Explore the Bible Study: Reach Out Your Hand

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I believe it because . . . How would people complete this statement today? Why is it easy to believe in what you don’t fully understand? What happens when mankind chooses to believe something based on personal opinions, preferences, or convenience over what is actually true? The Explore the Bible Study: Reach Out Your Hand will help you answer those questions.

Everything—theory, fact, personal preferences, philosophy, or some other “truth”—requires an element of faith to truly believe it. While putting faith in something or someone is viewed many times in the context of religion, it is something that drives one’s actions in every area of life. The question is what does one believe and put one’s faith in? Sadly, we see people putting their faith in everything except Christ and they use the excuse that it is because they can’t “see Jesus” or “no one can prove that He is who He says He is.”

We are living in a time when people demand evidence of Christ’s existence yet willingly believe other things without any basis other than personal opinion, conjecture, preference, hearsay, theory, or because they read it on the internet!

But perhaps things aren’t so different today than it was after Jesus’s resurrection. Believing in Jesus was challenging and required faith that many struggled to enact.  Let’s examine today how belief in Jesus is something that must be based on faith – not seeing yet believing. Ironically, John helps us, in John 20:19-23, to understand this through the lens of those who believed because they DID see Jesus after the resurrection. However, their belief was challenged by their circumstances. 

This brings us to ask three questions about believing in Jesus. The first being, “Do you believe in Jesus when you are afraid?"

Do you believe in Jesus when you are afraid? – John 20:19-23

This took place on “that first day of the week.” Several women had already visited Jesus’s tomb and found it empty. Based upon that report, Peter and John had raced to the tomb only to find it empty. Finally, Mary Magdalene saw Jesus outside the tomb and rushed to share this wonderful news. Yet, even after all this, where do we find the disciples, minus Thomas who was absent, that evening? They were hiding behind locked doors! They were still afraid.

How can fear challenge our belief in Jesus?

The followers of Christ gathered behind those locked doors are no different than how we respond at times. Fear is something we all face and can challenge our belief in Jesus. What we see though in this passage is that Jesus will step in for those who believe in Him and will calm those fears.

Jesus calmed their fears by first simply speaking to them the words, “Peace be with you.” Imagine you are these disciples, and you hear Jesus speak peace into your life.

  • Perhaps they were reminded of what took place when their boat was about to sink during that raging storm on the Sea of Galilee as described in Matthew 8:24-26, “24 Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves—but Jesus kept sleeping. 25 So the disciples came and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!” 26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” They were afraid then and Jesus calmed the seas and took away their fears."
  • Perhaps they reminded of His previous words to them as recorded by John, “Peace I leave with you” (John 14:27), and “In Me you may have peace” (John 16:33).

Jesus not only spoke to them, but He also “showed them his hands and his side.” Then Jesus repeated the words, “Peace be with you.” But, this time, it was with a different purpose.

Jesus knew His disciples had many questions, but He moved the conversation toward a more important matter: they were to act upon what they believed. Living in His peace, the disciples could act on Jesus’s behalf. In the same way that the Father had sent Him, Jesus would also send them. They weren’t called to simply believe and be happy. They were chosen to reach the world and were given divine power to do so through the Holy Spirit.

When your fears challenge your belief do you expect Jesus to only calm your fears so you can go on living a fear-free and care-free life or do you consider how belief should lead to the action to sharing the gospel with others?

Next, we see how Thomas struggled with doubt when he heard about their encounter with the resurrected Christ which leads us to ask ourselves another question.

Do you believe when you have doubts? – John 20:24-25

Put yourself in Thomas’s place. These disciples report to him the joyous news: “We’ve seen the Lord!” The verb tense suggests they kept on telling him. Thomas likely felt overwhelmed, not only by their stories, but by their enthusiasm. But, instead of joining in their excitement, Thomas was skeptical. He demanded evidence and even said, “I will never believe until I “see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side.”

How do you feel about Thomas’s struggle with belief? Have doubts ever caused you to struggle with belief in Jesus?

Many believers will go through a period of doubt that will challenge their belief in Jesus. There might even be times when that doubt is expressed as bluntly as Thomas expressed his doubt. Obviously, we also know that unbelievers will most certainly express doubt and demand evidence.

What actions can believers take when doubt challenges their belief in Jesus? How can we help lost people deal with doubt?

Finally, Jesus helps Thomas “see” and thus, “believe.” This brings us to a final question:

Can you believe without seeing? – John 20:26-29

Notice that, although the disciples had seen the living Christ, they still made sure the doors were locked. This should help us understand how they viewed their situation. Again, Jesus did not enter through the normal manner. He simply appeared and stood among them. Jesus also greeted them again by saying: “Peace be with you.” Jesus continued to offer peace as they followed Him. 

Then Jesus gave His complete attention to Thomas and to his doubts. Jesus invited Thomas to touch His nail scarred hands, and put his hand in His pierced side. Finally, Thomas knew Jesus was alive! Yet, Jesus used this opportunity to teach something very important to His disciples – “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Thomas believed because he had seen Jesus as did the other disciples. Encountering his resurrected Lord motivated Thomas not only to believe but also to engage completely in Jesus’s mission. Church tradition states that he took the gospel across southern India before dying as a martyr.

But Jesus also spoke about those who have not seen but choose to believe anyway. These individuals are blessed, a word that literally means “happy.” Their blessing comes as they receive the gift of God, believe in the finished work of Christ, find salvation by faith, and share Christ with others (see Ephesians 2:8).

Are You Blessed?

A 2017 BBC survey of people living in England revealed that a quarter of people who describe themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. A more recent survey by Lifeway Research in 2020 reported that two-thirds of American adults (66%) say they believe the biblical accounts of the physical resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. That same research revealed that adults who attend church services at least once or twice a month are more likely to say they believe in the resurrection (89%).

Does this research cause you to wonder why people who don’t believe in the resurrection still claim to be Christians? Why would anyone who doesn’t believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God claim to be a follower of Christ?

Jesus stated that those who believe without seeing are blessed or happy. Perhaps this is why so many who claim to be Christians don’t feel blessed or happy. Perhaps they haven’t truly believed.

Just as the disciples’ belief about Jesus’s resurrection held pivotal consequences, the same is true for those who say they believe today. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only vital but absolutely necessary for those who claim to be followers of Christ. At times we may struggle believing in the power of the resurrected Christ because we are (1) afraid, or (2) because we may have doubts. But, for those who believe and continue to believe without seeing, we are blessed.

John MacArthur once said this concerning Jesus’s resurrection: 

“If Jesus doesn’t rise, He isn’t the prophet, He isn’t the priest, He isn’t the King promised. If He didn’t rise, He’s just Jesus Christ superstar and His death is just the death of an ordinary man with no saving value.” – John MacArthur

Consider your view of the resurrection this week. How pivotal is it in helping you overcome doubts and fears? Consider if you are one who has believed without seeing. If not, consider reaching out to someone or looking further into your relationship with Christ to see if it’s a relationship that will take you into eternity with Him.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. 

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LifeWay Explore The Bible Resources

These teaching helps are intended to be used as a supplement to your study of Lifeway's Explore the Bible curriculum resources. Portions of this material are taken directly from content copyrighted to Lifeway Christian Resources Explore the Bible and is used with permission.  This material has not been reviewed by Lifeway Christian Resources. 

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