Matthew chapter 10. And we have the happy privilege these days, as we go through the gospel of Matthew, of focusing in this tenth chapter on the Master’s men: those very special individuals who were chosen by our Lord to be His disciples. Later to be His apostles sent to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. It’s a tremendous thrill for me, and I trust for you as well, to find out that these men chosen as the personal agents of Jesus Christ, these men that we imagine so often to be stained glass saints with some kind of holy perfection that has eluded the rest of us, are nothing more than people just like we are, and that God is in the business of using all kinds of people to do very, very high level, divine, spiritual and eternal tasks. It struck me, particularly this week, as I was thinking about the apostles, how few there were of them. You know, when we think about a church having a great impact, we think about a church having a lot of people. I was talking to a gentleman yesterday from Europe who said to me, “You know, it’s so difficult for us because we only have 29 people in our church.” And he said, “I live in a city, the city of Lyon, which has two million people and there are only 15 churches and most of them don’t have any impact at all. The odds are so much against us.” And yet as you study the disciples you find that these 12, really 11, were pitted against not only the human system but the demon system as well. Just 11 faithful men, not particularly gifted either.
As we saw last week, all of them basically unqualified for the task. And yet, these men literally turned the world upside down. It is amazing what God can do with just a very few people. Humanly speaking, the world hails the few who attack the many, you know? I mean, when an individual goes up against great odds, the world esteems them heroes even if they lose. Some of you, perhaps, remember from your days of literature reading “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” The 600 at Balaklava, the heights were manned by skilled soldiers standing behind a vast circle of cannons. The command went forth, “Forward the Light Brigade; charge for the guns.” The soldiers knew they were totally outmanned, they knew that there was no way they could win. They knew that someone had blundered in the command, but theirs was not to reason why, theirs was but to do or die. And the poet says, “Half a league, half a league, half a league, onward all into the valley of death marched the six hundred. Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them. Cannon in front of them, volleyed and thundered. Stormed at with shot and shell. Boldly they rode and well. Into the valley of death. Into the mouth of hell, rode the 600.” They are remaining through history as heroes, not because they won but because they were so few against so many and it speaks of such courage and such devotion to duty.
And then, there was that great charge that we know as The Charge of Pickett in the Civil War. The Union Army had the heights. They had the heights manned with three times the number of men Pickett had in his command. They were supported in the rear by a powerful armed battery, and yet General Lee gave the command to charge. The command came through his subordinate General Longstreet, and Longstreet faced Pickett who was to lead the men and he couldn’t speak. And he stood, hesitatingly, without saying a word, and Pickett said to him, “General, shall I go forward?” And Longstreet, almost brokenhearted at the prospect of the inevitable death of the flower of the Southern Army, couldn’t speak a word, so he merely nodded his head. And Pickett went and the Charge of Pickett was the great heroic charge of the Civil War but the men fell like grass before the sickle.
We remember their courage. We remember their devotion of duty, but they lost. I believe there are some more amazing things than this. You see, man may be courageous. Man may be devoted to fulfill his duty. But he is still man. And because he is weak, he cannot overcome certain odds. But quite the contrary is it when God gets into the act. For God can take a very few, fewer than the 600 and fewer than Pickett had, and He can overrun the most vast enemy of all.
Shamgar, a judge in Israel, one day picks up an ox goad, a sharpened stick used to prod an ox, and with it kills 600 enemies. And then, there was Deborah and Barak. And soon after the great victory of Deborah and Barak, a new enemy arose in the land of Israel, the enemy was the Midianites. And in league with the Amalekites, they sort of dominated Israel for seven years. Israel came to the place where they were about ready to give in to this oppressing domination when God raised up a very unique man by the name of Gideon. Gideon was ready to do battle with the Midianites and their allies the Amalekites, and he gathered his army and his army numbered 32,000 men. God said, “That’s too many. That’s 31,700 too many.” And He cut it down to 300 men. And in Judges 7:12, it describes the enemy: “And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley,” and it was the valley of Moab, “and they were like grasshoppers for multitude, and their camels were without number like the sand by the seaside for multitude.” It doesn’t mean that God couldn’t count them; it means that standing there and looking there was no way you could sort out heads or animals to make a count. They were just like the sea sand. And here was Gideon with his 300. You know who won? Gideon, and all he did was make a bunch of noise, and the Midianites and the Amalekites all killed each other in the confusion.
You see, when you add the supernatural, then the few not only become heroes because of their courage and their devotion, but because of their victory.
One more illustration, and maybe this sums up the point. First Samuel chapter 13. Turn to it for a moment. The seemingly endless struggle with the Philistines is going on. Saul is the reigning monarch of the people of Israel, and they again face a battle with the Philistines. They are in a severe situation, very bad. And as you flow through chapter 13 it goes from bad to worse to worst. Verse 5, 1 Samuel 13: “The Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and people like the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. And they came up and encamped in Michmash, eastward from Beth Aven.” Now, here is an overwhelming enemy, literally overwhelming enemy. “And when the men of Israel saw that they were hedged in, for the people were distressed, the people did hide themselves in caves and thickets and rocks and high places and pits.” You just get the picture, they see these Philistines, everybody dives for the nearest cover, jumping in holes and caves, and behind the bushes, climbing hills. And some of the Hebrews, verse 7 says, even went over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. They got out of the country; they left the nation. “And Saul was in Gilgal and everybody else was shaking.” Overwhelming enemy. Verse 8: “He tarried there seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed; but Samuel came not to Gilgal and the people were scattered from him.” He’s getting a little antsy now. “And Saul said, Bring here a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings.”
Now, he’s getting so nervous that he’s going to do something religious to get God involved. And so, verse 9 says he offered a burnt offering. And Saul said, “Bring this burnt offering,” and he offered the burnt offering. Now, the problem with that is there was only one personality in the land that was permitted to carry out the offering of an offering and who was it? Priest. Saul is intruding into the office of a priest. “It came to pass as soon as he had ceased offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came and Saul went out to meet him, that he might bless him.” Now, he’s going to act real religious, see, real spiritual. “And Samuel said, ‘What have you done?’ And Saul said, ‘Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed,’“ and he knew that he was a representative of God and he wasn’t there, “And the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash.” And he’s going in to all of these excuses. Well, you weren’t here, and the time was running out and the Philistines were there and I said, “The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal,” self-defense. You know, I’m going to get it. “And I haven’t made supplication to the Lord, and I forced myself therefore.” In other words, I just knew I shouldn’t do it, but I just made myself do it, and offered a burnt offering. “And Samuel said to Saul, ‘Thou hast done foolishly; thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which He commanded thee; for now would the Lord have established thy Kingdom upon Israel forever.’“ If you’d just obeyed God, God would have defeated the Philistines and established your Kingdom for good.
“But,” verse 14, “now thy Kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart.” Who was that? David, the next king. “And the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over His people because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded.” Your disobedience got you nothing. Now, the problem to begin with was an overwhelming enemy and now the problem is a lack of a leader. They not only have an overwhelming enemy, but they’ve just lost their leader. To make it worse, verse 19: “There was no blacksmith throughout all the land of Israel. For the Philistines said, ‘Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.’“ Apparently, the Philistines had sort of eliminated all the blacksmiths so they couldn’t make any weapons. “So, all the Israelites,” verse 20, “went down to the Philistines to sharpen every man his plowshare, and his mattock, and his axe, and his sickle. And they had a file for the sickles and the mattocks and the forks and the axes to sharpen the goads.” In other words, all they had left was farm implements, and so they were all there sharpening their farm implements to use in this war, and the only people who had a sword, it says in verse 22, were Saul and Jonathan.
Third problem. Number one, overwhelming enemy; number two, no leader; number three, inadequate weapons. They really are in trouble. Now, watch what happens. “Jonathan says to the young man that bears his armor,” chapter 14 verse 1, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine’s garrison, that’s on the other side.” You say, now, wait a minute, Jonathan, what are you going to do? You take your armor. The armor bearer was usually a small boy. What are you going to take this little kid and go do this for? What’s the point? Verse 6 kind of crystallizes it. This is a key verse: “And Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, Come, let’s go over to the garrison to the uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us.” Now, watch this line, here’s the key, “For there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by,” what? “Few.” Did you get that? It doesn’t matter to God whether you have a lot or a little. That is never the issue with Him. He can put all of His divine power through one person as easily as He could put it through a multitude. It doesn’t matter to the Lord. Verse 7: “His armor bearer said to him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thine heart.” Now, that’s a good little guy. That’s a good guy. “All right,” Jonathan says, “you and me, let’s go over there and take on the Philistines.” And he says in verse 10: “If they say, ‘Come up unto us; then we’ll go up: for the Lord hath delivered them into our hand and this shall be a sign.’“ In other words, God, we’re going to trust You to give us a sign. If they say come up we’ll say the Lord’s going to give them to us, and we’ll go right up. The Philistines are up on the heights and they’re down below.
And so, they got there, verse 11, and they said, “Hey up there, it’s Jonathan and my armor bearer.” Verse 11: “And both of them disclosed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, ‘Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they’ve hidden themselves.’ And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armor bearer, and said, ‘Come up to us and we will show you something.’“ We’ll show you your head is what they meant. “And Jonathan said to his armor bearer, ‘Come up after me for the Lord has delivered them into the hand of Israel.’“ Now, that is faith, folks, that is faith. The victory is ours, let’s go. And so, they started climbing up this, whatever it is, cliff or hillside, verse 13: “And Jonathan climbs on his hands and his feet.” Here he is crawling up the thing on four. “And his armor bearer is coming up behind him.” And they got to the top and they fell before Jonathan and his armor bearer. They slew all of them. “And the first slaughter which Jonathan and his armor bearer made is about 20 men.” And you can imagine that little guy wondering what in the world was going on, when all these guys were dropping at his feet. I don’t know what he was using. “And the earth started to quake, and everything started shaking and trembling.” And before the whole thing was over, you can drop all the way down really to verse 22: “All the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in Mount Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in the battle. So, the Lord saved Israel that day.”
Now, listen, here’s the point: God is not restrained by many or by few. It doesn’t matter. Not only can God make them heroes because of their courage and their devotion but because of their victory.
Now, let’s go back to Matthew 10, and with that as a background, remind ourselves of the uniqueness of these 12 men. 12 men who literally turned the world upside down. Not only were they heroes because of their courage, because of their devotion, their obedience but because they accomplished their goal. They literally established the church, and you and I are the product of their work. They touched a whole world. They extended the Kingdom, just these 12, one of them unfaithful; 11 faithful, humble, simple people just like us.
And we’re right back where we started, people. Listen, what kind of people does God use? He uses the common kind like we are. He uses the unqualified. Remember last week? God is in the business of accepting unqualified people because nobody’s qualified. The Lord uses strong, bold leaders like Peter who take charge, initiate plans, strategize, confront, command people, and who make big, big blunders. And He uses humble, gentle, inconspicuous souls like Andrew who seek no prominence, but quietly bring people to Christ. And He uses zealous, passionate, uncompromising task-oriented, insensitive, ambitious men like James, as well as sensitive, tender, loving people oriented, believing, intimate truth-seekers like John. And He uses skeptical, analytical, mechanical, slow-witted, weak-faithed, visionless, pessimistic, insecure men like Philip. And He uses seekers of truth, honest, open, clear-minded, meditative, deeply surrendered men like Nathanael Bartholomew who are full of faith and understanding, and yet who are flawed by serious sin such as prejudice.
Now, we’re going to meet two others that He uses this morning; Matthew and Thomas. Verse 3. The second group of four is Philip, Bartholomew or Nathanael, Thomas, and Matthew. Let’s take Matthew first, because we have already examined something of Matthew’s life in looking at chapter 9. Matthew is mentioned in every list, always in the same group, but nothing is ever said about Matthew, and nothing is ever said by Matthew except one tiny little thing. And look in Matthew 9:9, and that’s where you find it. Mark and Luke both allude to the same thing in just the same few words, and that is the extent of everything we know about Matthew. “And as Jesus passed forth from there He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and He saith unto him, ‘Follow Me.’ And he arose and followed Him.” And when Matthew puts his name in the list in chapter 10 verse 3 he says: “Matthew the tax collector.” And may I hasten to add that no other disciple in the list is ever associated with his job. Why does Matthew say, Matthew the tax collector? I mean, that’s not something you’re proud of. No. A tax collector was the most hated, despised, despicable human being in the society of Israel. And Matthew is showing us his genuine humility, and sense of sinful unworthiness.
Why does Matthew even comment about himself in verse 9? “As Jesus passed forth from there He saw a man named Matthew and He said, ‘Follow Me.’“ What is the point of putting that there? The point is: in verses 1 to 8, Matthew is giving a demonstration that Jesus came to forgive sin. Verse 5: “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” Verse 6: “The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.” And Matthew slips himself in there in one verse to show that indeed Jesus can forgive sin, for he sees himself as the vilest sinner. It may be a reason, that may be a reason why Matthew never speaks. He never asks a question. He never makes a comment. He never appears in an incident. He just is absolutely faceless and voiceless through the entire narrative of the gospels. And it may be that his humility was born out of his overwhelming sense of sinfulness, that he was so overwrought by the sin of his life, that once forgiven, grace was so superabundant in his case that he felt himself unworthy to even speak a word. And so, he is the silent man, until the Spirit of God asks him to pick up his pen. And then, he is given the privilege of writing the opening of the New Testament: 28 chapters on the majesty of the King of Kings Himself.
Matthew was a traitor. Matthew was an extortioner. Matthew was a robber and a thief. Matthew was greedy. Matthew was a social pariah, or outcast. And he knew it. You see, to be a tax collector is to be a publican. And what that meant was, that you as a Jew were used by the Roman government to collect taxes from the Jews to give to Rome. You then sort of worked for the oppressor. You were a traitor, first class. And not only that, but you bought the right to collect taxes, so you paid the government. You bought into the system. And then, the government would stipulate a certain amount of tax that had to be collected, and that was given to Rome. And then, you were free to collect anything more you could from the people, and that you kept for yourself. And so, there were bribes, and extortionist’s routes taken, abuses beyond what we could even dream. They hated a tax collector so much that the Talmud said, “It is righteous to lie and deceive a tax collector.” That is the Talmud says that, not the Bible, so keep that in mind. No tax collector was ever permitted to testify in a court of law because everyone knew they were liars, and took bribes. No tax collector or publican could ever enter a synagogue or a temple to worship God because they were cut off from God. And that’s why in Luke 18 when you have the publican, it says, “And the publican standing a far off, beat on his breast and said, Lord, be merciful to me,” a what? “A sinner.” He couldn’t even go in the place. They were the worst, turned their back on their people, bought into an evil oppressive system. A pagan, uncircumcised system where the people worshipped a false god, the emperor, traitors.
There were two kinds. There were Gabbai — g—a-b-b-a—i. They were the general tax collectors; they collected property tax, income tax, poll tax, standardized. There was not apparently as much graft at that level. Then, there were the Mokhes - m-o—k-h-e-s. They collected the duties. They collected duty on everything. They set up their little deal where the roads crossed and they collected on all import, all export, all items bought, all items sold. They set tolls on roads, tolls on bridges, tolls on harbors. They set tolls on axles, how many legs on your donkey, packages, letters, you name it, everything. Everything.
That was Matthew. He was a Mokhes, taxed everything. There were two kinds of Mokhes. There was one who was called a Great Mokhes. He was a guy who hired some hireling to do the tax collecting, and he faded into the background. He didn’t really want to be associated with the actual activity itself. And he retained a little more dignity because he backed off. That was called a Great Mokhes. Then, there was the Little Mokhes, the small Mokhes. He was too cheap to hire somebody to collect the taxes, he was so greedy he did it himself, and didn’t care about the social stigma. And Matthew was that, a Little Mokhes. He was, verse 9, “Sitting at the tax office himself.” Greedy extortioner, traitor to his people.
I think what makes it so fascinating to me also: he also had a name Levi, which indicates that he really was in the flow of Jewish tradition. And what also is interesting is that in the gospel of Matthew, you might be interested to note, there are more quotes of the Old Testament than in Mark, Luke and John combined. So, Matthew knew the Old Testament. In fact, he quotes out of the three sections of the Old Testament that a Jew knew: the law, the prophets, and the Hagiographa, the Holy Writings. Matthew knew the law of God in the Old Testament. And yet, we have no idea of him at all being interested in spiritual things. But when Jesus comes along, verse 9, He says to him, “Follow Me,” and he arose and followed Him. Instantly.
Now, what is involved in this? First of all, he just walked away from his career. I mean, it wasn’t like the earlier guys who were fishermen. If they didn’t like what went on with Jesus there were always fish. Right? And there were always nets. And there were always boats. And they could go back. And in fact, they did in John 21, they all went back fishing. And the Lord showed them they couldn’t catch anything. But when Matthew walked away from that table, believe me, the Roman government would have somebody there the next day. And somebody was in line to buy into that, and he was cutting off his career for good. No lingering. Also, he was identifying with somebody who was equally rejected by the establishment, for the Pharisees and the scribes hated Jesus as much or more as they hated him as a publican. So, he was really going from the frying pan into the fire. It’s a high price he paid.
You say, well, why did he do that? Well, I’ll tell you why he did it. There is only one reason. This little section in chapter 9, the thread that keeps weaving its way through here, is the forgiveness of sin. In verse 10, Matthew calls a feast after Jesus calls him. And he gets together tax collectors and sinners. And Jesus is the guest of honor at the feast. You’ll remember when we studied that. And the Pharisees say, “Well, why does He hang around with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus says, “They that are well need not a physician but they that are sick. You better go and relearn your lesson that I am come not to call the righteous but,” what? “Sinners to repentance.” The point of the banquet then, was for Jesus to call sinners to repentance. So, the whole thread here is confession of sin, repentance and forgiveness, and Matthew plops himself in there because I think that’s the issue with him. Nobody in the world knew better his sin than Matthew knew. He knew he was a sinner. He knew his graft, his abuse, his extortion, his greed. He knew that he had betrayed his people. He knew that he could be bought for money. He knew that. And I believe he despised it. I believe he wanted out. I believe he wanted a way to get away from it, and he had heard about Jesus, and he had heard Him preach because he was in that little town of Capernaum. And I believe when Jesus came to him and said, “Follow Me,” he knew that inherent in that was the forgiveness of sin, and he ran to get that. And he was willing to say goodbye to his career and everything else because he wanted forgiveness.
What kind of people does God use? Stained glass saints? No. Vile, wretched, rotten sinners, the most despicable people in society who are willing to be forgiven. You say, yeah, but He can’t use them for much. Oh? How about writing the gospel that introduces the New Testament? You see, God is in the restoration business. He takes the unqualified and transforms them. That’s His business. And I believe Matthew risked a lot more than the fishermen did, because he could never go back. And he was a vile sinner. What if Jesus couldn’t forgive him? There he would be stuck with the same sin and no job to go back to. But he quietly forsook all. And the genuineness of his repentance, I believe, is found in the fact that you see his humility. He is utterly humble. He has nothing to say about himself. He has nothing to say about his talent and what he has to offer the Lord. The only thing he wants to say is: Jesus forgives sin and one of the ones He forgave was a man named Matthew, who was really a sinner, and whose only friends were a lot of other sinners, tax collectors and sinners.
And so, we learn about his humility. I think we learn another thing. He had a heart for the lost. There are some people in this world who just kind of gravitate to the down and outers, you know? That must have been Matthew. I mean, if ever there was a discussion about whether the disciples ought to get involved with some riffraff, I’m sure Matthew would have led the parade toward the riffraff, having been one. I’m glad that when the Lord puts together a team of men, He takes some from out of the deepest pit, or some of us might never be willing to go back into that pit not knowing that something can really happen there, and that was Matthew.
What a man. A criminal, an outcast, the most hated of men. He was utterly convinced of his sin, and when given an opportunity to believe, he believed and he followed. He became a man of quiet humility who loved the outcasts, who gave no place to the religious establishment, a man of great faith, a man of total and utter surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and a man who knew the Old Testament, and a man that God used to write the gospel. One writer calls it “The glorious unconventionality of the Lord Jesus Christ: he chooses the most unlikely people.”
That brings us to the last man in group two: Thomas, is his name. And immediately when I say Thomas, what is the first word you think of? Doubt. Thomas has gotten bad press. Thomas is a better man than you think. In fact, I’m convinced that most people really don’t understand Thomas. We just say Thomas the doubter. I think you’re going to learn some things about Thomas you didn’t know in the next few minutes. Listen.
Matthew, Mark and Luke give us nothing about Thomas. But John again, always digging into the heart of people, opens Thomas up to us. John chapter 11, we look at three very brief texts. John chapter 11. Let’s really get to know Thomas. Verse 14, the Lord is up by the Jordan River and the Lord is out of the city of Jerusalem, the pressure has been tremendous, the plot to take His life has been hatched. In fact, they had to get out of Jerusalem because His time was not yet come and He had to do it to preserve His life. He and the disciples are up by the Jordan. The report comes to them that Lazarus is sick. That is significant because Jesus loves Lazarus in a very special way. Verse 14, Jesus has tarried to give sufficient time for Lazarus to die and then says this: “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad.” Now, wait a minute, why are You glad? “For your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for the reason that you may believe.” In other words, I’m going to do a miracle to increase your faith. They were a weak bunch, weren’t they, as we’ve learned. And they always needed some kind of demonstration of His power. And so, He says he’s dead, and I’m glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there, because now you’re going to see something that will make you believe.
Then, verse 15: “Let us go unto him.” Let’s go. Now, where was Lazarus? Bethany. Where’s Bethany? Two miles east of Jerusalem. Now, that is a scary announcement because all the disciples can think about is, “Oh, this is suicide, this is absolute suicide. We can’t go back to Jerusalem.” And the implication is that they’re sort of beginning a little disintegration, and some of the guys are probably saying, “I think I’m going to go see my, my old friend in Galilee.” Jerusalem. And Thomas apparently moves into this situation with some leadership, verse 16: “Then,” said Thomas, who is called Didymus, which means the twin, he had a twin brother or sister likely. “And he says to the fellow disciples, ‘Let’s also go that we may die with Him.’“
Now, I see several things in that. First of all I see a certain amount of initiative. Don’t you see that? He kind of takes over doesn’t he? He kind of rises to the top and says, “Wait a minute, guys, let’s go with Him and die with Him.” I also see pessimism, don’t you? I see some pessimism. Now, he was convinced Jesus was going to be killed. And if they went, they would die. I mean, it was all very clear to him.
You know, the greatest courage in the world is not the courage of an optimist. An optimist is couraged, has courage because he believes the best will happen. The greatest courage in the world is the courage of a pessimist because he knows the worse is going to happen and is willing to go anyway. You see? Thomas says, “We’ll die, so let’s go.” That’s a lot of courage. I think it was cut and dry with him; he had already figured out his epitaph and everything. He could only see disaster but he was grimly determined to die with Christ. Much tougher for a pessimist than an optimist.
Now, why does he want to do this? You know, if you think of him only as a doubter, if you really think that Thomas doubted Christ, then this doesn’t make any sense. I mean, why was he willing to go die with Jesus? Not because he doubted Him, but because he so totally believed Him. He so utterly believed Him. I believe this: I believe that Thomas, perhaps only equaled by John, had such a deep and intense love for Jesus that he could not endure existence without Him. Do you understand that? And I believe what he’s reflecting here is: if Jesus is going to die, then let’s go die with Him, because the alternative is to be without Him. You see? Let’s go with Him. Let’s go with Him. These are the words of love. These are the words of faith. He believed he could die and be with Jesus. Herbert Lockyer says, “Like those brave knights in attendance upon the blind King John of Bohemia who rode into the Battle of Crecy with their bridles intertwined with that of their master, resolved to share his fate, whatever it might be. So Thomas, come life, come death, was resolved not to forsake his Lord seeing he was bound to Him by a deep and enthusiastic love.” End quote.
He had no illusions. He saw the jaws of death. He was willing to die. A man of courage and a man of love. He did not want to be separated from Christ. Put it this way: death, yes; disloyalty, never. He could never be disloyal to Jesus. He could die for Him before he’d be disloyal. That’s how deep his love. Go to chapter 14 and we see him again, and the same attitudes come out again. Jesus gives this little message about letting not your heart be troubled, and believing in God, and He’s going to prepare a place for you, and I’ll come again and receive you unto Myself and where I am there you may be also, and whither I go you know, and the way you know. He says, “You know where I am going and you know how to get there.” Verse 5: “Thomas saith unto Him, ‘Lord, we know not where Thou goest and how can we know the way?’“ This is the same heart that’s saying, “Lord, don’t You go somewhere where we can’t come.” It’s the same thing. The thought of separation was the issue with Thomas. I don’t like what I hear. You’re going to go, and we’re not going to know where You are or how to get there. His heart, I think, is nearly broken as he speaks. And he’s a pessimistic, and he says, “We’ll never find the place.” It’s a bleak, negative, bewildered heart.
Jesus tells him, “Thomas, I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” What He’s saying is, “I’ll take you, Thomas. I’ll take you there. I’m the way, you don’t have to fear. I’m not going to go someplace and leave you.” You see the same pessimism again, don’t you? And you see the same love again.
Let’s go to a third and last look at Thomas. John 20. Jesus died. You know what happened to Thomas when Jesus died? He said, “I knew it. He died, and I didn’t die, and He went somewhere, and I don’t know where He is. I knew it.” And all of his fears came true, all of the worst things that he had ever thought. He felt betrayed. He felt rejected. He felt forsaken. And it was out of love, that he was shattered. He was like a wounded animal. And he didn’t want to be around people, and so he just split. That’s what he did. And when all the rest of the disciples came together he just wasn’t there, he was out, and he was depressed because he loved so deeply. He would have died with Jesus, but Jesus died without him. He wanted to go with Jesus but Jesus went without him. And now, his pessimism is vindicated, and he’s really in the pits.
And in verse 24 it says: “Thomas, one of the 12, called Didymus, wasn’t with them when Jesus came.” Sure, he was out licking his wounds. And Jesus appeared to the remaining disciples, and Thomas wasn’t there. Well, guess who found Thomas? John, verse 25, “The other disciple,” other disciples, I would guess John; that’s a stab in the dark, “said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’“ We’ve seen the Lord, Thomas, and you weren’t there. You didn’t show up.
But Thomas is depressed. Did you ever try to talk to somebody who is depressed? Really difficult isn’t it? Very difficult. He says, “Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, put my finger into the print of the nails, thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Now, he’s a pessimist. Admit it. I’ve got to see it. But before you pounce on him with both feet, would you kindly remember this? That none of the disciples believed until they saw Jesus. I mean, after all, it is not that easy to believe that somebody rose from the dead. I mean, on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, two are walking along, and the Lord is with them, and they’re moaning and groaning about His death. And they don’t believe either. Nobody believed till they saw Him. So, don’t make Thomas the doubter. You see, he’s a loving pessimist is what he is. That’s better than being a doubter. I want to see before I believe, he says.
So, the Lord, by the way, in case you don’t know, the Lord doesn’t mind people wanting to be sure. If you want to be sure, He’ll accommodate that desire. “Eight days after,” verse 26 says, “the disciples were inside, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut.” I like that. Just rearranged the molecules in His body and came through the wall. And always He says, when He does that, “Peace be unto you.” It’s understandable. It seems a fitting greeting, doesn’t it? To the chaos that must have occurred. And then, He zeroes in on this dear soul that loves Him enough to die with Him, and is utterly depressed and shattered. He said to Thomas, “Thomas, reach here your finger, behold My hands, and reach here your hand, and thrust it into My side, and be not faithless but believing.” Did Thomas do that? It doesn’t say he did it. It just says immediately, without doing anything, “He answered and said unto Him, ‘My Lord and my God.’“ The greatest single confessional ever made. He affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ. He affirmed the lordship of Jesus Christ. He affirmed that He was God.
You know, he wanted that so bad. Jesus was back. And Jesus said, “Thomas, because you’ve seen Me, you believe.” And you’re not alone; the rest of them had the same basis. “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet believed.” You know who that is? Everybody who came after that. That’s you and me. We’ve never seen, but we believed. “Blessed are they.” Thomas, yes he was melancholy, he was moody, pessimistic, comfortless, shattered, but when he saw the Lord Jesus Christ, oh my, he gave the greatest testimony ever given. And you know what? In that one little statement, Thomas gave the speech that literally destroys every lie that has been told about Jesus not being God that has ever been uttered in the history of man. It is a monumental statement, “My God,” he said. The –isms, and –chisms, and spasms and Yogi’s and all the rest that come and deny the deity of Christ are put to silence by Thomas.
Learn a lesson. Jesus wants you to be sure. Surety most frequently comes when you hang around other believers. It does not mean that Christ cannot come to you in a solitary place, but more likely does He appear among those who are His own.
Thomas, tradition tells us a lot about him. Preached. Some say he went as far as India preaching. And one tradition says that he died in a very special way. They took a spear and rammed it through him, because of his faith in Christ. It would be kind of fitting climax for one who was told to reach forth his hand and feel the spear mark in his own Lord.
What kind of people does God use? Vile sinners like Matthew. Tender-hearted, moody, melancholy pessimists like Thomas. You name it. They’re all unique, and He can use you too. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank You that the ability that You want from us is availability. Thank You that You can take the unqualified and do the transforming of their lives. What a happy privilege, God. What a happy privilege that we should be used. I know my own weaknesses. All of us do: our sins, our failings. And yet You use us. You use us for Your Kingdom. You use us to advance Your cause, to preach Your truth, to bring people into the knowledge of God. You use us to sing Your praise. You use us to bring petitions that activate Your sovereign power. You use us. We thank You that we are the company of the unqualified who have been transformed to useful vessels; vessels of honor, fit for the Master’s use. Lord, if there are some in our fellowship this morning who have never come to Jesus Christ, may they confess, as Thomas did, My Lord and my God. May their hearts open up. May they receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. And in so receiving, come into divine usefulness. O, the pity of a life without purpose, the pity of an eternity without value. May we know that the only meaning in time and eternity comes in serving You, and may we know that You can fit us for that, no matter what our weaknesses are. May the truth that we have learned today linger in our hearts, and make us better than we were had we not been here, for Your glory. In Christ’s name, amen.