall
live." This means that those believers who have died before Christ's
coming will be raised from the dead.
O love, stronger than death! The grave cannot
separate Christ and His friends. Other friends accompany us to the brink of the
grave, and then they leave us. Neither life nor death can separate from the love
Bengel comments, "It is beautifully consonant
with divine propriety, that no one is ever read of as having died while the
Prince of Life was present."
second class is described in verse 26. Those who are alive at the time of the
Savior's coming and who believe on Him shall never die. They will be
changed, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, and taken home to heaven with
those who have been raised from the dead. What precious truths have come to us
as a result of Lazarus' death! God brings sweetness out of bitterness and gives
beauty for ashes. Then the Lord pointedly asked Martha, to test her faith, "Do
you believe this?"
faith blazed out in noontime splendor. She confessed Jesus to be the Christ,
the Son of God, whom the prophets had predicted was to come into the
world. And we should notice that she made this confession before
Jesus had raised her brother from the dead and not afterwards!
Resurrection Can Be Difficult To Accept As Reality (John 20:24-25)
Doubt Turned to Faith (20:24-25)
should not jump to the conclusion that Thomas should be blamed for not
being present. Nothing is said to indicate the reason for his absence.
20:25. Thomas is
to be blamed for his unbelieving attitude. He must have visible, tangible proof
of the Lord's resurrection; otherwise he will not believe. This is the
attitude of many today, but it is not reasonable. Even scientists believe many
things that they can neither see nor touch.
III. Jesus Backed Up His Promise Of
Eternal Life By Rising From The Dead (20:26-29)
20:26. One week
later the Lord appeared to His disciples again. This time Thomas
was with them. Again the Lord Jesus entered the room in a miraculous way
and again greeted them with "Peace to you!"
Lord dealt gently and patiently with His faithless follower. He invited him to
prove the reality of His resurrection by putting his hand into the spear
wound in His side.
was convinced. Whether he ever did put his hand into the Lord's side, we do not
know. But he knew at last that Jesus was risen and that He was both Lord
and God. John Boys puts it nicely: "He acknowledged the divinity he
did not see by the wounds he did see."
important thing to notice is that Jesus accepted worship as God. If He
were only a man, He should have refused it. But Thomas' faith was not the kind
that was most pleasing to the Lord. It was belief based on sight. More blessed
are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
The surest evidence is the Word of God. If God says a
thing, we honor Him by believing it; but we dishonor Him by demanding additional
evidence. We should believe simply because He said it and because He cannot lie
or be mistaken.
Bible Commentary: A Thorough, Yet Easy-to-Read Bible Commentary That Turns
Complicated Theology Into Practical Understanding.
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
John 11:25-27: The common belief of Judaism in
this period was that the dead would be raised bodily at the end; indeed,
Pharisees considered those who denied this doctrine (specifically Sadducees) to
be damned for doing so.
Background Commentary - The IVP Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.
20:24-25. Only the evidence of his
senses could persuade Thomas that the other disciples had not seen merely a
phantom or apparition; a ghost or spiritual vision as in pagan tradition, or an
image produced by a magician, would not be corporeal. The resurrection body, by
contrast, was clearly corporeal, although the exact nature of such corporeality
may have been debated among early Christians. Thomas does not doubt that his
friends think they saw something; he doubts only the nature of their experience.
20:26. See comment on John 20:19.
Now that a week had passed, the feast would be over and the disciples would thus
soon be ready to return to Galilee unless they received orders to the contrary.
20:27-28. Thomas’s response is a
confession of Jesus’ deity; cf. Rev. 4:11. Pliny, a governor writing near the
probable location of John’s readers two or three decades after John, reports
that Christians sing hymns to Christ “as to a god.”
20:29-31. Jesus’ blessing (John
20:29) applies to the readers of John who believe through the apostolic
testimony (John 20:31); John 20:30 is the culmination of John’s signs motif:
signs sometimes lead to faith and sometimes lead to opposition.
Background Commentary - The IVP Bible Background Commentary – New Testament.
Jesus Post Resurrection Appearances
Pouncey is pastor of First Baptist Church, Tillman’s Corner, Mobile, Alabama.
DISCIPLES first proclaimed the gospel of Jesus
Christ, they did not simply include the fact that “Jesus died for our sins and
that He was raised.”1 Rather,
they emphasized that He died, was raised, and
appeared to eyewitnesses after His resurrection.
Nearing the conclusion of the first recorded Christian sermon, Simon
Peter said, “God has resurrected this Jesus.
We are all witnesses of this” (Acts 2:32).2
At Peter’s sermon in Solomon’s Colonnade, the apostle proclaimed,
“You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are
witnesses of this” (3:15). When
Peter responded to the high priest and Sanhedrin after his arrest, he defended
his right to preach the message by stating, “We are witnesses of these things,
and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him” (5:32).
To the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house, Peter declared, “God raised up
this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen, not by all the people,
but by us, witnesses appointed beforehand by God, who ate and drank with Him
after He rose from the dead” (10:40-41). Lastly,
Paul summarized the gospel thusly, “For I passed on to you as most important
what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the
Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; most of them are still
alive, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:3-6).
But why were the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ central to
The importance of the
post-resurrection appearances lies in the promise and fulfillment of Jesus’
foretelling of His death and resurrection. One
of the most striking traditions of the Gospels is Jesus’ threefold passion
declaration (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34 and parallels).
In these statements, Jesus explained He would suffer rejection, be
killed, and rise from the dead. Jesus’
death would be vindicated by His resurrection; but in order for that promise to
reach its intended fulfillment, people would have to witness the resurrected
the people closest to Jesus, though they had heard His statements of His death
and resurrection, did not expect Him to rise from the dead on Sunday morning.
This was evidenced by the women wondering who would roll away the stone
for them so they could finish anointing Jesus’ body (Mark 16:3).
Clearly they were not expecting to encounter the resurrected Christ.
Neither did the disciples dare
believe that Jesus had fulfilled His passion statements.
They thought the women’s report of an empty tomb to be “nonsense”
(Luke 24:11). Thomas refused to
believe that Jesus’ passion statements could be fulfilled—until he saw the
resurrected Christ with his own eyes (John 20:25b).
The disciples and the others who were closest to Jesus certainly were not
in a heightened sense of expectation that Jesus’ words would be
fulfilled—but something changed their minds.
appearances changed the disciples from defeated skeptics to encouraged
believers. Though reconstructing an
exact timetable and chronology of Jesus’ appearances is difficult, the fact
that He appeared to those who knew Him best is certain.
Something changed the disciples from their skepticism to belief, and that
something was seeing the resurrected Christ.4
Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene (vv. 11-18).
Again, she was not expecting Jesus’ resurrection.
When she heard someone talking to her and asking her why she was crying,
she thought it was the gardener. But
when Jesus called her name, she realized who this was; and this discourage woman
returned to the disciples with encouraging news, “I have seen the Lord!” (v.
18). Apparently on the way to tell
the disciples, Jesus made an appearance to the other women who had accompanied
Mary to the tomb (Matt. 28:8-10). These
same women who had pondered how the stone would be rolled away now worshiped
Jesus by falling at His feet.
After appearing to the women near
the tomb, Jesus made an appearance to Cleopas and another disciple on the road
to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). These
travelers had heard stories of strange occurrences at the tomb, but they did not
dare believe that the prophecies of Jesus’ resurrection had been fulfilled.
The resurrected Christ appeared to them along the way and even chided
them for being unwise and slow to believe (v. 25).
However, when He broke bread with them, they realized that they had
indeed seen the resurrected Christ.
Jesus appeared several times
specifically to His disciples. John
20:19-23 records Jesus appearing to 10 of His disciples; Thomas, though, was
absent. Jesus made an appearance
eight days later to all of His disciples, including Thomas (John 20:26-29).
This changed Thomas from skeptic to believer; he responded to Jesus in
faith, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). Jesus
also appeared to the Eleven (Luke 24:33-49) and later to seven apostles (John
21:1-14). In this last appearance,
He reassured Peter of his calling to ministry and encouraged the disciples to
shepherd His sheep (v. 16). Prior to
this encounter, Peter had returned to his fishing nets; he had been a fisherman
before Jesus called him to fish for men (Matt. 4:19).
Jesus also appeared on a mountain to teach the disciples, giving them the
Great Commission (28:19-20). Interestingly,
some worshiped; others doubted. They
still struggled with the fulfillment of Jesus’ earlier statements.
However, Jesus continued to appear to them in order to help them believe
and to instruct them in what they would do after His ascension.
three appearances of Jesus that the Gospels do not.
In his list in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, he mentioned Jesus appearing to over
500 brothers at one time. We know no
further details about this, except that some of the witnesses were still alive
and available to validate the claims of Jesus’ resurrection.
Paul also mentioned Jesus appearing to James, His brother, and to Paul
himself, though the apostle admitted this was after the ascension, explaining he
was “abnormally born” (1 Cor. 15:8). The
increasing number of people who saw Jesus served to verify the truth that He had
indeed fulfilled the predictions of His death and resurrection.
Jesus’ final appearance to His
disciples was at His ascension (Acts 1:4-11).
Luke described what Jesus did: “After He had suffered, He also
presented Himself alive to them my many convincing proofs, appearing to them
during 40 days and dpeking about the kingdom of God” (v. 3).
This summarized the purpose of Jesus’ resurrection appearances.
Jesus had foretold that He would die and rise in three days.
Then He validated His promise by appearing to various groups of people,
convincing them that He had fulfilled His promise.
Then He ascended into heaven and left those eyewitnesses to bear witness
to the truth of His claims. Jesus
emphasized this in His words in His special appearance to Thomas, “Because you
have seen Me, you have believed. Those
who believe without seeing are blessed” (John 20:29).
Appearances of Jesus:
Magdalene (John 20:11-18)
To the other
women (Matthew 28:8-10)
To Cleopas and
another disciple on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-32)
disciples excluding Thomas (John 20:19-23)
disciples with Thomas (John 20:26-30)
disciples again (Luke 24:33-39)
disciples (John 21:1-14)
disciples in giving the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20)
To Simon Peter
and the other disciples (1 Corinthians 15:5)
To the 500 (1
To James (1
disciples at His ascension (Acts 1:4-9)
To Paul (1
Stein, Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity Press, 1996), 270.
All Scripture quotations are from the
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
Osborne, “Resurrection” in Dictionary
of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Green and McKnight (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity Press, 1992), 675.
For a list of resurrection appearances,
see Strobel, The Case of Christ (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 234.
Lazarus Has Died
is the Ruth Dickinson professor of Bible at Oklahoma Baptist University,
GOSPEL divides easily into two major sections:
the book of signs (chapters 1—11) and the book of glory (12—21).
The book of signs is characterized by seven miracles or “signs” that
serve to (1) indicate that Jesus in the Messiah, the Son of God, and (2) arouse
faith in those who witness them.1
The signs begin with Jesus’ turning the water to wine and move toward
the seventh and climactic sign, His raising Lazarus from the dead.
Thus, the raising of Lazarus marks the pivotal and climactic scene in the
first half of John’s Gospel and looks forward to the climactic scene of the
entire Gospel, Jesus’ resurrection. Despite
the prominent role John gave the event and the familiarity of those involved,
many questions persist. How much do
we really know about Lazarus, Mary, and Martha?
How would Lazarus’s death affect Mary and Martha?
What do we know about Jewish burial practices in the first century that
might give us insight into the miracle? And,
perhaps most significantly, why did Jesus wait so long before going to Bethany
to raise Lazarus?
Lazarus, Mary, and
To begin, what do we know about Lazarus and
his sisters? John’s Gospel details
a close relationship between Jesus and the three siblings: Lazarus, Mary, and
Martha. Lazarus does not appear in
any of the Gospels except John, and even in John he appears in only two chapters
(John 11—12).2 We do
know that the name Lazarus was a Greek form of the Aramaic Eleazar, which means
“God helps,” a fitting name in light of what was about to transpire.3
Although Lazarus never spoke in John’s narrative, John did designate
him as someone Jesus loved (11:3,5,36) and as Jesus’ friend (v. 11).
Lazarus’s sisters Martha and Mary appear only twice outside of the
story of Lazarus’s resuscitation. Mary
sat at Jesus’ feet and received affirmation that she “made the right
choice” (Luke 10:38-42).4 Mary
also anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfume (John 12:1-8).
In both accounts, Martha fulfilled the more traditional female role of
preparing the meal. Clearly these
siblings loved each other and loved Jesus deeply, and Jesus returned that love.
Lazarus, Mary, and Martha lived in Bethany.
Ancient Bethany was situated on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives
less than two miles east of Jerusalem. Local
tradition touts a tomb as the actual site of Lazarus’s burial.5
The Impact of the
Death of Lazarus
While the Old Testament shows both men and
women expressing grief in response of death and dying, clearly mourning the dead
was primarily the work of women in the ancient world.6
Women sang songs of mourning and made repeated visits to the burial site
to mourn the dead. This is certainly
the case in John 11. The love,
concern, and grief that Mary and Martha expressed for their brother’s illness
and eventual death provided the catalyst for the whole narrative.
It drove the sisters to send for Jesus despite the danger Bethany posed
for Him due to both its close proximity to Jerusalem and His increasingly
antagonistic enemies (11:3,7-8). The
sisters wanted Him to take the risk, however, because they knew Jesus was
Lazarus’s only hope. Surprisingly,
Jesus delayed two days; Lazarus was
already dead when He arrived (vv. 4-14). When
Jesus arrived, the Jews were already on the scene to comfort Mary and Martha.
The sight of the sisters mourning “deeply moved” Jesus (v. 33).
many contemporary Christians can sympathize with the grief related to the death
of a beloved sibling, the cultural differences blind us to the devastating
impact Lazarus’s death would have had on Mary and Martha.
In the honor/shame culture of first-century Judaism, a woman’s honor
hinged on the prominent male in her life. Prior
to marriage, a female’s honor was based on her father’s good name.
After marriage, the woman’s honor was contingent on her husband being
honorable. In the absence of a
living father, husband, or a male child, the woman’s access to honor,
property, security, and justice was imbedded the closest, oldest living male
relative.7 As John
described the scene, the focus remained solely on the sisters with no reference
to any other family members. The
Jews came to console Mary and Martha, not Lazarus’s wife or children.
John made no mention of a husband or children related to Mary or Martha.
The anointing scene in John 12:1-8 was in the hometown of Lazarus, and
once again the only women present were the sisters.
Every clue in the text indicates Mary and Martha were unmarried or
widowed and lived together with their unmarried or widowed brother.
In such a scenario, any access that Mary and Martha had to property,
security, livelihood, and hence, status was embedded in Lazarus.
With the death of their beloved brother, their situation would radically
change. They would have lost not
only their closest relative, but also all the things that mattered in the
male-dominated world of the first century.
Scripture records the death of a multitude
of individuals, yet it reveals only glimpses of Jewish burial practices.
At the time of death, the deceased person’s eyes were shut, the mouth
bound, and the body washed and anointed with spices.
The spices worked to counteract the order that would result from the
rapid decomposition of a body in the subtropical Mediterranean climate.
The body was then wrapped in prepared cloths and placed in a tomb.
Finally, a large rock sealed the tomb.
Intense mourning would follow for a week.
After a longer period of decomposition, perhaps as much as a year, the
bones were collected and placed in a bone box called an ossuary.8
practice of wrapping the body in grave clothes highlights a striking contrast
between the resuscitation of Lazarus and the resurrection of Jesus.
When Jesus raised Lazarus he came out of the tomb “bound hand and foot
with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth.”
Jesus then commanded the witnesses, “Loose him and let him go” (v.
44). John’s portrayal of the
resurrection of Jesus, however, indicated that on one had to untie Jesus.
The grave clothes were left behind; their positioning provided proof
positive to Peter and the beloved disciple that Jesus was neither unwrapped nor
was the body carried off. In fact
the only explanation was that Jesus’ body had passed right through the
wrapping (20:5-7).9 While
the empty tomb could be explained as theft, the only explanation of the presence
and placement of the grave clothes was resurrection.
Dead Four Days
Jesus’ two-day delay when informed of his
close friend Lazarus’s illness demands explanation.
Twice John stated that Lazarus had been dead for four days by the time
Jesus arrived (11:17,39). Perhaps
Jesus’ initial response when informed of Lazarus’s serious illness provides
a clue. Jesus stated, “This
sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of
God may be glorified through it” (v. 4). John
also asserted that “Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus.
So when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place
where was. Then after that, He said
to the disciples, ‘Let’s go to Judea again’” (vv. 5-7).
Jesus intentionally delayed in order that four days might pass before His
arrival in Bethany. He did this so
that He and the Father might be glorified. But
why not go immediately and either heal Lazarus’s illness or raise him after
one, two, or even three days? Wouldn’t
God be glorified in that as well? Why
the story is the Jewish belief that the soul lingered around the body for three
days after death hoping to re-enter. When
the body began to decay and smell, the soul departed: “For three days (after
death) the soul hovers over the body, intending to re-enter it, but as soon as
it sees its appearance change, it departs.”10
Thus, Jesus waited until after the third day when Mary, Martha, and the
others at Bethany would have given up all hope that somehow Lazarus might come
back to life. Not only was
Lazarus’s body dead and beginning to decompose, but the spirit that animated
the body and gave it life had reached the point of no possible return.11
Thus, Jesus’ miracle displayed the power and glory of God in the
greatest possible manner. Furthermore,
the story validated Jesus’ power to raise the dead to life in this age and in
the age to come. What fitting climax
to the first half of John’s Gospel (the book of signs), one that prepares the
reader to begin the second half, the book of glory.
At the end of the book of signs, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
In time, though, Lazarus would die again.
What a contrast to the end of the book of glory, one in which the Messiah
would walk out of the grave alive. The
difference, though, is that He would never face the greave again.
At His was resurrection, He was (and is) alive forevermore.
1. The seven
signs in John 1—11 include Jesus: (1) changing water to wine (2:1-11); (2)
healing the nobleman’s son (4:46-54); (3) healing the lame man (5:1-15); (4)
feeding the multitude (6:1-15); (5) walking on the water (6:16-21); (6) healing
the blind man (9:1-41); and (7) raising Lazarus. (ch. 11).
theory that the poor man named Lazarus in Luke’s parable about the rich man
and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) is the same Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead
in John 11 seems unfounded. The fact
“that the name Lazarus (Eleazar) was the third most popular male name among
Palestinian Jews” would explain why more than one man in the New Testament
might bear the name (Richard Buauckham, The
Testimony of the Beloved Disciple [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007],
Jr;, “Lazarus” in Dictionary of Jesus
and the Gospels [DJG], ed. Green, McKnight, and Marshall (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity, 1992), 461.
Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
“Bethany” in The International
Standard Bible Encyclopedia, gen. ed. Bromiley, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1979), 463-64.
6. Corley, Maranatha:
Women’s Funerary Rituals and Christian Origins (Minneapolis: Fortress,
and Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), 29-30.
description of Jewish burial practices is from Evans, Jesus and the Ossuaries (Waco: Baylor Univ. Press, 2003), 14-15 and
Green, “Burial of Jesus” in DJG,
9. Wright, The
Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 689.
Rabbah Midrash on
Leviticus 15:1-2 cited in Evans, Jesus and
the Ossuaries, 14.
Evans, Jesus and the Ossuaries, 14. See
also Borchert, John 1—11, vol. 25a in The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman,
in First-Century Jewish Thought
By Warren McWilliams
Warren McWilliams is the Auguie Henry Professor
of Bible at Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.
PECULATION ABOUT THE MEANING OF A BIBLE PASSAGE
can be dangerous, but I have often wished I could read the minds of some
biblical characters. For example,
Jesus’ discussion with His disciples at Caesarea Philippi was a turning-point
event in His ministry. When Jesus
asked them who they thought He was, Simon Peter correctly acknowledged Him as
“the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16).1
Then Jesus announced He would eventually “be killed, and be raised the
third day” (v. 21). I wonder what
the twelve apostles believed about the possibility or probability of the
resurrection of the dead. Did the
typical Jew believe in bodily resurrection?
If so, did the Jews believe the Messiah would die and that God would
raise Him from the dead?
Jewish Beliefs in the First Century
majority of Jews in the first century believed in a future resurrection of the
dead. Jesus’ disciples would not
have been startled by His mention of this doctrine.
Some Jews, however, rejected such a belief.2 When the
apostle Paul appeared before the Sanhedrin, he recalled that the Pharisees and
the Sadducees, two of the major Jewish religious groups, disagreed on this issue
and others. Paul stressed he was on
trial for his preaching about the resurrection, and a loud argument broke out.
Describing this event, Luke commented, “For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and no angel or spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all” (Acts 23:8).
Sadducees’s rejection of the resurrection of the dead impacted their
relationship with Jesus. For
instance, they told Jesus a story about a woman being married over time to seven
brothers. When the woman finally
died and was raised from the dead, to whom would she be married?
Since the Sadducees did not accept bodily resurrection, they apparently
thought this story highlighted the foolishness of the doctrine.
Jesus, however, replied that they did not understand their own Scriptures
or God’s power (Matt. 22:23-32).
When the early
Christians proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem, the Sadducees led the
persecution (Acts 4:1-2). One reason
they opposed these Christians was their own rejection of anyone’s
first-century Jewish historian, confirmed the New Testament’s report of the
disagreement between the Sadducees and Pharisees.
In his Jewish Antiquities,
Josephus described the major Jewish religious groups of his time.
He stated the Pharisees believed in resurrection of the dead, bur the
Sadducees insisted that human souls and bodies both died.3
religious leaders debated belief in the resurrection of the dead, what would the
typical first-century Jew have known about this doctrine?
We can find some clues in other New Testament stories.
For instance, Jesus’ conversation with Martha after the death of her
brother, Lazarus, points to a common affirmation of this doctrine.
Martha had hoped Jesus would arrive in time to keep Lazarus from dying.
When Jesus announced that Lazarus would be raised from the dead, Martha
replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last
day” (John 11:24). Martha was
clearly familiar with the Jewish belief in a future resurrection from the dead.
Jesus explained to her, “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25).
cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, He compared His own body to the temple and
explained that His body would be raised from the dead.
We do not know how well His disciples understood this comparison at that
time, but after His resurrection they saw Jesus’ point clearly (2:19-22).
Old Testament Background
did the Pharisees and Sadducees disagree on the resurrection of the dead?
Part of the answer is that the Sadducees did not accept all of what we
call the Old Testament as inspired. The
Sadducees accepted only the first five books, the Pentateuch, as the Word of
God. When Jesus responded to their
story about the woman married over time to seven brothers, He quoted from Exodus
to prove that even the Scriptures they accepted affirmed God is the God of the
living (Matt. 22:32; Ex. 3:6,15-16).
the Pharisees accepted the full Old Testament that Christians use today.
This contains, though, only a few clear statements about a resurrection
of the dead. Probably the strongest
is Daniel 12:2-3. This passage
points to the future destiny of both the righteous, who receive eternal life,
and the wicked, who experience eternal contempt.
Psalm 49:9-15 also points to a future life beyond the greave.
Isaiah 26:19 states that the “dead will live; their bodies will
Hebrew thought the common belief was that all the dead went to Sheol, the realm
of the dead.4
Job thought of this place as “a land of darkness and gloom . . . a land
of blackness” (Job 10:21-22). The
dead existed in this shadowy underworld with no apparent hope for bodily
resurrection. Job, however,
anticipated the later full-blown belief in bodily resurrection.
“Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my
flesh” (19:26). Although Bible
students debate the details of interpretation of this verse, some see an
affirmation of bodily resurrection.5
Another of the
strongest Old Testament statements on resurrection actually points to the
restoration of the Hebrew nation rather than individual resurrection.
God revealed to Ezekiel how a valley of skeletons could become a living
army. God’s “breath” or Spirit
empowered the dry bones to become living beings again (Ezek. 37:4-10).
God explained to Ezekiel that this army was the restored house of Israel.
“I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them, My people,
and lead you into the land of Israel” (v. 12).
students see Hosea 6:2 as an anticipation of belief in bodily resurrection.
Also, Jesus compared Jonah’s experience to His death, burial and
resurrection (Matt. 12:40).
Jewish Thought Outside the Bible
clues to the development of Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead
surface in Jewish writings not included in our Bibles.6
Although they are not the inspired Word of God, they reflect ideas that
may have been familiar in New Testament times.
For instance, the Old Testament Apocrypha is a collection of Jewish
writings generally written in the Intertestamental period.
Second Maccabees “includes the story of seven brothers and their mother
who was put to death. The book
clearly teaches a resurrection of the body, at least for the righteous” (2
Pseudepigrapha is a collection of Jewish writings that the Jews did not consider
to be inspired but to be the first-century Christians, however, quickly affirmed
that Jesus was the Anointed One promised by God and that He was their
resurrected Lord and Savior. When
the risen Jesus encountered the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, Jesus was
able to show them that He was the One for whom they had hoped.
Jesus used the teachings of the Law of Moses and the Hebrew prophets to
reassure them He was the risen Savior (Luke 24:25-27).
Early Christian sermons often linked Old Testament texts and Jesus’
resurrection (Acts 2:30-31 and Ps. 16:10; Acts 13:34 and Isa. 55:3).
contemporary Christians might want to read the minds of first-century Jews and
Christians about their belief in the possibility of the resurrection of the
dead. What ultimately matters is the
reality of Jesus’ resurrection. The
two on the road to Emmaus moved from puzzlement to a recognition of the risen
Savior (Luke 24:31-35). They did not
ask, “Is resurrection possible?” They
announced “The Lord has certainly been raised” (v. 34).
Later the apostle Paul affirmed the centrality of Jesus’ resurrection
for our faith today (1 Cor. 15:12-19).
Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
R. Osborne, “Resurrection” in Dictionary
of New Testament Background, ed.
Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000),
The Aniquities of the Jews
Resurrection, and Afterlife in the Old Testament” in Holman Bible Handbook, gen.
ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 364-65.
L. Alden, Job,
vol. 11 in The New American Commentary (Nashville:
Broadman & Holman, 1993), 208.
R. Osborne, “Resurrection” in Dictionary
of Jesus and the Gospels, ed.
Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity, 1992), 674-75.
Harrop, “Apocrypha” in Holman Bible
Dictionary, gen. ed. Trent C.
Butler (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 70.
Follower of Jesus
By Gil Lain
Lain is pastor of Paramount Baptist Church, Amarillo, Texas.
MAGINE YOURSELF STANDING before a group of
Christians (your class or congregation) and asking them to name each of Jesus’
twelve apostles. If by chance they
could, they would probably not mention Thomas until just past the middle of
their list. He’s known, but not as
well known as some of the others. Should
you ask for a one word description of the apostle Thomas, you would likely hear
the adjective “doubting.” People
just seem to remember the nickname “Doubting Thomas.”
As a Doubter . . .
The nickname certainly comes from the events in
John chapter 20. Jesus had risen
from the grave. He had appeared to
Mary Magdalene that morning (vv. 11-18). That
night the remaining apostles wee also able to see the risen Lord for themselves
(vv. 19-23), except for Thomas, who simply was not there (v. 24).
Later, when the disciples were with Thomas again, they told him they
had seen Jesus. His response to
their statement shows where the “Doubting Thomas” nickname began.
“If I don’t see the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side,
I will never believe!” (v. 25b).1
Thomas’s words revealed the doubts he had about Jesus being alive.
He wanted proof.
Eight days later, he got proof when Jesus again appeared to His
disciples, with Thomas present this time (v. 26).
Knowing the doubt Thomas had expressed, Jesus invited Thomas to touch His
wounds (v. 27). Thomas did not need
to. He knew it was Jesus, his Lord
and God (v. 28).
While Thomas may have legitimately earned his nickname, believers
should not remember him solely for that one event.
The New Testament mentions his name 12 times.
Four occasions name him as being one of Jesus’ apostles (Matt. 10:3;
Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; and Acts 1:13). The
eight references to Thomas in John’s Gospel, however, bring Thomas to life.
One commentator suggests John probably had known Thomas from boyhood and
that they were from the same area (Galilee) and had the same occupation
(fisherman)2 The shared
occupation possibility is perhaps bolstered by the fact Thomas was one of the
seven apostles who were fishing on the Sea of Galilee when the resurrected
Christ showed Himself (John 21:1-2).
When John first referred to Thomas (11:16), he called him “Didymus,”
which is the Greek word for “twin.” Although
Thomas evidently had a twin brother or sister, the Scriptures never identify the
twin.3 John’s reference
to the “twin” precedes a statement from Thomas that speaks volumes about his
. . . or as a Dedicated
Jesus and His disciples had left Jerusalem
because His life was in jeopardy there. He
had gone across to the eastern side of the Jordan River (10:40) and was
experiencing a fruitful ministry; “many believed in Him there” (v. 42).
About that time, Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick (11:1-3).
Even though Jesus did not go immediately to Bethany to minister to
Lazarus, He did eventually go (v. 7). The
disciples, however, did not want Him to (v. 8).
They knew the danger since Bethany was less than two miles east of
Jerusalem.4 As Jesus and
the twelve talked about their options, Thomas challenged the other disciples,
“Let’s go so that we may die with Him” (v. 16).
The person who remembers Thomas only as a doubter, needs to focus on
this story for a while. In this
case, Thomas was the only disciple who had no doubts.
Or, if he did, he did not show it. Maybe
someone should commend Thomas for being willing to die for the cause of
Christ—even when no one else was!
Some commentaries will suggest Thomas was pessimistic5 and
fatalistic with his statement, “Let’s go so that we may die with Him” (v.
16). The better interpretation seems
to be that he was loyal and courageous. Surely
his attitude inspired the rest of the apostles to quit arguing and continue
following Jesus. The very next
comment John makes has them all in Bethany (v. 17).
What may seem to be pessimism it some, we instead should see as a
profound love for the Lord.6
The next time John mentioned Thomas, he again emphasized that Thomas
loved the Lord and wanted to be with Him. John
14 begins with Jesus comforting His apostles concerning His departure.
He was going away to prepare a place where they could all be together
again. Jesus then assured His
disciples that they knew where He was going and the way to get there (vv. 1-4).
That was when Thomas said, “We don’t know where You’re going.
How can we know the way?” (v. 5). In
essence Thomas was saying, “Lord, I don’t want to be separated.
I want to know for sure what I need to do to be where you are.”
If John 20 was the only insight into Thomas, one probably would
remember him for his doubting. But
John 11 and 14 help tell the real story behind the doubting episode.
Thomas was intensely loyal to Jesus.
He loved Jesus and wanted to be with Him always.
When Jesus died and was buried, thought, Thomas was left behind.
The other apostles gathered together.
They locked the doors for fear of the Jews (20:19).
Maybe that was why Thomas was not there.
Perhaps he was willing to die so he could go and be with Jesus.
Whatever the reasons for his absence, the fact is Thomas missed the first
appearance of the resurrected Jesus. Whether
he missed it by minutes or days is unclear.
But at some point he found out. Thomas
heard from the disciples Jesus was alive (v. 25).
Thomas’s response to that news is what most people remember about
Thomas. His statement, “If I
don’t see the mark of nails in His hands . . . I will never believe!” (v.
25) may not reveal doubt, however, as much as it does desire—a desire to see
the risen Lord and be with Him.
As an Example for
Call Thomas a doubter if you must, but remember
that none of the other disciples believed in the resurrection until they say the
risen Christ! Was Thomas’s doubt
Or maybe his sorrow was greater.7
Thomas wanted to be with Jesus again.
Eight days later, he was (v. 26). When
Jesus did appear before the group, He did not scold Thomas or label him a
doubter. Instead, He invited Thomas
to come near, to touch, and to believe.
Nowhere does Scripture say Thomas actually stuck his finger into the
nail prints or his hand into Jesus’ side.
He was satisfied. He was with
Christians should remember that none of Jesus’ other apostles has
ever said quite what Thomas did that night.
“My Lord and my God!” is certainly “the grandest expression of
faith in the fourth gospel”8 if not “the greatest statement ever
to come from the lips of the apostles.”9
Thomas saw Jesus face to face at least one more time, the morning after
the disciples had fished in the Sea of Galilee and met Jesus on the shore
(21:2). Probably, Thomas witnessed
Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:1-11). Certainly,
he was one of the faithful gathered for prayer (2:1) when the Holy Spirit
empowered them to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Where did Thomas go after Pentecost?
Although the New Testament does not mention his name after Pentecost,
other historical documents concerning the spread of Christianity do.
According to the early Christian scholar and theologian, Origen (about
185-254), Thomas worked in Parthia (the region in modern northeastern Iran).10
Another tradition claims that Thomas traveled to India with the gospel
where he successfully established churches, was eventually martyred, and was
buried in Mylapore (now a suburb of Madras), India.11
The most reliable traditions say he was martyred for his faith by being
run through with a spear.12
Studying the life of Thomas from Scripture and
from subsequent historical accounts should provide convincing evidence that the
label “Doubting Thomas” is not only unfair, but inaccurate.
Instead, we should remember Thomas for his selfless love for Jesus.
All Scripture quotations are from the Holman
Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
William Steuart McBirnie, The Search for the Twelve Apostles
(Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1973), 143.
John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men (Nashville:
Thomas Nelson, 2002), 157.
Thomas Brisco, Holman Bible Atlas (Nashville:
Holman Reference, 1998), 227.
Arthur M. Ross, “Thomas” in The
Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, gen. ed. Merrill C. Tenney
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 5:732.
Charles Egbert Kennet, S. Thomas, The Apostle of India: An Inquiry into the Evidence for His
Mission to this Country (Madras:
Addison and Company, 1882), 3-5. See
also McBirnie, 152-53, 170.
SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the
Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 37, No. 3; Spring 2011.
(01; 145) What is the
Answer To & Where in The Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found: Who was the first apostle to be martyred?
Answer Next Week: Answer:
Last Week’s Question: What hard working companion of Paul was called an
Barnabas; Acts 13:1-3; 14:4