Lesson 104: Blessing for Believers (John 20:29-31)Related Media
September 13, 2015
A question that I often ask couples who come to me for counsel is, “Do you want God’s blessing on your marriage?” It’s a no-brainer, of course. I’ve yet to have a couple say, “Nah! We’re not interested in having God’s blessing.” But the second question gets a bit stickier: “Are you willing to obey God’s Word as it pertains to your marriage?” Obviously, to enjoy God’s blessing, we have to live in obedience to His Word.
His blessings are gracious, in that we can’t earn them. He gives His greatest blessing of salvation freely to the undeserving. But if we reject that blessing or respond to His kindness with defiance or disobedience, we can’t expect His blessing. He blesses those who obey Him.
By God’s blessing, I’m referring to His favor, goodness, joy, or well-being bestowed on us. The Old Testament priests would bless the Israelites (Num. 6:24-26):
The Lord bless you, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.
God’s blessings encompass the total well-being that comes from being the object of His favor. They may be material blessings, such as good health and adequate financial provisions. They include harmonious relationships in our families and peace with others, including living in a country that is free from war. But the greatest blessings are spiritual, because they are eternal. In that sense, Paul exults (Eph. 1:3), “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” If we have eternal spiritual blessings, then we are blessed even if we suffer. As 1 Peter 4:14 says, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
During His ministry, Jesus pronounced a number of blessings in different settings. The most well-known are the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-22). He told the apostles they were blessed because they had the privilege of seeing and hearing spiritual truth that was hidden from others (Matt. 13:17). He blessed Peter when he made his famous confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:17). When a woman pronounced a blessing on Jesus’ mother, Mary, Jesus corrected her by saying (Luke 11:28), “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” He blessed the little children who were brought to Him (Mark 10:16). He pronounced a future blessing on those who obediently wait for His return (Luke 12:37-38). And, He blessed the apostles just before He ascended into heaven (Luke 24:50).
John’s Gospel only records two times that Jesus pronounced a blessing. In the upper room, after He washed the disciples’ feet and commanded them to follow His example, He said (John 13:17), “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” And in our text (John 20:29), Jesus tells Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” That includes all who have believed in Christ since He ascended into heaven, including you and me:
Those who believe in Jesus Christ through the apostolic testimony will be blessed.
We tend to think that if only we could have been there in the first century to see Jesus in person when He was on the earth, we’d be really blessed. Especially those who saw Jesus risen from the dead must have been blessed. But Jesus draws an implied contrast between Thomas, who saw Jesus after His resurrection, and all who would later believe the witness of Thomas and the other apostles. The implication is that while they all were blessed, we’re really blessed if we believe in Jesus whom we have not seen. I want to explore that blessing and the means to obtaining it.
1. The goal of the apostolic testimony contained in the written Word of God is that we would believe in Jesus Christ.
After reporting Jesus’ commendation of Thomas’ faith and of the faith of all those who believe without seeing Him, John 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
The only source that we have for knowing about Jesus Christ so that we may believe in Him is the written testimony of the apostles contained in the New Testament. Of course, the entire Old Testament pointed ahead to Christ (Luke 24:27, 44), but those truths can be understood adequately only through the lens of the New Testament testimony to Christ. The Holy Spirit inspired the biblical writers to record truthfully all that we need to know about Jesus Christ so that we may believe in Him and be saved.
This means that your feelings about Jesus Christ are not reliable as the source for your faith. You may feel that Jesus is always kind and loving, but that is only true in the sense that the New Testament shows Him to be kind and loving. He was kind and loving when He pronounced woes on the Pharisees and called them hypocrites (Matthew 23). He was kind and loving when He called Peter “Satan” and told him to get behind Him (Matt. 16:23). If your mental picture of “kind and loving” doesn’t fit that image of Jesus, then your mental picture is wrong. The written Word, not our feelings, is the source of truth about Jesus.
This also means that experiences, such as dreams or visions are not a reliable source for learning the truth about Jesus Christ. I realize that God is using dreams and visions to bring many, especially in the Muslim world, to faith in Christ. I am not discrediting this. But I am arguing that if these folks or anyone else want to grow to know Jesus more deeply, the only source for such growth is the written Word of God that tells us about Him.
I am also aware that there is a strong movement today to get the gospel to oral cultures by telling Bible stories. These cultures do not learn primarily through reading printed material, so giving out gospel tracts or Scripture portions is not an effective means of reaching them. It’s certainly wise to reach these people through means that they understand and relate to. But after these people come to faith in Christ, they will not grow to know Him as they should unless someone teaches them the many didactic portions of Scripture. God saw fit to leave us His written Word so that we may believe in His Son. Our faith will not be properly informed apart from such knowledge.
At the same time, there are Bible scholars and theologians who study God’s written Word in depth, but they don’t believe in or know the Savior whom that Word proclaims. That is really tragic! The goal of John’s writing these truths about Jesus is so that we may personally believe in Him unto eternal life. If we miss that, we miss everything!
2. The object of our faith is the Lord Jesus Christ.
John here gives us three testimonies to who Jesus is:
A. Jesus’ signs testify to who He is.
John’s word for Jesus’ miracles is “signs.” This means that we should look beyond the miracle itself to what it points to. Jesus’ signs tell us something important about His person and work. John acknowledges that Jesus performed many other signs which he did not include in his Gospel. In the last verse of his Gospel he adds that if everything Jesus did were written in detail, the world itself would not contain the books that would be written. But John selected seven signs, plus the eighth sign of Jesus’ resurrection, to paint his portrait of the eternal Word made flesh.
Note also that these signs were performed “in the presence of His disciples.” They were eyewitnesses to all of these signs and they are credible men. As Peter testifies (2 Pet. 1:16), “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” They weren’t making up good stories. They actually saw these things before their very eyes. Here are John’s eight signs:
(1) Jesus turned the water at the wedding of Cana into wine (John 2:1-11). This shows that Jesus is Lord over His creation and that He provides abundant, joyous salvation for His people. It revealed His glory to the disciples (John 2:11).
(2) Jesus healed the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54). Here we learn that Jesus is the Lord who can heal from a distance. And He wants us to move from the foxhole faith that solves our crisis to the saving faith of eternal life.
(3) Jesus healed the lame man by the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath (John 5:1-16). This shows that He is Lord over the Sabbath. And it exposes the impotence of ritualistic religion, while showing that Jesus is mighty to save.
(4) Jesus fed the 5,000 men, plus women and children, with five loaves and two fish (John 6:1-14). This pictures Jesus as the new Moses, who gives the satisfying bread of life to those who are spiritually hungry. Since Jesus used the disciples to distribute the food to the people, this sign also has a profound lesson about how the Lord uses us to meet the needs of the spiritually hungry.
(5) Jesus walked on the water to the disciples as they struggled against the waves (John 6:15-21). They couldn’t understand why He had just sent away the crowd who had eaten the multiplied loaves and fish, especially since they wanted to make Him king. So this sign tells us that Jesus is Lord over His creation, including every trial, even when we don’t understand His ways.
(6) Jesus healed the man born blind (John 9:1-41). This sign followed His discourse in chapter 8, where He made the astounding claim (John 8:12), “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” So we learn that Jesus is the Light of the world, who imparts spiritual sight to the spiritually blind.
(7) Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44). Jesus stated the meaning of this sign in His words to Martha (John 11:25), “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Note that Jesus’ pointed question, “Do you believe this?” is the reason why John included this sign: So that you will believe in Jesus and have life in His name.
(8) Jesus Himself was raised from the dead (John 20-21). This capstone of all the signs gives irrefutable proof that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, so that we may believe in Him for eternal life. If Jesus is not risen, our faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:17).
B. Thomas’ confession testifies to who Jesus is.
As we have seen, Thomas was entrenched in his doubts about Jesus’ resurrection to the point of demanding to touch His wounds before he would believe. But when he saw the risen Savior and heard Him quote words that Thomas had spoken privately to the other disciples, he spontaneously blurted out (John 20:28), “My Lord and my God!” He wasn’t swearing, or Jesus would have rebuked him. Rather, Jesus accepted Thomas’ confession and his worship and commended him for it. His confession is the model of faith that John sets before his readers. We all should personally confess Jesus as our Lord and God. John began his Gospel by stating that Jesus, the Word, is God. Thomas’ confession brings that opening statement to its climax. It’s the personal faith that every person who considers John’s Gospel should possess.
C. John’s purpose statement testifies to who Jesus is.
John 20:31: “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” As the Christ, He is the Messiah or Anointed One promised repeatedly in the Old Testament. He is the One whom God sent to be the Savior of the world (John 3:17; 4:42; 12:47). He is (John 1:29) “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
As the Son of God, He is not the Son in the sense of human sons, who begin their existence at conception. Rather, He is the Son of God by nature, one with the Father from all eternity (John 10:30). He shares all the attributes of Deity, although these were often veiled in His humanity. The Father sent His Son to reveal Himself to us (John 5:19-47). As Jesus told Philip (John 14:9), “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Concerning these two terms, the Christ, the Son of God, Leon Morris (The Gospel of John [Eerdmans], pp. 856-857) states,
The combination of terms indicates the very highest view of the Person of Jesus, and it must be taken in conjunction with the fact that John has just recorded the confession of Thomas which hails Jesus as “My Lord and my God.” There cannot be any doubt but that John conceived of Jesus as the very incarnation of God.
Thus the apostolic testimony about Jesus that we should believe is contained in the written Word of God. The object of our faith is the Lord Jesus Christ, revealed in the signs that John has recorded, in Thomas’ testimony, and in John’s purpose statement.
3. Those who have not seen Jesus, but who believe the apostolic testimony, will be blessed.
Briefly, note four things:
A. The blessing is not for seers, but for believers.
Many saw Jesus and His miracles during His earthly ministry and heard His teaching, but they rejected Him (John 6:36). In Matthew 11:21-24, Jesus upbraids these seers who did not believe:
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
You’ll hear skeptics say, “If I could just see a miracle, I’d believe.” But that’s not true. Many in Jesus’ day saw His miracles, but they did not believe. Saving faith has three components: First, there must be knowledge of basic facts about Jesus and about human sin. Jesus is God in human flesh. He alone could atone for sins by satisfying God’s judgment, which He did when He died on the cross. We all are sinners who are justly guilty before God. Second, we must give assent to these facts as true. We cannot believe if we knowingly deny these truths. But the demons know these facts and believe that they are true.
So, there must be the third element: We must personally apply these facts by abandoning trust in ourselves or in our good works and trusting in Jesus and His death and resurrection to save us from God’s judgment. This saving faith necessarily includes repentance, or turning from our sin. It requires commitment and submission to Jesus as Lord.
To illustrate, you may know intellectually that airplanes can fly and you may agree that statistics show this to be true. But you won’t get to your destination unless you trust the pilot and the plane and commit yourself by getting on board.
B. The blessing is not for skeptics, critics, or doubters, but for believers.
You must approach the biblical witness to Jesus Christ with a teachable heart, being willing to obey God if He shows you that the witness is true. Jesus said (John 7:17), “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.” Here, the Lord graciously met Thomas’ skeptical demands by appearing to him and inviting him to touch Him. That gives hope to all doubters that He will be gracious to you if you seek Him. But if I may put it in non-theological language, don’t push your luck! You have the testimony of this doubter turned believer so that you will believe without seeing. Peter wrote to believers who had not seen Jesus, but were suffering persecution for their faith (1 Pet. 1:8-9): “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” The blessing is for those who have not seen Jesus, but believe the apostolic witness.
C. Believers have more than adequate evidence on which to rest their faith.
John could have written much, much more. But he selected these signs as adequate to convince us to put our trust in Jesus Christ. As we’ve seen (my message on John 20:1-10), there is solid evidence to believe in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Thomas’ conversion from adamant doubter to worshiping believer to eventual martyr shows that the evidence is trustworthy. Unbelief does not stem from faulty evidence, but from a heart that is in rebellion against the holy God.
D. The blessing for believers is eternal life in Jesus’ name.
There are many blessings for believers that John has already mentioned: We become children of God (John 1:12). We drink the living water that quenches our spiritual thirst (John 4:14). We escape from God’s future judgment (John 5:24). We are satisfied with Jesus as our Bread of life (John 6:35). We walk in His light so that we don’t stumble in the darkness (John 8:12). Our lives can be fruitful in light of eternity (John 15:1-8). We enjoy God’s love through Jesus, which fills us with joy (John 15:9-11). But all of these blessings and more that could be added are summed up in the term, “eternal life.”
We all will die physically (unless Jesus returns first), but as we’ve seen, He promises that whoever believes in Him will live, even if he dies (John 11:25). Eternal life is God’s life imparted to our souls. It means that we will never perish (John 3:16): “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” It means that we know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent (John 17:3). The blessing of eternal life is given “in Jesus’ name,” which means, in all that He is in His divine-human person and in all that He did in dying on the cross in our place.
In a sermon on these verses, Charles Spurgeon (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 27:653-664) pointed out that John sticks faithfully to his purpose. He omits some stories about himself which would have made him shine, such as being with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. As John states in verse 30, he left out many things that he could have written.
Rather, he gives a series of testimonies of people who were led to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. In chapter 1, Andrew finds his brother Peter and exclaims (John 1:41), “We have found the Messiah (which translated means Christ).” Then Philip finds Nathaniel and announces (John 1:45), “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And so it goes throughout the book: Nicodemus (chapter 3); the woman at the well (chapter 4); numerous witnesses in chapter 5; in John 6:69, Peter testifies, “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” John wrote so that you “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
So the question is: Have you believed in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God? Is He your Lord and God? Do you have life in His name? To go back to the airplane illustration, it’s not enough to believe the plane can fly; you’ve got to get on board. It’s not enough to believe that Jesus is Lord. You’ve got to get on board by trusting in Him as your Savior and Lord.
- What are some implications of the fact that God chose to reveal His truth in written form (rather than sending angels to tell us about Jesus)?
- Some argue that to preach that we must submit to Jesus as Lord to be saved is to add works to faith. Is it? Why/why not?
- What is the difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus? How does a person move from one to the other?
- How much does a person need to know about Jesus in order to believe in Him for salvation? Can he get saved if he believes in a false Jesus?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2015, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation
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