Jesus was dead! Although they had heard rumors to the contrary, they didn’t believe it. These men, disciples who had given everything to follow Him, suddenly found themselves hopeless and fearful. But then something miraculous happens!

Opening Scripture:

John 20:19-23   So when 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 said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “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 said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

In the midst of the worst week of their lives, Jesus shows up!

Jesus always desires to reveal Himself in the midst of our pain and confusion and comes to bring peace and purpose.
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John 20:24-25  But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 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.”

Before you beat up on Thomas, think about how hard it would have been to be His friend and not there when the unbelievable happened. This event caused Thomas to be marked by theologians as “Doubting Thomas,” but his lack of belief was the point John was making. None of them believed.

Mark 16:9-14  Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.

Jesus never called him doubting Thomas, and neither should we. It distracts from the real news. Many people define themselves based upon their failures or by their pain. The point here was not that Thomas had doubts, but that he had been alone.

John 20:24   But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

He wasn’t there! Thomas didn’t want to believe he had missed it! The tragedy is that Thomas separated himself. Thomas loved and trusted Jesus. John tells us it was Thomas who had courage when the others were fearful.

John 11:16   Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”

Thomas was a warrior; he expected the cross. What he wasn’t prepared for was the grief that came on the other side of the cross. A grief so deep, he thought it would be best to separate from fellowship.

For Thomas, by withdrawing from fellowship meant that he missed the blessing. It’s exactly how the enemy works, constantly trying to separate us and convince us that there are options beyond fellowship. He takes what God has purposed and exploits it for his own benefits.

John 15:15   No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

Matthew 14:24   Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

The enemy take words, lowers the cost associated with them, and then tries to pass them off as being the same. We end up with a cheap imitation, trying to convince ourselves we got the real thing.

Too many people have substituted their fellowship, or relationships, for a cheap imitation only to find themselves desperately alone and missing out on the blessing.

There is no substitute for Christian community; not Facebook, not sports, not “family time,” not rest.

You will never experience the blessing and satisfaction of fellowship if you are not apart of it.

True community come at a cost. The cost of my time, my preferences, my pride, facing my pain and my sorrow, and confronting my shame.

What I gain is a peace and purpose in the comfort of fellowship.

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John 20:26-29  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.” 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.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Jesus came back for Thomas. The disciples didn’t gather together because they had it all together, they gathered because they didn’t. They knew they were better together at Church, and so are we.

You are amongst friends. Come receive power and purpose from the Savior in the midst of relationship.
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Digging Deeper:

– When do you remember settling for an imitation and been consumed by a label, convinced you didn’t belong?
–  What do imitations of Christian fellowship look like in your life?
–  What practical steps can you take to get back into genuine fellowship with other believers?

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