The second Sunday after Easter begins a replacement of the Old Testament Reading with one from the Book of Acts, chapter 5, verses 12-32 (Freed from prison); the Epistle from Revelation 1:4-18 (Jesus as the Ancient of Days) and the Gospel from John 20:19-31 (Resurrection appearances). Chosen to preach about this Sunday is John 20:29 when Jesus says to Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Without looking up the text, exactly what was it that Thomas now believed that he previously had doubted? Ask most people and they will respond that Thomas now believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. For those who suggest such an answer, Christian faith would then be agreement that Jesus rose from the dead. While that is true and important, it is not saving faith.
Is it not true that even unbelievers such as the ruling Pharisees believed that Jesus rose from the dead or why else would they pay the soldiers to lie about it? They did not disagree that Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead. So also, with the reported resurrection of Jesus Himself from the dead, it was considered to be another trick of Beelzebub, the devil.
However, is it not more likely that what Thomas said upon seeing Jesus would be what Jesus is referring to as what he believed. And what did he say? “My Lord and my God!” For you see, saving faith is not simply believing the historical events as recorded in the Bible. Rather, saving faith is trusting in the gracious promises connected specifically to the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ that He died FOR ME and that He rose FOR ME!
In fact, what Thomas doubted according to verse 25 is not simply that Jesus rose from the dead but the message from the other disciples, “We have seen the Lord.” Moreover, at the end of the reading we find those marvelous words that all which is written in the Bible has the purpose of producing the faith that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
What is the practical significance of making a distinction between faith that He rose from the dead and saving faith that He is our Lord, the Christ, the Son of God? The practical difference is that rather than spending so much time attempting to “prove” the resurrection using reason, our time is better spent in speaking the Gospel promises of the true result of that death and resurrection. For only the Gospel is the means of grace by which God converts and brings life.