Resurrection: The Skeptic Confronted

Bible Book: John  20
Subject: Resurrection; Easter


Dr. J. Mike Minnix, editor,

The Gospel of John

Easter Sunday - a day of joy and celebration among Christians in every part of the Church Age and everywhere in the world. But there are many people who simply do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – they are skeptics when it comes to the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I want us to look at Jesus' death and resurrection today, and how Jesus confronted a skeptic and brought him to believing faith.

One must admit that Christianity stands on the truth and fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul correctly asserted that if Christ is not raised from the dead, our faith is in vain. But, Christ is risen indeed! Not only was Jesus raised to life after His death on the cross, but He promised the same experience to all who trust Him as Lord and Savior. Our future and hope is built on the resurrection of Jesus. We need to know in our hearts the truth on this matter and to live in the confidence of God's promise of eternal life.

I. Death Encountered

Death is something that we don't really want to face or even think about, but it is a reality. Funeral homes are praised for their ability to make the dead look "natural”. We avoid conversation about death as much as possible, but the subject invades our lives again and again as we see those we know and love depart this world. When someone dies, we often find it difficult to know exactly what to say to the closest relatives and dear friends of the deceased.

A. The Reality of Death

John 20:1a "Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark..."

Death is a reality which none of us can escape. Yes, and the death of Jesus was a real death. The followers of Jesus were forced to face the reality of His death. Even when He was dying on the cross, they must have held out hope that He would do something - He would reveal His divine nature and defeat His enemies. But, no, Jesus died. When His body was taken from the cross, it was like any other dead body - empty of life. Surely the disciples must have felt hopeless and helpless in the face of this experience. Isn't that how we all feel when someone we love dies? We keep thinking that it just can't be true, but it is true. Death is a reality that cannot be denied.

My wife and I knew from childhood a couple of friends who married each other. In fact, the groom was a friend of mine from my earliest memories and the bride was a friend on Jayne in the same way. He and I joined the Army together and both served in Vietnam. We were both in Army aircraft companies, though we didn’t serve in the same company or in Vietnam at exactly the same time. After we returned from Vietnam, I entered entered college and began pastoring a small church while in school. He became a pilot for a small airline flying out of Atlanta, Georgia. Then the call came on a sunny day when all the world seemed to be just right. My friend Mike was the co-pilot on a plane that crashed leaving the Atlanta airport. He was gone! Just like that…he was dead! His wife, our friend, had a terrible time accepting it. She kept believing that somehow he had survived the crash and might come walking out of the woods still alive. But, he was gone. Death is so hard to accept, hard to talk about, but it is real!

B. The Perplexity of Death

Just why are we so perplexed when someone dies? It is almost as if we do not expect those we love to ever die. It is interesting that Jesus told His disciples more than once that He was going to die, yet they were shocked when it happened.

The reason we think it strange when someone dies is because man was not created to die. Look at Genesis 2:16-17. Satan lied to man. Look at Genesis 3:1-4. Man believed Satan's word and not God's word concerning death – and as a result, death came upon humanity. Death perplexes us because we were not made to die but to live. Sin brought death upon humanity. Death is an interloper - an intruder! Death is an enemy that only God can conquer.

II. Delight Experienced

John 20:1b-8 "...and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed."

How can we ever understand the joy of Mary and Peter who came and found that Jesus was alive? They went from tears to triumph in a matter of moments. There is no way they could have concocted a story that Jesus had risen. They were too crushed in heart and spirit to do that. They were living with the reality of death then, suddenly, they were confronted with the delight of new life!

Also, we need to remember that the women were afraid and so were the disciples. For them to make up a story about the resurrection would have been ridiculous on two levels.

First, the authorities could have simply produced the body of Jesus and proved the liars to be criminal in this matter. The disciples and the women would never had made up such a story about the resurrection if they knew that the body was available to disprove it! How foolish such an act would have proven to be!

Second, anyone saying that Jesus had risen from the dead was inviting persecution and likely a death penalty. No one would invite such a horrible death for a lie that could easily be proven. If someone suggests that the disciples hid the body of Jesus, they are juvenile in their thinking. Who would hide a body, say that the person had risen from the dead, and then face a certain persecution and horrible death for a foolish lie? No one!

The news here is simple:  Jesus rose! Jesus lives! Those who loved Him and believed in Him were delighted beyond words!

A. The Grave

They went to the tomb where Jesus had been laid and found that the stone moved from the door. They discovered the grave clothes of Jesus lying there in the tomb like a shell out of which the body had been extracted. Miracle of miracles, He was indeed alive. They knew in short order that it was impossible for a person to rob his body without disturbing the grave clothes. The grave which held such a foreboding image a few moments before suddenly became a place of worship for those women. That is why to this day many Christians all over the world meet in cemeteries at sunrise on Easter Sunday to worship. What a place for a celebration - only Christians do this! Only Christian CAN do this!

B. The Greeting

John 20:19-21, "19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

More important than the empty grave is the personal greeting which Jesus gave His disciples after His resurrection. Can you imagine the moment when Jesus greeted His disciples following His resurrection? I tremble when I think about it! How can we ever envision their joy or conceive the wonder they experienced.

Remember how I began this message. I talked about the sorrow of the disciples at the death of the Savior. I pointed out that we could not possibly know how confused, sad and disappointed they were at His passing. But, now, we come to consider how glad they were at His resurrection. This is something we cannot fully appreciate either - but one day we will. One day He shall greet us, our living King of kings.

III. Doubt Erased

John 20:24-29, " Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Even in the midst of this time of joy, there was one who doubted that Jesus had actually risen from the dead and his name was Thomas, one of the disciples of our Lord. He heard that Mary had seen Jesus. He heard that the disciples had seen Jesus as well. But, it was just too much for Him to accept the fact that Jesus was really alive.

We are often quick to criticize Thomas, but we need to image what the disciples had seen when Jesus died. The death on a cross was an awful experience, which even the Roman authorities prohibited for Roman citizens. Thomas had a problem believing that anyone, even Jesus, could be alive after the awful scourging He had experienced and the terrible moments He suffered on the cross itself.

Jesus was the only one who capable of erasing the doubt from the mind of Thomas. I love this part of the resurrection story. It tells us that the disciples did not make up the story of the resurrection - in fact, their first thought was that such a thing was impossible. Thomas held on to his doubt until Jesus final removed all doubt from his mind.

A. The Encounter with Thomas

One week after the resurrection, the disciples were together and Thomas was with them when Jesus appeared to them again. Thomas had told the other disciples that only one thing could possibly remove his doubt regarding their stories about the resurrection – he had to see for himself the nail prints in Jesus’ hands. Thomas went even further by saying that he also had to place his fingers in the scars on the hands of Jesus – only then would he be convinced that Jesus was in fact alive!

Jesus to the gathered disciples and Thomas was among them. He invited the doubting disciples to place his hands in the nail prints and to touch his side where the spear had penetrated His body while He was on the cross. The doubt of Thomas was overcome by faith. The fear was overcome by love. The hesitancy was overcome with worship. Thomas fell down on his face and cried out, "My Lord and My God." Doubt was defeated in the heart of Thomas!

The skeptic's arguments were slain by the presence of the Savior. Thomas did not need to touch Jesus. It was the awareness that the risen Savior was in the room. Jesus was there. Jesus! The same Jesus who had died on Friday was now alive. All Thomas could do was fall down and exclaim, "My Lord and My God."

B. The Encouragement for the Generations

Jesus pointed out something to Thomas that applies to us today. Jesus told Thomas that many will believe in His resurrection without seeing the nail prints or the scar in His side. Jesus wanted Thomas to know that faith alone can overcome doubt and the touch of Jesus in our hearts is just as powerful, and perhaps in some cases even more convincing of His resurrection, that simply seeing with our eyes.

Here we are today, proof that what Jesus told Thomas is true. I have never felt the nail prints in His risen hands, but I have felt His hand upon my heart, as many of you have. Our faith is even more powerful than our eyes. Yes, we know, as Thomas learned, that Jesus is alive forevermore.

We overcome doubt through faith. How did the devil initiate death to begin with? He did it by getting people to disbelieve God's Word about death. Do you know how the devil can keep you from eternal life today? He will defeat you if he can get you to doubt God's Word about life! Interesting, isn't it? It comes right down to where it all started - do you believe God's Word? Jesus told Thomas that all who would believe in Him, in his resurrection as Lord and Savior, would be blessed. Indeed! All who believe in Him are blessed with life -the overcoming of death!


Jesus is alive - nothing will ever be the same again. Death will never be the same to those who have trusted Him. When a person believes in the risen Christ, the risen Christ reveals that He is alive. He is in the room today. He promised to be where two or more would meet in His name. He promised to live in the hearts of those who turn from sin and trust Him as Lord and Savior. It is amazing, but true, that the moment you have faith to believe in the risen, living Savior, He becomes more real to you than life itself.

Now let's admit something as we close this Easter message. Thomas asked to see the nail prints of Jesus. He wanted to know that what the other disciples had told him was really true. Was Thomas wrong for this? Certainly he was not wrong. The others had seen the risen Christ. They, too, might not have believed had they not seen Jesus after His resurrection.

Jesus did not turn His back on Thomas even though Thomas had some doubts. Thomas did not turn his back on Jesus due to doubts about the resurrection. Thomas was there one week later when Jesus appeared. If Jesus had been upset with Thomas, He might have simply ignored that meeting altogether. If Thomas had been a complete doubter, he might not have attended the meeting at all. Thomas had enough faith to stick around and see if the story was true. Jesus had enough love to show up for Thomas. Thomas believed and he was glorious saved!

John 20:31, "31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."

Maybe someone here today has had some doubts. God hasn't given up on you. And, you are here - that tells me that you have not given up on God. Thomas and Jesus got together and the miracle of faith happened. Why don't you do that today? Turn to Christ and express your faith in Him and you will discover that Jesus keeps His word. Everyone who believes on Him, even when they have not seen everything, will be blessed - now and in eternity.

For those of us who have already believed and have been blessed with eternal life, let us rejoice on this Easter Sunday morning; and, let us recommit ourselves to live for the One who has conquered sin, death and hell for us.