As we approach the end of the Gospel of John, this week Pastor Matt brings us the encouraging Big Idea that we can really Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
1. Jesus really did rise.
2. Jesus’ resurrection really does change everything for the better
3. Doubters really aren’t disqualified

Citylight Manayunk | August 21, 2022 from Citylight Church on Vimeo.


Sermon Transcript

Have you listened to a young child tell a story lately? For nearly any young child, their story telling is like a meandering walk through the woods; no straight or direct paths and there is rarely a destination. For the talkative child, however, story time is more like a meandering backcountry backpacking trip through the mountains. God only knows where we’re going and we’re definitely going nowhere fast. It’s great and developmentally appropriate, but if you have the privilege of parenting a talkative child, it can be tempting to scoop that precious little image bearer of God up in your arms and say, “I need you to get to the point.” And I imagine that on rare occasions, from time to time that is how some of us have felt during our over-year-long journey through the Gospel of John. It has been wonderful, but we’ve deliberately chosen to go slowly and there have been a lot of twists and turns on the path. And maybe, just maybe, you’ve thought once or twice, “John, I really need you get to the point.” Well, if that’s you, then today is your day and our passage is just the one for you because at the end of our passage John puts the gears down and lands the plane. In John 20:30-31, the Holy Spirit-inspired author tells us the grand purpose for which he’s taken us on every narrative twist and theological turn: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” These verses bring us to the big idea not only of our passage, but of the entire Gospel According to John: Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And yes, this has been the big idea of many passages throughout the Gospel of John, but this is the one time that John explicitly tells us why he wrote his Gospel: so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and have life in his name. And this big idea could not be more significant for your life and mine because faith in Christ is not a one-and-done sort of thing. Following Jesus is living by faith and John wrote our passage this morning specifically to strengthen our daily faith in and dependence on Jesus. Our passage provides us with three reasons why we should believe that Jesus is the Christ and live every day by faith and trust in Him. 1. Jesus really did rise 2. Jesus’ resurrection really does change everything for the better 3. Doubters really aren’t disqualified.


There are signs throughout the first half of our passage that John includes some specific details in order to persuade his readers to believe that Jesus really did rise. The first detail is the women. John records that a woman was the first to discover the empty tomb, a woman was the first person that the Lord Jesus revealed his resurrection to, and a woman was the first person to announce Jesus’ resurrection to his twelve male disciples. Why does John emphasize this detail and why does it matter? At this time in history, the testimony of a woman or a group of women was not admissible in Jewish court because women were considered less reliable witnesses. First century historian NT Wright – by the time John wrote his Gospel there was probably incredible pressure on him to adjust the story to make it more believable, but he didn’t. Why? John is presenting a genuine, historical account of an empty tomb and a resurrection. The first detail is the women.

The second detail is the day. Notice that Mary discovered the empty tomb on the first day of the week, that is, Sunday. You’re probably aware that before the resurrection of Jesus, God’s people gathered together to worship the Lord on Saturday. In fact, they rested from their labor and worshiped the Lord on Saturday for a solid 1,500 years, and failure to do so could result in the death penalty. And yet, from this Sunday morning recorded in John 20 onward, the Jewish people who believed in Jesus began gathering to worship the Lord on Sunday, even calling Sunday “the Lord’s Day.” What in the world can explain such an abrupt change in habit and practice? I’ll tell you, I have an embarrassing habit. As a child, I believed that if I yawned, my brain would signal to my body that I was tired, which would result in poor performance in sports. But stopping a yawn is nearly impossible, so I developed this habit of yawning with my lips nearly shut, which makes my face look really contorted and awkward. It’s a terrible habit that has taken my dear wife years to help me overcome. Habits and cultural practices don’t change overnight. And yet, notice that the over thousand year habit of worshiping on Saturdays is broken overnight. What can account for that? Something more than an empty tomb, a stolen body, and a make-believe tail must have happened. Something truly miraculous must have taken place that Sunday morning! Jesus really did rise!

The third detail is the transformation. John 20:8-9 – Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. Now that’s very interesting. They believed that the tomb was empty, but then they just went home. It’s not so much that they don’t believe that Jesus rose – it didn’t even cross their minds! Why not? They believed in a future, corporate resurrection on the last day. They didn’t believe in individual resurrection. They didn’t understand the Scripture – it didn’t even cross their minds that the Christ would die and then personally rise. It simply didn’t fit their worldview. Illustration: how long it took me to come to believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father. But that’s not how it happened for the disciples. Within forty days they changed their worldview, worshiped Jesus as Lord, and went into the world risking and giving their lives to preach that he has risen. What can explain this transformation?! Jesus really did rise. It’s not enough to not believe the resurrection – you have to come up with an intellectually satisfying explanation for the facts, and there isn’t one. Believe! Live by faith! Jesus really did rise.

Transition: believe because it’s true. John takes beyond believing because it’s true to believing because it’s beautiful…


John reveals at least three things that change for the better when we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

A whole new family

John 20:16-17 – 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” This is the first time in the Gospel of John that the Lord Jesus calls His Father their Father. The resurrection brings new privileges – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8).

Application – Lloyd-Jones says that most of our sinful behavior and negative emotions are the result of listening to ourselves rather than talking to ourselves. This is different than worldly narrative replacement, because we speak Jesus’ words to ourselves. Preach your new family privilege to yourself.

True peace

John 20:19 – On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (Repeated in verses 21, 26).

More than a polite greeting. Grace and peace. Eschatological peace with the God we were made for! Illustration – Being away from Andrea can be fun at first, but I get tired of it really fast. I am incomplete. Being in conflict with her, that sense of enmity, there isn’t much worse. That’s us with God, cranked up to full volume. It’s what is really wrong with us. Jesus brings peace with God that makes us glad!

Purposeful lives

John 20:21 – Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” What a purpose! The Father’s job for Jesus is Jesus’ job for us.

Point of clarification: what are we actually sent to do? Does this mean that we are sent to do exactly what Jesus did? No – you’re not dying on any crosses for anyone’s sin. What is Jesus’ church sent to do? Bear witness to the truth! How do we know?
It’s what Jesus did (John 18 – kingdom of truth)
It’s what Mary does in this passage – “don’t cling to me, go tell my brothers.”
It’s what John is doing in writing this Gospel

Application. Making it plain:
have your three.
Pray, love, introduce, and speak.
Witness by gathering with the church and being the people of God
Idea: Jesus said he’ll make us fishers of men. When you mention Jesus, that’s a fishing cast. These days there are 350 us here on a Sunday. If we each cast once per week, that’s 18,200 casts in a year. People will be caught in the loving God in Christ through that.

Great news! You’re not doing this in your own power.

John 20:22-23 – And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Foretaste of Pentecost. If the gospel is a bomb, the Holy Spirit is the detonator. Kostenberger: “The idea is not that individual Christians or churches have authority on their own to forgive or not forgive people, but rather that as the church proclaims the gospel message of forgiveness of sins in the power of the Holy Spirit (see v. 22), it proclaims that those who believe in Jesus have their sins forgiven, and that those who do not believe in him do not have their sins forgiven—which simply reflects what God in heaven has already done.”

Conclusion: Believe because it’s true (point 1), but also believe because it’s beautiful: new family, new peace and gladness, and new purpose.


Our passage concludes with Thomas. Thomas was not present for Jesus’ first resurrection appearing and vowed not to believe that Jesus was risen unless he could touch Jesus’ wounds. Sort of demanding. Jesus doesn’t seem offended. John 20:26-29 – Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Do you struggle with doubt? Do you sometimes wonder if all the stuff in the Bible is really true, that God really is and can be trusted, and Jesus really is risen? Don’t be embarrassed. Be encouraged. Jesus is so kind and merciful toward doubters. He’s not embarrassed by your doubts. In fact, Jesus meets Thomas right where he is in his doubts and he meets you there as well. However, notice that Jesus doesn’t leave him in his doubts. Some of us treat doubt as though it’s simply a feature of our personality or identity that is neutral and never going away. No, Jesus’ word to Thomas is his word to us, “do not disbelieve, but believe.” Doubt is not something to live with, it’s something for Jesus to overcome to turn into increasingly strong faith and trust in Him. Thomas actually provides a window into how to deal with doubt. Do you notice how specific Thomas is: he wants to touch the scars. When doubt grips you, don’t let it remain as general background noise. Identify it. Name it. And then bring it before Jesus and his people present and past.

The most doubt-busting reality in all the world is the resurrection. My story of doubt – college. What gets me through? The resurrection! That’s the blessing of the resurrection, the true happiness – we do not see and yet believe. Illustration: Kids still hungry after eating half their food. The resurrection means you don’t have to starve yourself by living on half of reality (sight). You can live by faith!