#7 (The 12 Disciples Series)
“THOMAS -- THE PESSIMIST!”
TEXTS: John 11:11-16; 14:1-6; 20:24-29
INTRO: The story is told about two boys, one was an optimist and the other was a pessimist. The two boys were taken to two rooms and left there for a little while. The pessimist was taken to a room that was filled with wonderful new toys. The optimist was taken to a room that contained only a few items, a shovel for hay, a pile of horse manure, and a hay bail. After some time the men went back to see how the boys were doing. To their surprise they found the pessimist in the room with all the toys just sitting in the corner, he hadn't even touched a toy! When asked why the boy said, "I just knew if I played with a toy it would break so I didn't touch anything!" Curious now about the other boy they went to his room and to their surprise when they opened the door they found a huge hole with dirt being pitched out at a frenzied rate! They looked down into the hole and the boy was using the pitch fork to dig a hole; they asked him why he was doing this and this was his reply, "I saw the manure and the hay in here so I figured somewhere in here there has got to be a horse!"
The way we look at things often affects greatly our responses in life and our attitudes. In many ways it affects the quality of our life and whether we are stifled or growing. Thomas was the group pessimist ... but Jesus loved him and helped him to grow beyond his negative perspective.
PROP SENT: The Bible teaches us that God loves us as we are, even when we tend to have a pessimistic heart. He will work in our lives to develop us into more positive saints!
I. NEGATIVE & COMMITTED! Jn. 11:11-16
A. Perceptions 11:11-15
1. Jesus had deliberately withheld
a. The disciples probably perceived this as a sign that Lazarus must not be all that sick or Jesus would have certainly rushed to his side!
b. Therefore when Jesus told them it was now time to go to "wake him up" their perception of this was that Lazarus was o.k., that he had only been sleeping.
2. They were probably concerned however about Jesus going back to Bethany since He had created quite a stir there earlier; the authorities had tried to capture Jesus to kill him!
a. Thus going back so soon would surely put Jesus at risk for capture and death, and any disciple caught with him would likely face the same thing!
b. NOTICE VERSE 8! "But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?"
3. They probably assumed that if Lazarus was “sleeping” now that his fever had broken and he would be o.k. so why go back and risk arrest and death over a simple fever?
a. Thus Jesus has to be clear: “So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead,”
b. Now they must have been shocked that Jesus had delayed His going if this was the case, but Jesus explains the reason for His waiting: “and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” A man dead for 4 days being raised from the dead would surely help their faith – even though they did not yet fully understand that Jesus was going to raise him from the dead.
c. It was for their sake that Jesus had waited, and for the sake of others who would witness the power of His authority over death.
4. How different each disciple reacted to the news that they were going back to a hostile area, even in the same church family we will all react differently to the same thing.
ILLUS: LIKE ONE PARENT DESCRIBING HER 3 CHILDREN, EACH OF THEM SAW A SPIDER WEB IN THEIR GARDEN AND EACH ONE REACTED DIFFERENTLY THOUGH FROM THE SAME FAMILY. HER FIRST CHILD EXAMINED THE WEB AND WONDERED HOW A SPIDER COULD DO SOMETHING SO COMPLICATED LIKE THAT. HER SECOND CHILD SAW THE WEB AND WANTED TO KNOW WHY THEY DIDN'T SEE THE SPIDER? WHERE IS ITS MOM? THE THIRD EXCLAIMED, "OH LOOK, A SMALL TRAMPOLINE!" THERE WAS ONLY ONE SPIDER WEB BUT IT WAS VIEWED BY THE SAME FAMILY MEMBERS IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. I’m sure the reaction to return to a hostile environment was questioned.
a. “Do you think this is a good idea with the hostile climate right now?”
b. “I'm sure Mary and Martha will understand if we don't make it!”
c. “If Lazarus is already dead anyways why go back and have twelve more funerals to deal with, namely us!”
d. “I liked the guy too Jesus, but I know Lazarus wouldn't want us to jeopardize our lives if he could talk now.”
B. Pessimistic 11:16
1. Thomas is singled out here in his response, and it clearly shows him as a pessimist, but it also shows his commitment to Jesus! “Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’”
a. Not all pessimists in the church are sloppy in their commitment to God; they may just be negative in their perspectives but deeply committed to God!
b. Notice Thomas’ response to going back when it was likely he would be arrested and tried and executed: "Let us also go, that we may die with him." 11:16b. He was fully committed to going back if that was what Jesus wanted to do, even when he thought it meant certain death! I would call that commitment!
2. What a cheery disciple Thomas was!!
3. He is speaking to the whole group, his plan – "let's go with Jesus and plan to die also!"
a. You have to admire the commitment this reflects!
b. Although the attitude is one of expecting the worse – a pessimist!
4. Sometimes you encounter Christians like this, every plan the church proposes will meet with disaster in their minds, they always expect the worst!
a. It'll fail or there's not enough money or everyone will quit after it starts, no one will do the work, we tried it before and it didn't work then … but hey let’s try and it fail anyways, etc. They may even volunteer to be involved after expressing their viewpoint that it won’t work! They are committed complainers!
b. There just are some people who have a hard time seeing the positive or good in anything!
ILLUS: LIKE TWO BUDDIES, ONE AN OPTIMIST, THE OTHER A PESSIMIST. THE OPTIMIST ASKED HIS FRIEND, “ISN'T THIS A BRIGHT SUNNY DAY?" THE PESSIMIST REPLIED, "YES, BUT IF THIS HEAT DOESN'T STOP SOON, ALL THE GRASS WILL DRY UP." TWO DAYS LATER THE OPTIMIST SAID TO THE PESSIMIST, "ISN'T THIS RAIN WONDERFUL?" THE PESSIMIST REPLIED, "YES, BUT IF IT DOESN'T STOP RAINING SOON, MY GARDEN WILL WASH AWAY!" THE NEXT DAY THE OPTIMIST INVITED HIS PESSIMISTIC FRIEND TO GO DUCK HUNTING WITH HIM. THE OPTIMIST WANTED TO SHOW OFF HIS NEW REGISTERED HUNTING DOG THAT COULD DO THINGS NO OTHER DOG COULD. THE PESSIMIST LOOKED AT HIS DOG AND DECLARED, "LOOKS LIKE A MUTT TO ME!" JUST THEN A FLOCK OF DUCKS FLEW OVER AND THE OPTIMIST SHOT ONE AND IT FELL INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE LAKE. HE SNAPPED HIS FINGERS AND HIS NEW DOG RAN AFTER THE DUCK, RUNNING ON TOP OF THE WATER ALL THE WAY OUT AND ALL THE WAY BACK! THE OPTIMIST THOUGHT THAT NOW SURELY HIS PESSIMISTIC FRIEND WOULD BE IMPRESSED, AND SO HE ASKED AS HE PULLED THE DUCK OUT OF HIS DOG'S MOUTH, "WHAT DO YOU THINK OF MY DOG NOW?" THE PESSIMIST REPLIED, “DUMB DOG, CAN'T EVEN SWIM RIGHT!” – SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. Thomas was just one of those disciples that assumed the worse in most situations – you will see this again after Jesus’ resurrection!
a. This probably meant he was moody and isolated himself at times, we will find this true in the last passage we study.
b. At this time Jesus says nothing to Thomas about correcting his response, time will bring maturity and later the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will help him also!
II. NO COMPREHENSION 14:1-6
A. Promises! 14:1-4
1. Jesus on this occasion is consoling His disciples, giving them promises they can bank on to encourage them!
a. He is assuring them of the future, something uncertain for most people.
b. He wants them to know that they will be well taken care of, that He is making plans for their following Him to heaven one day!
c. How wonderful to be assured of the rich promises of God!
2. The disciples of Jesus need to know God's promises, especially when we are going through tough times!
3. God's Word contains many promises for His children; promises of protection, help, guidance, and safety – and a glorious future!
4. Like many Christians today, those promises did not seem to make much of an impact on the disciples, they didn't seem to catch the importance of what Jesus was saying.
ILLUS: LIKE THE GREAT CHIEF OF THE BLACKFOOT INDIANS YEARS AGO, THE CHIEF WAS PRESENTED BY THE CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILROAD PERMISSION TO RIDE ANY OF ITS TRAINS FOR A LIFETIME AT NO COST IF THEY COULD PASS OVER INDIAN LAND. THE CROWFOOT CHIEF GAVE PERMISSION FOR THE RR TO GO THROUGH THEIR LAND AND WAS PRESENTED WITH A LIFETIME PASS. HE PUT IT IN A LEATHER CASE WHICH HE WORE AROUND HIS NECK FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE, BUT NEVER ONCE DID HE USE IT! LIKE HIM, MANY CHRISTIANS CARRY SCRIPTURE CARDS AROUND WITH THE PROMISES OF GOD ON – THEY MEMORIZE THEM BUT THEY NEVER LIVE AS THOUGH THEY ARE TRUE! THEY NEVER USE THEM! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
B. Protest! 14:5-6
1. Thomas' response indicates his usual pessimistic response: "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 14:5
a. Thomas' first reaction to the good news of Jesus' promise to prepare a place for them and to come and get them one day was negative and cynical – that pessimist personality showed up again!
b. Instead of joy for the promises of God Thomas only sees problems!
2. Jesus had already stated before Thomas' protest, "You know the way to the place where I am going." 14:4b
a. Thomas doesn't seem to know that Jesus meant He was going to heaven!
b. What was Jesus' mission all about, how could Thomas not know?
3. All this time with Jesus and all the talk about the kingdom of God and Jesus being the way to heaven and still Thomas poutingly states, "how can we know the way, we don't even know where you are going?"
a. Maybe he had a bad hair day or something!
b. Perhaps he was just in one of his usual pessimistic moods!
c. After all, this occasion was full of anxiety, things were getting bad, Jesus had already had His last supper with them and the pressure was on from the authorities.
d. Thomas may have been bummed out by the way things were going, from bad to worse, certainly nothing good is coming may have been his thoughts!
4. At least he is honest about how he is feeling!
a. His negative slant blocked his comprehension about what Jesus was doing – this is often true with pessimistic saints.
b. He couldn't see straight!
ILLUS: LIKE THE MAN WHO HIRED A GUIDE TO TAKE HIM ACROSS A VAST DESERT AREA. WHEN THE TWO MEN ARRIVED AT THE EDGE OF THE DESERT THE TRAVELER LOOKED AHEAD AND SAW BEFORE HIM TRACKLESS SAND IN EVERY DIRECTION! NO FOOTPRINTS OR ROADS OR PATHS COULD BE SEEN ANYWHERE! TURNING TO HIS GUIDE HE ASKED, "WHERE IS THE ROAD OR PATH? THERE IS NOTHING THERE FOR US TO FOLLOW!" THE GUIDE REPLIED, "CERTAINLY THERE IS, I AM THE ROAD, I KNOW THIS DESERT, FOLLOW ME AND YOU WILL BE ALRIGHT!" – SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. Jesus explains this to his disciples, including Thomas – He is the way! The way is taken care of Thomas, don't fret or be frustrated!
III. NEEDLESS COMPLAINT 20:24-29
A. Pouting! 20:24-25
1. Following Jesus resurrection when the disciples were hiding in fear Jesus made an appearance to encourage them, only one disciple from the eleven is missing on this first appearance, guess who? THOMAS!
a. He may have been alone pouting, especially after reading his next statements when he is with them and they share how they had seen Jesus alive! Thomas quickly states that he will not believe until he can touch Jesus himself!
b. He wouldn't accept the word of his best friends, an indication of doubt and being a pessimist!
c. He may have been mad that Jesus made an appearance to them, though it was his own fault for not being with the guys!
2. Thomas is emphatic about not believing, he felt cheated, Jesus had died and this was not his idea of a new kingdom, now they were all bad guys in everyone else's eyes. Jesus supposedly appeared to everyone except him of course!
a. Thomas saw only what Thomas wanted to see!! He wasn’t optimistic about anything at this point and didn’t believe anything he couldn’t touch for himself!
b. Some Christians are like this too!
c. Thomas’ absence during that first appearance of Jesus may have had a lot to do with his pessimism.
ILLUS: IF I WOULD SAY THE WORD "BLUE" YOU WOULD BEGIN TO THINK BLUE, YOU WOULD SUDDENLY NOTICE BLUE THINGS AROUND YOU – BLUE WOULD STICK OUT SUDDENLY IN YOUR NOTICE WHERE YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT BLUE THINGS JUST A MINUTE AGO. WHEN PEOPLE GET "BLUE" THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM TOO, THEY SEE EVERYTHING "BLUE" AROUND THEM, EVERYTHING IS TAINTED AS BEING BAD OR AGAINST THEM. – SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. Thomas was still pessimistic Thomas, “God reveals Himself to everyone else except me!!!” So he won't be persuaded to believe until he himself touches Jesus and has proof firsthand!
a. If this isn't being pessimistic I don't know what is!
b. This is a sad state to exist in, pessimistic people can be miserable.
B. Positive! 20:26-29
1. It is interesting that Jesus waits another week before showing up in Thomas' presence!!
a. Jesus didn't just jump to satisfy Thomas' doubting; perhaps the Lord wanted Thomas to grow up a little bit!
b. To constantly jump every time Thomas whined around would only have encouraged more of it!
c. Jesus waited on purpose here, just like He did after Lazarus death! Making an important point at the next appearance was quite clearly intended by Jesus just for Thomas's sake; Jesus addressed Thomas personally immediately at the next appearance!
2. Jesus' wait of a week was probably meant to help Thomas work through his negative and pessimistic nature.
a. He rejected his best friends’ testimony, not a good example of friendship on Thomas' part!
b. This waiting period must have been agony, but it was necessary for what Thomas needed in his life, to become more positive!
c. Sometimes God uses struggles to force us to grow up, to learn something new, to teach us how to walk by faith; you can't walk by faith if it is never tested!
3. Struggles many times are God's way of saying He loves us, not the opposite! Struggles build character, they teach us to trust God, to believe He is good even when the evidence doesn't exist at the moment to see that, etc.
ILLUS: A MAN FOUND A COCOON OF THE EMPEROR MOTH AND TOOK IT HOME TO WATCH IT EMERGE. ONE DAY HE NOTICED MOVEMENT AND SAW A SMALL HOLE BEING MADE BY THE MOTH INSIDE. FOR SEVERAL HOURS THE MOTH STRUGGLE TO GET THROUGH THE TINY HOLE IT HAD MADE, A HOLE MUCH SMALLER THAN WAS NEEDED TO GET OUT EASILY. THE MOTH COULDN'T SEEM TO MAKE MUCH PROGRESS GETTING THROUGH THE TINY OPENING SO THE MAN DECIDED TO HELP IT BY CUTTING THE HOLE LARGER FOR THE MOTH. SURE ENOUGH, THE MOTH NOW EMERGED EASILY. THE MAN WATCHED FOR SOME TIME LONGER WAITING FOR IT TO FLY AWAY, BUT SOMETHING SEEMED WRONG WITH ITS WINGS, THEY WERE SHRIVELED AND NEVER FLATTENED OUT, IT WAS HOPELESS! EVEN AFTER A LONG TIME THE MOTH COULD NOT FLY, AND SO IT DIED. ONLY LATER DID THE MAN DISCOVER THAT THE MOTH IS SUPPOSE TO STRUGGLE THROUGH AN OPENING TOO SMALL FOR ITS BODY, BY DOING THIS IT SQUEEZES FLUIDS FROM ITS BODY INTO THE WINGS THUS INFLATING THEM TO THE PROPER FLAT LEVEL, THE STRUGGLE WAS EXACTLY WHAT THE MOTH NEEDED TO HAVE ITS WINGS BE RIGHT FOR FLIGHT! THE MAN HAD SENTENCED THE MOTH TO DEPENDENCE BY DENYING HIM THE STRUGGLE, SO IT COULD NEVER FLY! HE HURT IT AND NOT HELPED IT! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. Jesus must have known that extra week of waiting would be good for Thomas!
a. Sure enough, when Jesus comes into the room a week later His attention immediately goes to Thomas with an invitation to go ahead and touch Jesus’ body for proof!
b. What a testimony of Jesus' patience with Thomas, yet He did make him wait a week, He also knows Thomas' struggle with doubt; the invitation was clear: "...stop doubting and believe!" 20:27b
5. Thomas' response is very interesting for it does not say he touched Jesus, he simply blurted out, "My Lord and My God!" 20:28
a. Thomas woke up quickly, he's come around again!
b. Like the others, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost seem to have altered his negativism and pessimism, we have no other examples of Thomas being negative or pessimistic after this event, he finally becomes a positive saint!
6. Jesus adds a final BEATITUDE HERE: "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET HAVE BELIEVED!"
a. The term "BLESSED" means "HAPPY" – the idea being that those who can believe without requiring proof experience a joy or happiness that is sometimes lost to those who are more pessimistic and require proof before believing!
b. However, one can always change, just like Thomas; Jesus is always in the process or strengthening us where we are weakest! It is possible to move from being a pessimist to being an optimist, Thomas did it, so can disciples today.
7. At no point did Jesus get rid of Thomas the pessimist, He just kept working with him, developing and stretching him as they went along – Jesus loves the Christian pessimist just as much as He does the Christian optimist, so should we! He is in the business of changing us from being a pessimist to an optimist!
CONCLUSION: Thomas struggled with being a pessimist, often it brought him pain – and certainly lots of doubt, but the Lord loved him and continued to help him grow. Like many of us Thomas was a mix of good and bad qualities, though negative in his perceptions, he always stayed committed to Christ. What he missed along the way as a pessimist however was the joy and confidence of his faith, but he did make progress and grow into a positive disciple! Therefore, there is hope for the worst pessimist among us!