John 20:19-31: "When, therefore, it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst. And He said to them, 'Peace be with you,' and when He had said this, He showed Himself, both His hands and His side; and the disciples therefore rejoiced that they saw the Lord.
And Jesus therefore said to them, 'Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them and He said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them, and if you retain the sins of any, their sins have been retained.'
But Thomas, one of the Twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. And the other disciples were therefore 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.'
And after eight days again, His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. And Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, 'Peace be with you.' Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.'
[The verse now that the Jehovah's Witnesses do not like --] Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'
And Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.'
Many are the signs, therefore, that Jesus also performed in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that, believing, you might have life in His name."
"Show me! Let me see! Show me!" Thomas was not there. Jesus' body and His resurrection teach about what our bodies will be like in the Resurrection. His resurrection is our resurrection. During the Millennial Reign of Jesus, there will be two kinds of people on the earth: there will be those who are resurrected, or were raptured, and reign with Christ; and then there will be those people who are born during the Millennium. The bodies of the ones who are born during the Millennium will be slightly different -- they'll be like the bodies of antediluvian man; the way people were before the Flood. Just as people lived to be hundreds of years old before the Flood, so they will during the Millennium. People born during the Millennial Reign of Jesus will actually live to be centuries old. When someone dies at the age of 120, Isaiah tells us, it will be like a pediatric fatality; it will be like crib death. People will actually live, as Methuselah did, to be hundreds of years old.
The others, however, will be like Jesus. His body was recognizable, but not at first. He was able to do things such as walk through walls, etc. One of the reasons we see Him eating with the disciples after He rose from the dead is that the Holy Spirit knew that later there would be heretics who would come, denying that the resurrection of Jesus was literal and physical. In the ancient church, they were called Docetists, but today they are the Jehovah's Witnesses. They deny that the resurrection actually happened. That is why, in the New Testament, whenever you see someone being raised from the dead you always see Jesus eating with them, or you see them being instructed to eat. When He raised the little girl from the dead, he instructed her parents to give her something to eat. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He eats with him immediately after that in John 12. Spiritual bodies do not need to eat; physical ones do. This testifies that the resurrection was literal.
But Thomas wasn't there; and he says, "Show me. You want me to believe in Jesus, show me. Let me see this body that was crucified, and is now alive." Thomas is what theologians would call a corporate solidarity. Corporate solidarity is the term for when one person represents a larger group of people; when one person is a sort of spiritual picture of a larger group of people. Thomas is a corporate solidarity, and he represents three different kinds of people:
The first group of people which Thomas, the Twin, called Didymus, represents is his fellow Jews. He says, "I will not believe that Jesus rose from the dead until I see the wounds in His hands." Look at the book of Zechariah chapter 12. In it we are told this: when Jesus comes back in the last days of the Great Tribulation, in verse 10 of chapter 12, "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication. So they will look upon Me whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son, and weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn." In the Great Tribulation at the end, the Jews will be gathered to Israel and to Jerusalem with the deception of the Antichrist, etc, and the nations will gather against Israel. Jesus comes back and saves them, they see the scars left by the nails in His hands, and then they believe.
If you know what's happening in the newspapers and on television concerning the quest for peace in Jerusalem, you have noticed that the issue is the final status of Jerusalem. That is what this chapter tells us would happen when Jesus comes back. "The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Jerusalem . . ." This chapter tells us in verse 2 that Jerusalem will be a heavy stone that causes reeling in all the people round about it, and all who lift it will hurt themselves grievously. The real issue in the Middle East will not be the final status of the Golan Heights or the West Bank or the Gaza Strip; it will be Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where Satan suffered his greatest defeat, and it is also where he will suffer his final defeat. There are tremendous spiritual forces at work in our world today, and the Middle East is increasingly going to be the center of it. Everything we see happening in Camp David and so on is becoming increasingly focused toward Zechariah 12. How will these events in the Middle East turn out? We know. We know what the State Department doesn't know, what the White House doesn't know, and what the United Nations doesn't know. We know that they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, and the Jews will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son.
That is the first corporate solidarity. Thomas is Twin, Didymus, with his fellow Jews. He mirrors them. "I won't believe until I see the One who is pierced."
The second corporate solidarity that Thomas is a picture of is the skepticism of all the apostles and disciples. He's the fall guy; he gets the rap. Even in English, we have the colloquialism, 'a doubting Thomas'. That, however, is not exactly fair or accurate, although the label is stuck. This is similar to how we always talk about Peter following at a distance, saying "Oh, how could Peter follow Jesus at a distance?" -- except that, apart from John, the other disciples weren't following at all. He doesn't get fair press, and neither does Thomas.
In Mark chapter 16, when we look at this synoptically, it says this (verse 11): "And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it." All the apostles were skeptical and doubting, but Thomas becomes the embodiment, the personification of their collective doubt.
Jesus revealed Himself to women first; you will always find this. But anything that God intends for good, the devil will twist to use for evil. Because of the fall of humanity, men have become insensitive and women have become hypersensitive. Women were always more sensitive than men, but because of the fall, the difference has sharply increased. Men are reliant on female sensitivity, and women are reliant on male protection. For instance, when a husband and wife get saved, most of the time it is the wife who gets saved first. When a husband is saved and his wife is not a believer, usually -- not always, but usually -- the wife will become a believer; water takes the shape of its container. However, when the boots are on the other feet and a woman has an unbelieving husband, it is much more difficult. Why is it easier for women to get saved? The reason is they are more sensitive and impressionable, traits that can be either assets or liabilities. It is easier for the Lord to reveal Himself to women, because of their sensitivity. So, too, when a husband and wife pray together in seeking direction from the Lord, usually the wife will hear from the Lord first. Men are reliant on female sensitivity, because since the fall, men have become insensitive.
On the other hand, anything that God intends for good, the devil will use for evil. Because women are more sensitive, they are also more vulnerable to spiritual seduction, to being misled in hearing the voice of a counterfeit spirit and thinking it to be the voice of the Holy Spirit or to being led by their feelings. Male authority in the Bible is not based on bigger muscles; it's based on protection. The serpent beguiled the woman; Satan beguiles and seduces, and women are more vulnerable to his seduction. Thus, just as men are reliant on female sensitivity, women are reliant on male protection. That is why the leadership in a church must be male, and why the husband and father must be the spiritual head of the family.
Jesus revealed Himself to women first; the others doubted. So Thomas represents the skepticism of the other apostles.
The third corporate solidarity that Thomas represents is the one we've all encountered: he personifies human skepticism. How many times have we witnessed to somebody -- a friend, a neighbor, a relative, somebody you met on the street, someone you gave a tract to -- and had them say basically the same thing Thomas said: "Show me. Where is He? I can't see Him. You tell me this Jesus was crucified to take away my sin, He rose from the dead, and is now alive. You say that this crucified body is alive; well, show me. Where is He? I can't see Him. Show me this body; then I'll believe. Why should I believe your Jesus instead of Mohammad, or Buddha, or Hare Krishna? Why should I believe your Book, the Bible, instead of the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Book of Mormon, or the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or the Koran? What makes your Book different? What makes your Jesus different? Why should I believe you? Show me! Let me see! Then I'll believe."
In trying to present the Gospel to modern society, even in the American Bible Belt, we're up against two things: Western rationalism, and Eastern irrationalism. Let's look first at Eastern irrationalism:
The churches in India are growing very quickly; I was in India recently. These Christians are impoverished, but their churches are growing.
Simply stated, Hinduism is not rational. When I was in India, I saw a heap of rubbish -- garbage -- with birds of prey pecking at the vermin crawling around in it. On top of it was a wooden frame -- not a bed, but a wooden frame with some rope on it -- and a baby boy, probably less than two years old, covered with lice and filth, probably HIV positive, lying on top of it and slowly dying of malnutrition. Right up the road, beautifully groomed cows are overfed. The life of a cow is valued more highly than the life of a baby. That is their religion. "That's OK; that's his karma, because of what he did in his last life." It is not rational, but it's their religion. It's not rational for a human being to drink cow urine, but they do it. It is not rational to take water from the Ganges River and, because you believe it to be sacred, give it to an infant who dies of cholera as a result. This is not rational; you cannot tell them that the water is rife with microorganisms and bacteria, because they believe it to be sacred. There is no reason in their religion.
It's no wonder people in India are turning from it towards Christ! As the New Testament says, our faith is rational and reasonable. It says in the book of Isaiah chapter 1 verse 18, "Come, let us reason together, says the Lord." I am not saying that our faith is intellectual; it is not intellectual, but it is intellectually defensible. There is an apologetic for it -- it is rational and plausible, and there is evidence for it. Hinduism is a blind faith. Yet what is very strange to me is that when I get on a plane from India and go home to England or come to the United States, I see people in the West turning from Christianity to gurus, to transcendental meditation, to New Age, to Eastern religion. Look at what those religions have done to India.
There is a church in the American South, which includes people of different racial backgrounds. The pastor has adopted children of other color. A few generations ago in the South, that would not have been socially acceptable. At least where you had a Judeo-Christian ethic, at least where you had a Biblical premise, people understood that bigotry was morally wrong and that social injustice shouldn't exist. In India, however, that's their religion. "That's his karma."
Social injustice is therefore socially acceptable; it is the natural order. There is no sense of it being wrong. At least in the South there was an awareness that it was wrong and needed to be corrected, because people are all made in God's image and likeness, and Jesus died for the sin of others just as much as for ours. Not in India. Yet you see people in the West embracing these Eastern religions. I got the book "Death of a Guru", about a guru who got saved, to George Harrison of the Beatles, who is a Hindu.
He builds temples for the Hare Krishna all over England, and he was so angered by the book that he threw it. I said, "Look, do you think that if you had been born in the slums of Calcutta instead of in the slums of Liverpool you would be living in that castle today? Look at what that religion has done to that country." A few weeks later, he was stabbed in the heart in that castle. Look at what it's done! Eastern irrationalism: it is not rational, but people believe it.
So this is what we're up against: Eastern irrationalism. The Western democracies, American society included, are post-Christian and neo-pagan. People are turning to New Age religion, even in the South. The stuff that began in California, in England and up north, is now in the South as well. I saw Vice-President Gore, who is from Arkansas, on television with Buddhist monks.
"Show me! Why should I believe your Jesus instead of Buddhism? Why should I believe your Bible instead of the Bhagavad-Gita, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or the Koran? Why should I believe your Jesus instead of Mohammad, instead of Joseph Smith? (The Mormons have a different Jesus entirely, who is not the Jesus of the Bible.) Why should I believe your Jesus instead of the one spoken of by Joseph Smith, the Jesus who is a half-brother of the devil?"
Is the answer to this because Christians are more moral? Friends, there are Protestant denominations ordaining homosexuals; Mormons won't do that. Moslems won't do that. Is it because we have such a wonderful testimony for Jesus that they'll believe us? I wish that were true. When I turn on the idiot box, I see the so-called Christian television -- those con artists twisting the Gospel to con money out of people, perverting the Christian message. Their god is Mammon, not the true God. They are teaching the sin of covetousness and calling it 'faith'. They have faith in 'faith', not faith in Jesus. If I were not by the grace of God saved already and I turned on the television to see those con men, those heretics from hell, who are the false prophets whom Jesus warned would come in the last days -- if that's what I saw, I would not want to become a Christian. I would think that being born-again was a con job. Why should the world believe us? That is what they see.
"Why should I believe? What, these con men? No. Show me, then I'll believe. I've seen the TV." I've seen the so-called Christian President from Arkansas in a so-called evangelical church in Chicago -- and noticed that his position on homosexuality and abortion-on-demand never came up. If Isaiah or Jeremiah had interviewed a king, those are the very issues they would have aimed for.
"Show me! I've heard the talk, I've seen the TV, I've seen what your born-again is, and I don't want to hear any more. Now; show me. Show me why I should believe this instead of the Mormons." There is a reason Mormonism is growing; despite the fact that what they believe is crazy, there is a reason for their growth. I have seen how Islam has grown in England. It is already beginning to grow in America. It begins in the black community -- ironic, considering the fact that Islam is a religion which has never done anything but enslave black people -- and right as we speak, black Christians are being murdered in the Sudan and in Nigeria by Moslems.
In Israel we had our son's Bar Mitzvah in April, and while there we had a Jewish lady speak to us. She had been born in the Ukraine, in a Jewish community with 7,000 people. And of the 7,000, when the Nazis invaded, three survived. Herself, her baby brother, and one other escaped miraculously. The Nazis killed the rest of the Jews; all 7,000, including her parents, her brothers and her sisters. Not only did they kill them, however; they killed them in the name of Jesus Christ. My wife's parents are Holocaust survivors; Jews from Romania. If you were to ask my wife's mother what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is, she will tell you: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Jewish children being put into an oven in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. It is difficult to explain to them the difference between a saved Christian and what they think of as Christian.
Yet this Jewish woman at my son's Bar Mitzvah became a believer in Jesus. How did she become a believer in Jesus when her whole family was murdered in His name? She told us the story: She met true Christians who were willing to risk their lives to save hers.
When I go to Hong Kong, I go and I pick up Bibles, and pack them very carefully. I don't get my laundry done for weeks -- socks, underwear, and sweaty T-shirts are the best -- and I wrap the Bibles in my laundry. If a Communist customs agent opens my suitcases, he will not want to search too diligently. (Before I was saved, I smuggled hashish.) When I go through to China with the Bibles, those people are hungry. They'll all take a Bible. They will listen to anything you have to say, if they know English. As a matter of fact, in some cases they'll risk their lives to take a Bible. They can be arrested for taking a Bible from a Westerner.
I know people who know a Chinese pastor who spent 34 years in prison under Mao. When the Communists took over China in the late 1940's, there were no more than one million born-again believers known of in China. Going back to the time of Hudson Taylor, who began the first modern missions to China, never more than a million Christians; that's not a lot, for a country with a population the size of China's even then. Of course when the Communists took over, they thought that was the end. All of the missionaries were deported back to America, Australia, and Britain, Bibles were outlawed, and all the indigenous Chinese leaders, such as Watchman Nee, were arrested. Many were killed and people thought that was the end of Christianity in China.
Until the Bamboo Curtain lifted just a little bit; and we found out that now the average Christian's name is not 'Smith' or 'Jones', or even 'Lieberwitz'; it is Ping. Nobody knows how many tens of millions of Christians there are in China, but they know that the churches grew under the Cultural Revolution.