TD Jakes - Faith In a Crisis
In our text, we are in the middle of a crisis. It is a faith crisis. No bombs have fallen. No plagues have been released. No disaster is depicted. No chaos is obvious, but yet it is a faith crisis. Because these 12 men who started out walking with Jesus believed him. They walked off their jobs and believed him. They walked away from their families and believed him. They walked away from the familiar, and they believed him. They traveled for miles by foot, following Jesus, because they believed him. They thought they understood him. They thought he was bringing the kingdom. They thought he would overthrow the Roman Empire.
They thought he would be their king on earth. They thought that they would get a seat beside him. They thought they would make up his parliament. They thought they would make up his congress. They thought they would have positions of power. They followed him, and the halfway through the process, he started talkin' this strange talk that made them stare at one another, talkin' about if you destroy the temple, in three days I'll raise it again. Except a grain of wheat fall onto the ground and die it abide alone, but if it die, it brings forth much fruit. Why is he talkin' about that? Why does he keep talkin' about this? What's he talking about? What's he talkin' about? What's he talkin' about dying? Why is he talkin' about dying? He kept talkin' about dying. Why is he talkin' about dying?
Death was not in their plan. It was not in their perspective. It was not in their purview. It was not in their preparation. It was not in their understanding. They didn't understand why Jesus kept talkin' about death. They heard him murmuring about it in the Garden of Gethsemane, out there in the woods. Looked like he was talking to himself. "Father, if it be thy will, pass this bitter cup from me. Not my will, but thine be done". And there in the Garden of Gethsemane, where his soul was pressed until blood drops came out of the pores of his skin, they watched him, and didn't understand him, fell asleep accused, confused about him, and he was murmuring about death. He was murmuring about death, and the pressure was mounting, and the politics were mounting, and the Pharisees were against him, and the Sadducees were against him.
But they weren't afraid, because Jesus had power. They'd seen him walk on water. They had seen him heal the sick. They had seen him raise the dead. They had seen him turn water into wine. They had seen him open up the blinded eyes of Bartimaeus. They knew that he had power, yet when they apprehended Jesus, he opened not his mouth. He didn't say a word. He let them take him. He didn't have to let them take him. He had spoken one time, and the ground knocked them to the ground. "I that speak am he," and the ground had knocked them over. He had enough power, he could have resisted, but he didn't do anything. He turned into this lamb-like individual that they were not familiar with, and he didn't say a mumbling word, and they drug him around like he was a little boy from judgment hall to judgment hall. They snatched him around, they beat him like he was a slave, until his entrails were hanging inside out.
And then after they had whipped him, they put a cross on his back, and made him carry the cross outside of the city to a place called Golgotha. And there on Golgotha's hill, he had to carry the cross up the hill like a slave, toward a peek at the top of the mountain where there was so much uncertainty, that nobody knew for sure what was going to happen, but it did not look good. Most of the disciples ran away, and Peter, he went to cussing, saying, "I was never with him. I was never with him. I was not with him". Because Peter was afraid, and rightfully so, because they were getting ready to kill Jesus. They were getting ready to kill Jesus. And now, push had come to shove. Only one disciple said I'm gonna die with him, and that was Thomas. Thomas said we must go. I must go and die with him.
Thomas, yeah, Thomas. I know you call him doubting Thomas. You got a name for everybody. But he wasn't always doubting Thomas. He had been confirmed, and convinced, and committed in his faith, and he believed Jesus, and he was prepared to go to Jerusalem to die with Jesus. But the pressure was mounting, and it got worse. And they'd beaten him so bad he wasn't recognizable. They stripped him of his clothing, and he went like a lamb to the shearers, and he never fought back, and he never said anything, and he didn't do any of those miraculous things they had seen him do over and over again. It was as if he had lost his power. And he laid down on the cross. No man took his life, he laid down on a wooden cross, and they nailed his hands to the cross, and blood spewed out like a water fountain.
The Roman soldiers lift high the hammer, and slammed it down on the nail, and blood flew everywhere. And again they struck it down again, and blood flew everywhere. They crossed his feet together, I believe, symbolic of the Jews and Gentiles coming together up under one gospel. They put 'em all together and boom, they slammed it down again. And once they had got him fastened affixed firmly to a wooden cross, a cross that he had made himself, a cross he had created, a mountain he had hollowed out, they lifted him up on the cross, and they hung him high, and they stretched him wide. And there, the Savior of the universe lay on the cross, stripped naked, powerless, impotent, murmuring, almost sounding delirious, uttering things that made no sense. "I thirst," talking to his mother, "Behold thy son, son, behold thy mother". Changing languages, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani". "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me"?
Can you imagine what it would be like to be a disciple of Jesus and hear Jesus say, "Eli, Eli lama sabachthani"? "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me"? Why should I stay if God left? Their faith had come to a crushing blow of crisis and uncertainty. What in the world are we going to do? How do I go back home and tell them that maybe he wasn't who I thought he was, and maybe he couldn't do what I thought he could do? I saw him do it, but then when he needed to do it most, he didn't do it. How am I gonna tell? How do I get my old job back? How do I explain to my wife why I spent three years following around somebody who died like a criminal on a cross?
And most of the disciples ran to a room and hid, because they said if they killed our pastor, they'll kill us, too. They locked themselves up in the room, and I heard, I heard that Judas hung himself in the potter's field. They didn't go see, but it was rumored that he had committed suicide. And there were rumors that suggest somebody might have broken into his grave and taken his body. And Thomas had decided, "I don't know about this. I don't know. I don't know what to think. I don't know what to believe. I don't know where to go. I don't know what to say. Why didn't he do something? Why didn't he stop it? Why didn't he stop it? Why didn't he stop it? Why did he let this happen? Why did he let this happen to himself? Why didn't he let this happen to me? Why didn't he let this happen to me"?
If you've ever had a faith crisis, this is the way you talk. Why, why, if God was on my side, why did Mama die? If God was on my side, why did my daughter die? If God was on my side, why did I lose my job? I thought God was... I don't know. I don't know, maybe it's not real. Maybe it doesn't work. Maybe it's not true. Skepticism has leaked into the boat. Skepticism has come into the room. Skepticism has invaded the premise. That's why when Jesus got up from the grave, and he came to the room where ten disciples were, one was dead, committed suicide, and the other one was stuck in skepticism. The ten were locked up for fear of the Jews. They had not lost their faith, but they were afraid of the Jews. And the Bible said that when Jesus came to the room, he came through the door, right through the door, and appeared unto them in the room. I know they thought, "Oh, God, this is a ghost," but then he ate fish, and spirits can't eat. Spirit enough to go through the door, and man enough to eat fish on the inside.
Only God could do things like this. But the problem was, he did it while Thomas was gone. Thomas was not in the room when Jesus first showed up, he was out someplace trying to figure out whether he should believe it or not. And maybe I shouldn't go back to their church. And maybe I shouldn't be in there, 'cause this is not working and I might get killed. And I don't know where I fit, 'cause I can't go back to Jerusalem, and I don't fit in the Upper Room. And I want to talk to somebody who feels like you don't fit in anywhere. You're too much of the world to be in the church, and yet you're too much of the church to be in the world, and so you pace back and forth, because you don't fit anywhere. And you believe, sort of, but you got some doubt, and you got some worry, and your faith is in a crisis. Your faith is in a crisis. You think your life is in a crisis? No, no, no, no, you think your money's in a crisis? No, no, no, no, no, no, you think your family's in a crisis? No, that's all what the devil is using. Your faith, your faith is in a crisis.
So, when our text begins to espouse the conversation between Jesus and Thomas, it's because Thomas has decided to climb up the stairs, and go into the building, and sit down. He was there, but he wasn't really with them. He was there listening at them telling stories that Jesus had been by just a little bit ago. Jesus came by. What, oh, get out of here. Jesus is dead. Jesus had been been by. No, Jesus is dead. We took him down, his rigor mortis ridden body down off the cross. We saw his congealed blood. The blood and water came out of his side when the Roman soldiers pierced him, which means that the blood had began to coagulate and separate itself in such a manner that you could identify the clear from the blood. He was dead. We wrapped him in linen strips and we shoved him into Joseph of Arimathea's grave. He was dead. We rolled a stone in front of him. He was gone. I know he was gone. He was stiff. I know he was gone. He was cold.
Now you're gonna tell me that he was up here? I won't believe it unless I thrust my hands into his side, and feel the nail prints in his hand. If he'd show up, I won't believe it until I see his wounds. And as soon as he opened his big mouth to say how much it would cost for him to believe, Jesus showed up again. This is the moment in the text where I almost fall apart, because I can understand why Jesus would come by for the ten, but to turn around and come back for the one? For one guy who don't even believe in you, who doubts you, who has allowed the skepticism of the world to invade his thinking to the point that he's not even sure he's one of your disciples? And yet you come back for one.
I got to praise him, because I have been that one. I have been the one that when everybody threw up their hands, I thought I wasn't worth it. I know what it is to be the one that he came back and showed up, and it was not because my faith was strong, and it was not because my life was good, and it was not because I was so moral, and it was not because I was so holy, but it was because he is so merciful. And his mercies are new every morning, and his grace so abounds that every now and then, Jesus will show up for just one person. If everybody clicked off there right now, and there were only one person, just me and you, he would show up. He would show up just for you, because you are important to him. Even in your doubts, and even in your fear, and even in your unbelief, and even in your uncertainty, and even in your ambiguity, and even in the fact that you go back and forth, and up and down, and even in your indecisiveness, and even in your confusion, you are so important to him, that he will show up for one. A table for one. He will come to a table for one.
Jesus appeared in the room almost as if he was making an encore for one person, one person. One, one, one, one person who didn't even believe. I understand why he would show up for one believer, but he came for one guy who didn't even believe. But then again, maybe Thomas was not an unbeliever, because even in spite of his struggles, he still came to the room. It sounds more like he was struggling in his faith more than that he had lost his faith. That he was sayin' one thing with his mouth, but his actions was sayin' somethin' else, 'cause he came to church. He was murmuring, but he came to church. He was talking about the pastor, but he came to church. He was doubting the brotherhood, but he came to church. The very fact he climbed them steps, and came into that room and argued is a sign that he wasn't sure.
I don't know who I'm after, but I'm after somebody. You've been kicking up a fuss and making a lot of noise, but down on the inside, God has got a hook in your mouth, and he's drawing you toward him, and you're flipping and flopping like every fish does when you got a hook in your mouth. And God is pulling in the line, because you are important to him. And Jesus came to pay Thomas a visit, and then he gave him the opportunity that would change the trajectory of his life. It is an opportunity that few leaders have the grace to be able to give, because most leaders will show you their crowns, and then there are leaders that will show you their successes.
And there are the leaders that will show you their degrees, and there are other leaders that will show you their trophies. And some will show you their Grammys, and some will show you their Pulitzers, and some will you their Emmys. But there are few leaders that will show you their wounds. Jesus said if I gotta strip for you, if I got to take all of my stuff off and show you what they did to me, I will not leave this room and leave you wondering if I am authentically me. Because to be authentic is more important than to be beautiful. When you walked with me, my skin was unflawed. When you walked with me, my face was not marred.
He said, but I want to show you that in order to be authentic, you have to have some flaws and some wounds. And you can't just walk with me in my beauty, you have to walk with me in my wounds. And if I have to strip to lead you, I want you to know they got me right here, and they got me right here. And reach hither your hand and feel this. Come here, come here, come here, feel that right there. They got me right there. And I let them get me so you could see me get back up again. I went down so you could see me come back up. So that no matter what they put on you, you will always know that you have the power within yourself to get back up again. Reach hither your hands and feel the nail prints in my hand, and touch me right here and feel where they pierced me in the side, and be not faithless but believe.
And Thomas fell down on his knees, because he had an encounter with God. He had had an encounter with the God that felt safe enough to show his wounds. I don't wanna follow anybody that can't show me their wounds. Because the cost of discipleship is a cross, and you can't make me take up my cross if you don't take up yours. I need to see you sweat sometime, and I need to see you cry sometime, and I need to see you wrestle sometime, and I need to see you be scared sometime, and I need to see you uncertain sometime, and I need to hear you murmurin' in the Garden of Gethsemane, so I can understand that you understand what it's like to be me.
And Jesus meets the criteria of being my Kinsmen Redeemer, because he is human enough to cry in the garden, and yet he is God enough to create him a gardener suit, and wear it after the resurrection. He is human enough that he had to nurse at his mother's breast, but he is God enough to create the milk that flowed from it. He is human enough to die on an old rugged cross, and he is God enough to raise the tree he knew would be the cross. I need a God that's kin to me, not just my strength. I need a God that's kin to my questions, my confusion, my uncertainty, my fear. Because every now and then, I must confess, my faith goes into crisis, because my world goes into trauma.
And if there's anybody out there who's gone through trauma, and the trauma has made you wonder, and the trauma has made you uncertain, and the trauma has made you afraid, and the trauma has made you indecisive, and the trauma' has made you doubt God and doubt church and doubt religion and doubt theology and doubt all kinds of stuff, this message is for you. I know it's been a bad period. It was cool when Jesus was doing the cool stuff, but then he start doin' the dying stuff, and following him ain't so cool right now. Not when you've being shot down in the street. Not when your whole community is angry. Not when you're scared to go jogging. Not when you could get shot in your own apartment.
I know it's hard to have faith when people act like your life don't matter. It's hard to have faith when they laid you off your job. It's hard to have faith when you run out of money, and you ain't got nothin' to tell your kids. It's hard to have faith when your mama dies, and you can't even go in the room to say goodbye to your own mama, and you sitting in the parking lot at the hospital, having face time with her while she died. And I know that that is not the kind of atmosphere that produces absolute faith. It produces questions, and anguish, and trauma, and it makes you walk back and forth, and say, "Where is mama's God? Why, not my mama, she was too good? How could that happen to somebody that always was helping other people? I don't understand".
Bring your doubting, frightening, troubled self right on into this service, because he's coming for you in your pain and in your anguish. And you don't have to dress it up, and you don't have to quote Scriptures, and you don't have to say nice Christian stuff to him. You can come to him mad, and saying, "Unless I thrust my hand into your side, and feel the nail prints in your hands, I ain't stuntin' you, thinkin' about you. I got in trouble serving you. I got hurt serving you. I got disappointed serving you. I got wounded serving you". And all of a sudden, he says, "Shut up and give me your hand".
And he let a doubting Thomas touch him in a wounded place. And it was not his clear, perfect places that convinced Thomas. To all of you preachers that the only thing you wanna show us your good stuff, that ain't what makes a ministry. You're erudite, charismatic presentation about taking a theological dissertation is not what changes lives. What changes lives is show me where you hurt. Show me where you're bleeding. Show me where you fell down, and you said I can't go no further. Show me where you almost quit. Show me where you'd like to die. Show me where your knees buckled. Show me your faith got tired. Show me where you almost gave up. Show me with you laying over your daughter's casket screaming. Show me that you can be touched. But how I feel, that's what this text means. This text means that God has made space for questions.