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Lord���s Day 17, 2011


I was glad when they said to me, ���Let us go to the house of the Lord.���

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Was Thy Wrath against the Sea?���
Christina Rossetti (1830���1894)

The sea laments with unappeasable
   Hankering wail of loss,
      Lifting its hands on high and passing by
         Out of the lovely light:
No foambow any more may crest that swell
   Of clamorous waves which toss;
      Lifting its hands on high it passes by
         From light into the night.
Peace, peace, thou sea! God���s wisdom worketh well,
   Assigns it crown or cross:
      Lift we all hands on high, and passing by
         Attest: God doeth right.

���Christina Rossetti, Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1993).

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John 20:24���31

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, ���We have seen the Lord!��� But he said to them, ���Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.���

26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ���Peace be with you.��� 27 Then He said to Thomas, ���Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.��� 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, ���My Lord and my God!��� 29 Jesus said to him, ���Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.���

30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 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.

imageThe story of the unbelief of Thomas, related in these verses, is a narrative peculiar to the Gospel of St. John. For wise and good reasons it is passed over in silence by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and was probably not given to the world until Thomas was dead. It is precisely one of those passages of Scripture which supply strong internal evidence of the honesty of the inspired writers. If impostors and deceivers had compiled the Bible for their own private advantage, they would never have told mankind that one of the first founders of a new religion behaved as Thomas here did.

We should mark, for one thing, in these verses, how much Christians may lose by not regularly attending the assemblies of God���s people. Thomas was absent the first time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, and consequently Thomas missed a blessing. Of course we have no certain proof that the absence of the Apostle could not admit of explanation. Yet, at such a crisis in the lives of the eleven, it seems highly improbable that he had any good reason for not being with his brethren, and it is far more likely that in some way he was to blame. One thing, at any rate, is clear and plain. By being absent he was kept in suspense and unbelief a whole week, while all around him were rejoicing in the thought of a risen Lord. It is difficult to suppose that this would have been the case, if there had not been a fault somewhere. It is hard to avoid the suspicion that Thomas was absent when he might have been present.

We shall all do well to remember the charge of the Apostle St. Paul: ���Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is.��� (Heb. x. 25.) Never to be absent from God���s house on Sundays, without good reason,���never to miss the Lord���s Supper when administered in our own congregation,���never to let our place be empty when means of grace are going on, this is one way to be a growing and prosperous Christian. The very sermon that we needlessly miss, may contain a precious word in season for our souls. The very assembly for prayer and praise from which we stay away, may be the very gathering that would have cheered, and established, and quickened our hearts. We little know how dependent our spiritual health is on little, regular, habitual helps, and how much we suffer if we miss our medicine. The wretched argument that many attend means of grace and are no better for them, should be no argument to a Christian. It may satisfy those who are blind to their own state, and destitute of grace, but it should never satisfy a real servant of Christ. Such an one should remember the words of Solomon������Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.��� (Prov. viii. 34.) Above all he should bind around his heart the Master���s promise: ���Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.��� ( Matt. xviii. 20.) Such a man will rarely be left like Thomas, shut out in the cold chill of unbelief, while others are warmed and filled.

We should mark for another thing in this verse, how kind and merciful Christ is to dull and slow believers. Nowhere, perhaps, in all the four Gospels, do we find this part of our Lord���s character so beautifully illustrated as in the story before our eyes. It is hard to imagine anything more tiresome and provoking than the conduct of Thomas, when even the testimony of ten faithful brethren had no effect on him, and he doggedly declared, ���Except I see with my own eyes and touch with my own hands, I will not believe.��� But it is impossible to imagine anything more patient and compassionate, than our Lord���s treatment of this weak disciple. He does not reject him, or dismiss him, or excommunicate him. He comes again at the end of a week, and apparently for the special benefit of Thomas. He deals with him according to his weakness, like a gentle nurse dealing with a froward child,������Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side.��� If nothing but the grossest, coarsest, most material evidence could satisfy him, even that evidence was supplied. Surely this was a love that passeth knowledge, and a patience that passeth understanding.

A passage of Scripture like this, we need not doubt, was written for the special comfort of all true believers. The Holy Ghost knew well that the dull, and the slow, and the stupid, and the doubting, are by far the commonest type of disciples in this evil world. The Holy Ghost has taken care to supply abundant evidence that Jesus is rich in patience as well as compassion, and that He bears with the infirmities of all His people. Let us take care that we drink into our Lord���s spirit, and copy His example. Let us never set down men in a low place, as gracious and godless, because their faith is feeble and their love is cold. Let us remember the case of Thomas, and be very compassionate and of tender mercy. Our Lord has many weak children in His family, many dull pupils in His school, many raw soldiers in His army, many lame sheep in His flock. Yet He bears with them all, and casts none away. Happy is that Christian who has learned to deal likewise with his brethren. There are many in the Church, who, like Thomas, are dull and slow, but for all that, like Thomas, are real and true believers.

We should mark, lastly, in these verses, how Christ was addressed by a disciple as ���God,��� without prohibition or rebuke on His part. The noble exclamation which burst from the lips of Thomas, when convinced that his Lord had risen indeed,���the noble exclamation, ���My Lord and my God,������admits of only one meaning. It was a distinct testimony to our blessed Lord���s divinity. It was a clear, unmistakable declaration that Thomas believed Him, whom he saw and touched that day, to be not only man, but God. Above all, it was a testimony which our Lord received and did not prohibit, and a declaration which He did not say one word to rebuke. When Cornelius fell down at the feet of Peter and would have worshiped him, the Apostle refused such honor at once: ���Stand up; I myself also am a man.��� (Acts x. 26.) When the people of Lystra would have done sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas, ���they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you.��� (Acts xiv. 14.) But when Thomas says to Jesus, ���My Lord and my God,��� the words do not elicit a syllable of reproof from our holy and truth-loving Master. Can we doubt that these things were written for our learning?

Let us settle it firmly in our minds that the divinity of Christ is one of the grand foundation truths of Christianity, and let us be willing to go to the stake rather than let it go. Unless our Lord Jesus is very God of very God, there is an end of His mediation, His atonement, His advocacy, His priesthood, His whole work of redemption. These glorious doctrines are useless blasphemies, unless Christ is divine. Forever let us bless God that the divinity of our Lord is taught everywhere in the Scriptures, and stands on evidence that can never be overthrown. Above all, let us daily repose our sinful souls on Christ with undoubting confidence, as one who is perfect God as well as perfect man. He is man, and therefore can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He is God, and therefore is ���able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him.��� That Christian has no cause to fear, who can look to Jesus by faith, and say with Thomas, ���My Lord and my God.��� With such a Saviour we need not be afraid to begin the life of real religion, and with such a Saviour we may boldly go on.

���J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker Books, 2007) [Westminster (PB) | Amazon (HC)].

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation
if you can possibly help it.
But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these.



Posted 2011·04·24 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Christina Rossetti · Expository Thoughts on the Gospels · Gospel of John · J C Ryle · Lord’s Day · Poems (Rossetti)

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