17 April, 2024

Feb. 25 Lesson | Seeing and Believing

by | 19 February, 2024 | 0 comments

Unit: John (Part 3) 
Theme: Believe 
Lesson Text: John 20:19-31 
Supplemental Texts: Matthew 23:16-26; John 5:33-47; John 9:39-41; Hebrews 11 
Aim: Believe in Jesus and have life in his name. 

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions): LOOKOUT_Feb25_2024

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By Mark Scott

A thorough-going modernist says, “Seeing is believing.” But even modernists do not always follow their sight with belief. The Jewish leaders certainly did not follow their sight when it came to Jesus. People in Jesus’ day saw the miracles, heard him teach, and watched him interact with people high and low. Still, many of them refused to believe (John 10:37-39; 12:37-42).  

But for the Jesus followers of John 20, seeing was believing. Mary Magdalene had come to the tomb with other women. When she noticed the stone had been rolled away, she ran and told Peter and John. They ran to the tomb, investigated, and left. In the meantime, Mary made her way back to the tomb by herself. There she encountered Jesus.  

In the narrative of John 20:1-18 there are six occurrences of the word see with the use of three different Greek words. The normal word for see, blepo, refers to normal eyesight. The next word is theoreo. It means to see and perceive. But the final word for see is horao. It means to see, perceive, and act upon what you see. This final word is the one used consistently in our lesson text—in vv. 20, 25 (twice), and 29 (twice). 

Show and Tell 
John 20:19-23 

Depending on how one counts, there are at least 10 resurrection appearances of Jesus over a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3). Several of those took place on that first day (Sunday). Ten of the disciples were together (Judas had already committed suicide and Thomas missed the meeting), and all of them were afraid, which was evident by the locked doors. All of a sudden Jesus came and stood among them. John felt no need to describe how this happened (did he know?). Jesus gave them a typical Jewish greeting, “Shalom!” Then he proceeded to show them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they “saw” the Lord. 

But Jesus was not content to give them an apologetic lesson only. It was time for him to give them their marching orders. John’s great commission came next. Jesus again greeted them with “Peace.” Then he said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Sent is a crucial word in John’s Gospel. It often had to do with the solidarity between the Father and the Son.  

To equip them for this time of “telling,” Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Nothing in the text said that they received the Spirit then. In fact, Jesus would have to be glorified first (John 7:39). This was prophetic symbolism for the beginning of the church (Acts 2:1-4). It was as if Jesus were saying, “The next time you hear a sound like breath or wind, buckle up.” He went on to tell them that they would have the privilege of announcing the terms of forgiveness (Matthew 16:19; Acts 2:38).  

Hand and Heart 
John 20:24-29 

Maybe Thomas was spending time with his “twin,” but he was MIA. The other 10 disciples told him that they had “seen” the Lord. Maybe Thomas’s heart wanted to believe this, but his head would not let him do so. Whether the “doubter” label for Thomas was fair or not is left for the reader to discern (cf. John 11:16; 14:5). Regardless, he wanted more evidence than he had for Jesus’ resurrection. He wanted to poke his finger in the nail prints of Jesus’ hands and place his hand in Jesus’ side.  

One week passed. Thomas was present the next time Jesus appeared, but all the disciples were still paralyzed in fear. John used the same words to describe this encounter as he did earlier (doors locked and Jesus just showed up).  

No one had to tell Jesus about Thomas’s struggle to believe. Jesus addressed him directly, “Put your finger here, and your hand here.” John left out whether Thomas even had to do that. But then the doubter gave the classic confession of the book, “My Lord and my God.” Essentially Thomas put his heart where his hand would have gone. Jesus then put a beatitude on those people who believe without the need to see as Thomas did. 

Belief and Life 
John 20:30-31 

Even though John 21 contains additional resurrection appearances and restorations, John placed his purpose statement for the Gospel following Thomas’s classic confession. The signs recorded in the Gospel are enough to engender belief. But that belief is only as good as the source in which it is placed. It is not belief in belief. It is belief that Jesus is the Messiah and the only one who can truly give life.  


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