We are kicking off the second week of our series called Wounds. This series is intense. It is raw and gritty and real. And that’s really going to come out today, because today we’re talking about the wounds of disappointment.
Let me pray for us and we’ll dive into the second message in this series.
This whole series is based on what the prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus. In Isaiah 53, Isaiah wrote, “…by his wounds, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5b, NIV)
Because Jesus was wounded for us, we can be healed of our wounds. The healing for our wounds is found in the cross of Christ.
And today, we’re going to explore how the cross can heal our wounds of disappointment. And we’re going to do it by digging into a scene with Jesus and one of His disciples named Thomas. The scene takes place after Jesus had died on the cross and then rose from the dead three days later.
In John 20, here’s how John describes the scene for us. “Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24-25, NIV)
For some reason, Thomas had missed out on Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples. He wasn’t there. He missed out on it. And some of us can probably relate to that.
You ever feel like everyone else gets it, but you?
For example, there’s always some new food fad going on. And I’m trying to eat a lot healthier than I used to (especially after all the Easter candy I had recently!), so I tried one of these fad foods not too long ago.
Have you ever tried kale? A couple of years ago, I had never even heard of kale. Now, it’s everywhere. It’s the new, hip, health food. And I know people who love it, so I thought I’d give it a try.
And I regretted it immediately. I tried a kale and pineapple smoothie. Yeah, it tasted about as good as it sounds.
This stuff is bitter and just plain gross. And I really don’t care how healthy it is, I’m not eating kale again. EVER.
I know a ton of people who like it, but I just don’t get it.
That happens to us at different points in our lives, doesn’t it?
Everybody else gets it, except you. Everyone else seems to have it all figured out, except you. No one else wrestles with the doubt and the questions and the struggles that you do. Have you ever felt like that?
Thomas would understand. All the other disciples were absolutely convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead. They all got it, except Thomas. For whatever reason, he was left out of the party. He was the odd man out.
And so he told them, “Nope. I’m not buying it. Unless I see it for myself, I’m not going to believe it.”
Have you ever heard someone referred to as a “Doubting Thomas?” This is where that expression comes from.
This is how many people know Thomas. He’s the Great Doubter. But this is only part of his story. His story doesn’t begin with doubt. In fact, it begins exactly the opposite. His story begins with incredible faith.
Thomas was passionately committed to Jesus. In fact, earlier in the book of John, we see that Thomas was willing to die with Jesus.
Go back to what John wrote in John 11. “…[Jesus] said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (John 11:7-8, NIV)
Jesus insisted. Yes, He was going to go back. It was dangerous. It was uncertain. But Jesus was going back to Judea.
And Thomas was with Him all the way. “Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16, NIV)
This is the first appearance of Thomas in the gospel of John. This is how his story begins. It didn’t begin with doubt. The opening of his story is not a man who refused to believe in Jesus. His story begins as a man who believed wholeheartedly in Jesus. He was ready to follow Jesus, to the point where he was willing to give up his life for Jesus.
So the question is, what happened? How did Thomas go from that kind of bold faith to this kind of crippling doubt?
The answer is found in one word: disappointment.
Thomas’ story changed because of the incredible disappointment that he experienced.
You have to look at this through Thomas’ eyes. Thomas thought He knew who Jesus was. He thought He knew what Jesus was all about. He thought He knew what Jesus was going to do. But the cross changed all of that.
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about how the cross was viewed by people in the first century. It was the ultimate way to end a failed life. Only life’s biggest losers were crucified. So it wasn’t just the fact that Jesus died. It’s how He died.
Thomas was faced with the reality that the man he had been following was a failure. At least, he had failed in Thomas’ eyes. The brutal Roman Empire was still in power. The Jewish people were still their subjects. It seemed like nothing had changed. Jesus didn’t live up to any of the expectations that people had about the coming Messiah. And the cross was the ultimate sign that it had all been for nothing. The entire thing was a failure.
And so, when the disciples told him that they had seen Jesus after His crucifixion, Thomas had this to say. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25b, NIV)
Here’s the way Beauford Bryant and Mark Krause described it in their commentary on the book of John.
“[This] reveals a Thomas who is deeply hurt but the death of Jesus. He is confused, and is guarding against any type of trickery that might hurt him even more.”
This is the reaction of a man who had been wounded. He had been wounded by extreme disappointment.
It just wasn’t supposed to work out this way. This wasn’t in the script. Nothing added up. Nothing made sense. Thomas didn’t know what was happening, but he knew one thing for sure. It just wasn’t supposed to work out this way.
And that’s where a whole lot of us can find a connecting point with Thomas. This is where his story and our story can intersect. A whole lot of us can look at something in our lives and say, “It just wasn’t supposed to work out this way.”
I was never supposed to end up divorced.
I was never supposed to lose my job.
I was never supposed to still be single at my age.
I was never supposed to face infertility.
I was never supposed to have a miscarriage.
I was never supposed to have this illness.
I was never supposed to be rejected by people who claimed to be my friends.
I was never supposed to be in this financial crisis.
I was never supposed to lose this person that I loved so much.
God, what in the world are You doing? Are you asleep at the wheel? I have no idea what’s going on. All I know is that it wasn’t supposed to turn out this way!
Like Thomas, our story didn’t start this way, but disappointment seems to have changed our story. Maybe the faith that we once had is now weak and wavering. Maybe it’s all but gone.
We all want to live the first part of the Thomas story. The bold faith. The unwavering commitment. We want to live in that kind of certainty.
But the truth is, at some point, we will all live out the second part of the Thomas story. The doubt. The wavering. The hesitancy. The unbelief.
And the reason we’ll all live out that part of the Thomas story is because, like Thomas, disappointment will wreak havoc in our lives.
But disappointment doesn’t mean that our story is over. It wasn’t over for Thomas, and it’s not over for us.
Look at the next verses in John 20. “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:26, NIV)
A week later. Jesus had risen from the dead. And He was out doing whatever it is that a man does when it comes back to life. But one thing He hadn’t done was appear to Thomas. Thomas was left to live in his doubt and his disappointment for a week.
I don’t know why. We’re not told why Jesus waited an entire week. But what we do see is that God operates on His timetable, not ours.
For some of us, the disappointment never seems to end. It just goes on and on and on, and God never seems to step in and do anything about it. It feels like this is where we’re destined to live forever.
I don’t know why Jesus took so long to show up with Thomas. And I don’t know why He often takes so long to show up in our lives. But what I do know is this.
Just because I can’t see what God is doing doesn’t mean He’s doing nothing.
Somebody here showed up at church today for this moment. The whole reason you’re here today is so you could hear this. Just because you can’t see what God is doing doesn’t mean He’s doing nothing.
I can’t tell you why God seems to move so slowly sometimes. I can’t tell you why you’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, and nothing seems to be happening. If you want a pastor who has all the answers, then you need to go find another church. I don’t have all the answers. I struggle with these same questions myself.
But what I do know is that just because I can’t see what God is doing doesn’t mean He’s doing nothing. He didn’t show up to Thomas right away. He doesn’t always show up to us right away. There are times when we have no idea what He’s doing. But God has promised that He is always working on our behalf. Just because I can’t see what God is doing doesn’t mean that He’s doing nothing.
So after a week, Jesus finally shows up to Thomas. John writes, “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:26, NIV)
The doors were locked because the disciples were afraid of the Jewish leaders. These leaders had arrested Jesus and handed Him over to the Romans to be crucified. It was logical for the disciples to believe that they would be next.
And that’s a pretty long way to fall. These guys had traveled with Jesus. They had heard Him preach. They had witnessed His miracles. They had seen Him cast out demons. They had even cast out demons themselves. And now, they’re hiding behind locked doors.
You know what that’s called? Disappointment.
But those locked doors couldn’t stop Jesus. And Thomas’ disappointment couldn’t stop Jesus, either. Jesus appeared among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
This was a traditional Jewish greeting. The word for peace is the word shalom, meaning, “I wish you personal peace and well-being.”
That’s something that Thomas was running very short on. And it’s something that a lot of us are running very short on, as well.
Disappointment robs us of peace. It creates chaos. It causes us to question ourselves, the people around us, and even God Himself.
But what we’re going to see next is that the peace of Christ is greater than our disappointment.
Look at the next verse. Jesus shifts His focus directly to Thomas. “Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27, NIV)
Nobody told Jesus what Thomas had said. Nobody told Jesus what Thomas was thinking and feeling. Jesus already knew. And so Jesus said, “Here I am. Here are the nail marks in my hands. Here is the spear wound in my side.”
But then the crucial challenge came when Jesus said, “Stop doubting and believe.”
Now, notice that Jesus didn’t yell at him. He didn’t lash out in anger at Thomas. He didn’t berate him because of his disappointment and his doubt.
Instead, Jesus very gently and very compassionately said, “Here I am. Here are my wounds. Stop doubting and believe, because I am here.”
Jesus didn’t say, “How dare you doubt Me! How dare you be disappointed in Me!”
You know what Jesus said to Thomas? After all the doubt. After all the disappointment. You know what Jesus said to Thomas? He simply said, “I’m here. Stop doubting and believe, because I’m here.”
Jesus is not mad at you because of your doubt, or your disappointment, or your disillusionment. Instead, He wants you to know the same thing that He wanted Thomas to know. He simply wants to tell you, “I’m here. I know you may not understand everything that is going on. I know you’ve been hurt because of how things have worked out. I know your disappointment is causing your faith to waver. But I want you to know, it’s ok. It’s ok, because I’m here.”
Disappointment doesn’t mean abandonment. When things don’t work out like we planned, it doesn’t mean that God has left us. It doesn’t mean that we’re on our own. It doesn’t mean that we’ve been abandoned. Disappointment doesn’t mean abandonment.
That would go against God’s most frequent promise in Scripture. God’s most frequent promise in the Bible is, “I will be with you.”
You are not alone in this. You are not on your own. Disappointment doesn’t mean abandonment. That was true for Thomas and that is true for you.
Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Now, look at how Thomas responded. “Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28, NIV)
This is actually the highest confession of Jesus’ divinity in the entire New Testament. And it came from the mouth of a disappointed doubter, because doubt and disappointment weren’t the end of his story. And it’s not the end of your story, either.
It’s not the end of your story because your story isn’t about you. Your story is about Jesus. Your story is based on the truth that Thomas exclaimed. Your story is based on Jesus as your Lord and your God.
Until you make the same confession about Jesus that Thomas made, you’re going to struggle. You’re going to keep coming up empty. Trying to figure life out apart from Jesus never works, because He is our Creator, our Sustainer, and our Savior. If Jesus is really Lord and God, then it makes sense that life has to be centered around Him, not around me.
And that’s actually great news, because that means that our lives are based on something higher and something greater than our situation.
Life is hard. Life roughs us up. Life hands us incredible disappointments. And if my life is all about me, then I’m going to crumble when things don’t go my way. Pain and hurt and disappointment will take me down.
But if my life if based on Jesus and not on me, then I understand that my life is about something greater than my current disappointment.
That’s because Jesus is not a situational Savior.
Here’s what I mean by that. If my life is about me, then my situation dictates everything. If things are good, my life is on solid footing. If things are bad, the very foundation of my life is shaken. If my life is about me.
But if my life is about Jesus, then it’s not about my current situation. Jesus is not a situational Savior. He’s not defined by my current situation.
It’s not a deal where if life is good, then Jesus must be good. And if life is bad, then Jesus must be bad. Jesus is far greater than that. He’s far, far above our situation. That’s what we see when we look to the cross and the empty tomb.
My current situation does not define whether or not God is good. That was settled when Jesus died for me.
And my current situation does not define whether or not God is great. That was settled when Jesus rose again for me.
The cross and the empty tomb tell me all I need to know about God. It tells me all I need to know about God’s greatness and it tells me all I need to know about God’s goodness. It has nothing to do with my situation, because it has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with what Jesus has done for me.
It’s interesting that when Thomas was mired in doubt and disappointment, he demanded to see the wounds of Jesus. He demanded to put his fingers into the nail holes in Jesus’ hands, and to put his hand into the spear wound in Jesus’ side. Because he had seen Jesus die, and unless he saw these wounds, he wouldn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Isn’t it amazing that the wounds that had been the source of Thomas’ doubt and disappointment were actually the source of His healing?
That goes back to what Isaiah prophesied 700 years before the birth of Christ. “…by his wounds, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5b, NIV)
I know it’s not always easy. I know that there are seasons when the disappointments just seem to mount so high that it seems impossible to believe. But the truth is that God has not left you alone. He has not abandoned you. And not only is He with you, but He loves you.
If you have any doubt of that, do what Thomas did. Look at His wounds. Look at the sacrifice that He made for you. Don’t trust your circumstances to define God’s love for you. Trust the cross. Because circumstances change. Situations ebb and flow. But the cross never changes. It will stand for all eternity as the definitive answer to this question: does God really love me?
There are times when your situation might suggest that the answer is no. But the cross proclaims that the answer is absolutely, positively yes.
And this is why disappointment doesn’t have to lead to derailment. Disappointment doesn’t have to derail our lives because when it comes, we know that we’re not alone and we’re not unloved. Because the sacrifice of the cross and the victory of the resurrection are greater than any disappointment we’ll ever face.