Known by His Scars
July 9th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
KNOWN BY HIS SCARS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-9-89 10:50 a.m.
We welcome the uncounted throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Known By His Scars. As Dr. McLaughlin mentioned a moment ago, it is a message facing the despair and disintegration and decay of death. In preaching through the Gospel of John, we are in these last and climactic verses. And in the twentieth chapter of this Fourth Gospel, beginning in verse 19:
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, on Sunday, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled …Jesus came, stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Shalom.
When He had so said, He showed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord . . .
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord.
But he said…Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.
The verdict of the vast earth, “I will not believe.”
And the following Sunday His disciples were within, and this time, Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, stood in the midst, and said, Shalom.
Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and My God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou has seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Thomas, one of the twelve called “Didymus,” didymus, that is a word for “twin,” Thomas, didymus, “Thomas the twin” [John 20:24]. And he has twins; he has duplicates all through the ages. And so today, in our time and our life, Thomases everywhere, “I will not believe” [John 20:25]. This is a sad and tragic thing in the life of someone like this Didymus. He was so consecrated and so devout and so given and committed to his discipleship in our Lord.
Do you remember in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, when the Lord said, “Lazarus is dead, and we return to Judea to comfort his sisters, Mary and Martha”? The disciples said to the Lord, “Lord, they lately sought to slay You. And You are going back?” [John 11:7-15]. And when they saw in the Lord a persistence in returning, it was Thomas who said to his fellow disciples, “Let us go back with Him then, and die by His side” [John 11:16]. That’s this Thomas. Again, in the fourteenth chapter of this same Gospel of John, the Lord speaks of heaven and His going to prepare a place for us [John 14:2-3]. And it was Thomas who showed such a devout and humble interest in what the Lord was saying. “Lord, where are You going? Where is heaven? And how can we know the way?” [John 14:5]. That is Thomas. And this is the same disciple who now, in abject and indescribable despair, says, “I will not believe” [John 20:25].
Thomas is but a mouthpiece. He but verbalizes the despair that the whole world feels in the presence of death. When the keystone falls, the masonry tumbles to the ground. When the hub is removed from the wheel, the spokes are in disarray. Thus it is when breath is taken from the body, there lies before us corruption, ruin, decay.
Do you remember in the life of Abraham, when he was negotiating with the sons of Heth concerning the cave of Machpelah in Hebron, he says, “That I may remove my dead out of my sight?” [Genesis 23:4]. Of whom is he speaking? He’s speaking of his beloved Sarah [Genesis 23:1-3], “That I may take her away, that I may hide her out of my sight” [Genesis 23:4]. The despair of death; “When the silver cord is loosed, and the golden bow is broken . . . when the wheel is broken at the fountain and the bowl at the cistern, when the body returns to the dust of the ground” [Ecclesiastes 12:6-7], O God, what then? When the apostle Thomas says, “I do not believe that He is raised from the dead, dead people do not rise” [John 20:25], he but speaks the despair and the anguish of the vast world in which we live.
In this last century there was a very famous infidel lawyer, jurist, by the name of Robert G. Ingersoll. He went over this whole land speaking of the—he called it, “the mistakes” of Moses, the inaccuracies in the Bible, and belittling those that believe in the Word of God. Well, this infidel wrote a letter:
September 24, 1859.
To me, life is rather a dreary affair. More so than ever now since my father died. It seems that there is left now only for me to follow. The distance from youth to age is very short, and from age to death only a step, a short step. A few days and you and I will be either aged or dead. Our little parts in the drama of life will soon be acted, and as for us, the curtain will soon fall. Yet other actors will take our places and the play will go on as merrily as though we still walked the stage. Other pulses will beat when ours are still; other hearts will love when ours are cold; other voices will talk of love and happiness when ours are hushed forever. The sun will shine as brightly and the eternal stars will gaze as silently upon our tombs as upon our cradles.
Robert G. Ingersoll
The despair of death.
In March of 1943, I cut out of a news article:
Before her husband, Harry Houdini, the world-renowned magician, passed away in 1926, he made a deathbed pact with the late Mrs. Houdini that he would try to reach her from the other world. For ten years, she kept a lighted shrine at his picture in her Hollywood home. And every year, on the anniversary of his death, she held séances trying to communicate with him. None succeeded.
And in 1936, she turned out the light she had kept burning for him. She scoffed at her magician friends who claimed that they had communicated with Houdini. So before her recent death, she said, “If spiritualistic mediums claim they have heard from me when I die, I say they are liars.”
Now\, the second instance, an incident is in connection with Clarence Darrow, the nationally famous criminal lawyer. In 1932, Clarence Darrow and Howard Thurston, the great late magician, agreed with a Claude Noble—the rest of them I have heard of all my life; I do not know Claude Noble—but they made a compact with him, a magician still living, that when they died they would communicate with him. The communicant was to stand at the deceased’s grave, on the anniversary of his death, and hold up an object familiar to all three. The man was to come from the dead and knock the object out of the holder’s hand.
So a few days ago, Claude Noble knelt, at 12:30 p.m., on the Jackson Park Bridge in Chicago, where Darrow’s ashes had been scattered, Noble held a bronze plaque of Thurston in his hand. And he called on Darrow and held out his hand and bade the lawyer’s spirit to knock the plaque from his hand. And as on the previous occasions, nothing happened.
So there’s no life after death, according to these infidels. If there is no knocking of a plaque out of the hand, and there is no communication from the departed spirits; why, when you die, it is the end of all existence.
Now Thomas was just like that. He sat cheerless and forelorn and hopeless and helpless, gazing into the dark, into the night. He wouldn’t be with the apostles. He wasn’t there [John 20:19-24]. They met. One of the commandments of our Lord is we’re not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together [Hebrews 10:25]. We are to come to church. We are to encourage each other in the faith. Not Thomas. He had fallen into ultimate and indescribable despair. And he sat alone, cheerless, hopeless, in the presence of death.
Well when the disciples came to him and said, “We have seen the Lord. He is alive. He met with us and we have seen Him” [John 20:25]. Thomas replied, “That may be well for you, Simon Peter. And it may be all right for you, James and John. But, I’m not thus inclined to fantasize. I don’t believe in the people who say they are raised from the dead. Dead people don’t rise.”
And then he avowed his crude, rude, materialistic test, twofold, “Except I see the print of the nails and the scar on the side, and except I touch the body of our Lord, exhibiting those scars, I will not believe [John 20:25]. I saw His dead life, limpless body brought down from the tree [John 19:28-37]. And I saw Him buried in the tomb [John 20:38-41]. And I saw the great stone rolled over the opening of the grave [Matthew 27:65-66]. And I don’t believe.”
In one of those providences evidently someone, in the number of the disciples, persuaded him to meet with them the following Sunday. And the eleven are together, Thomas in the midst [John 20:26]. And there was an Epiphany; there was a visitation from heaven. There was an ecstasy and a delight beyond what human heart could describe. Jesus stands in the midst. Jesus is there [John 20:26]. And the electric excitement and joy and ecstasy of the disciples overflows, “Jesus is here!” Then, that joy and excitement is turned to shame in the heart of His doubting apostle, Thomas [John 20:25-26].
And the Lord turns to him. He had marked that he wasn’t present when the disciples met together. He was absent [John 20:24]. And he had heard that crude, rude, materialistic test [John 20:25]. And how strange the words sound on the lips of the Lord Jesus, when he repeats what Thomas had said [John 20:26-27].
Sweet people, may I make an observation? Unbelief never fits any page on this Book, never, never! And the same is true in all human life. Unbelief never fits in a home, or in a house, or in a heart, or in a church. It never fits. And when Thomas heard those words of unbelief falling from the lips of the living Lord, it crushed him. It hurt him. He was ashamed. And in that shame and repentance and confession he came back to the blessed Jesus [John 20:28].
Jesus came to His own—to the ones that He lov’d—
To the sheep that had wander’d astray;
But they heard not His voice; for the friend of mankind
Was hated and driven away.
They crown’d Him with thorns,
He was beaten with stripes,
He was smitten and nailed to the tree;
But the pain in His heart was the hardest to bear,
The heart that was broken for me.
I cannot reject such a Saviour as He;
Dishonor and wound Him again;
I’ll go to His side and repent of my sin,
And forever follow in His train.
I’ll take up my cross, I will walk in His way,
For the path of my duty I see;
I will follow my Lord and abide in His heart,
The heart that was broken for me.
[from “The Heart That Was Broken For Me,” J. W. Van De Venter]
That was Thomas. How crushed and ashamed was this disciple in having denied and denounced and refused to accept the glorious news that His Savior, His Master, was risen from the dead, had conquered death and the grave? [John 20:25].
Well, his avowal of faith is the climax of this Gospel. When you read it on, this is an epilogue. This is an addendum. I would think that the rest of John’s Gospel, this twenty-first chapter, the rest of it, was written years and years and years after John had finished his story of the life our Lord. It reaches this climax in the avowal of this doubting disciple. Thomas answered and said, “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28]. That is the climax of the Gospel of John [John 20:28].
And that’s the climax of any man’s life, and it’s the climax of any worshiping congregation, to bow at the feet of our Savior, “my Lord and my God” [John 20:28]. The moving of the Spirit of God in the life of this disciple is the same moving Spirit of the Lord that leads us to a like confession today [1 Corinthians 12:3].
Thomas, as you know, became a martyr, laid down his life for our Savior. That’s our people today. If we had a like demand, from the providences of God, you have thousands of people in this congregation that would lay down their lives for the Lord and do it gladly, triumphantly, believing in the Savior and giving heart and soul and commitment to Him [Revelation 2:10].
I cannot but make the observation that sometimes our very doubts lead us into a greater commitment to the Lord than any that otherwise we would ever known. I mentioned a moment ago, Robert G. Ingersoll; do you remember his friend, General Lew Wallace? Both of them were infidels, blatant infidels: Robert G. Ingersoll, General Lew Wallace.
If you’ve ever been in Santa Fe, New Mexico, you have sat there where General Lew Wallace at one time was the provincial governor of the Territory of New Mexico. Both of them infidels; and as they were visiting together, talking together, Robert Ingersoll the lawyer said to General Lew Wallace the government official—said to him, “Why don’t you study the Bible, and why don’t you carefully scrutinize the life of Christ, and then write a book? Write a book deriding the idea that Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior of the soul. Why don’t you do that?” And it appealed to General Lew Wallace. And he took his Bible and began to study it and to read it, and wrote the book. Do you remember the title of that book? Ben Hur, underneath, “[A Tale] of the Christ.” And in that book, Ben Hur—one of the finest novels ever written—and in that book, Ben Hur, he presents Jesus as the great Healer and Savior of mankind.
I repeat sometimes, doubt and hesitancy and scrutiny leads a soul to a greater commitment to Christ. It did so in the life of Thomas [John 20:25-28]. It did so in the life of General Wallace. And it did so in some of your lives. Doubt is not in itself an implacable and unforgivable sin. It just needs to lead us to a fuller commitment and love for our blessed Lord Jesus.
I want to say one other thing before this hour is done. Jesus saith unto him, “Thomas, because thou has seen Me, thou has believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet do believe” [John 20:29]. That is a beatitude for us. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” I have not seen the Lord in the flesh. We have not seen the Lord in the flesh. But we believe that He lives, just as certainly as Thomas believed when he beheld the living Lord standing before Him [John 20:25-28]. And we feel His presence.
As you have heard me say, world without end, I so feel the presence of Jesus in our sweet congregation, that I cannot keep back the tears of love and gratitude for our Lord. He is here. And He is with us. So this beatitude, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” [John 20:29].
In my studying and in my preparation for today’s message, I came across one of the prettiest, sweetest stories that I had come into in a long time. There was a beautiful girl, a beautiful girl, beautiful on the outside and beautiful on the inside. She was a precious girl and a saintly girl. All of her life, she wore a golden locket around her neck. No one was ever allowed to look on the inside of that locket. She wore it all the days of her life. And the day came when this beautiful young woman fell into an illness and died. And it was then that they opened the golden locket. You know what they found on the inside? She had written, “Whom, having not seen, I love.” The secret of her beautiful devoted life, “Whom, having not seen, I love” [John 20:29].
O Christ Jesus, what a beautiful, beautiful open door You have set before us in that precious beatitude, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” [John 20:29].
He is with us in our pilgrimage. He guides us in our understanding of the Living Word. He invites us to the services in His blessed name. He stands by us in every trial of life. And someday, when that inevitable hour comes; when you say, “Goodbye, pastor, we loved you in the days of your ministry, but it’s goodbye.” When that day comes, there will be Someone who will stand by in that dark and inevitable hour. And He will say, “Welcome home. Welcome home, good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” [Matthew 25:21]. And I will see Him face to face [Revelation 22:4]. It will be heaven. It will be the kingdom of God. And if I’m there before you, I’ll be at the gate to welcome you. I’ll see you in glory someday.
And sweet and precious people, in the homes where you have listened to this message of God, what a beautiful moment to give your heart in confession of faith to our wonderful Savior. On the screen you will find a telephone number. There will be someone who loves you and loves the Lord who will answer that call and tell you how you can accept Jesus as your Savior. Call, and may God open the door of grace and of glory to you, and I’ll see you too in heaven someday.
And to the great throng in the sanctuary this solemn hour, in the balcony round, down a stairway; in the throng on this lower floor, as the Spirit may make appeal to your heart to accept Jesus as your Savior [Romans 10:9-13], the One who died for your sins [1 Corinthians 15:3] and rose that you might be justified [Romans 4:25], come and a thousand time welcome. A family you, a couple you, as God shall open the door, may angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Thomas the skeptic – viewpoint of an
A. “Didymus” – “twin”
B. He was seemingly so
committed to Christ (John 11:16, 14:5)
He verbalizes the despair the world feels in presence of death (Genesis 23:2-4)
Houdini, Clarence Darrow, Howard Thurston, Claude Noble
Refused to assemble with the apostles
Refused testimony of fellow disciples
Asked for double proof – sight and touch
II. The epiphany
A. The wonder, joy,
glory of the presence of Jesus
B. Then He turns to
1. Joy turns to
2. Poem, “The
Heart that was Broken for Me”
III. The confession of faith
A. The soul of Thomas
overwhelmed, “My Lord and my God.”
B. Sometimes doubt
leads a soul to a greater commitment to Christ
C. “Blessed are they that
have not seen and yet have believed.” (John