Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18
She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. But when she told them that Jesus was live and that she had seen him, they didn't believe her. – Mark 16:10-11 NLT
There's an interesting word that crops up in the story of Jesus' resurrection. It is not one I have ever noticed before or would have expected. As we have seen, Jesus was crucified for claiming to be the King of the Jews, the Messiah. The religious leaders considered His claims to be blasphemy and worthy of death. The sign that was hung above Jesus' head on the cross by Pilate carried the nature of His crime: "King of the Jews." But in spite of Jesus' claims, the people refused to believe. The religious leaders refused to believe. Herod and Pilate refused to believe. So Jesus was killed, but now He is risen, proving that He was who He claimed to be: The King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But the majority of the people would still refuse to believe. And they were not alone. In the verses above, Mark records that when Mary Magdalene went to the disciples and told them all that had happened, including the fact that she had seen Jesus with her own eyes, they refused to believe her. She found them weeping and mourning over the death of their Master and Savior, but when they heard the good news regarding His resurrection, they were incredulous. It was impossible.
This response of disbelief was going to become routine before the day was over. Time and time again, the disciples would find themselves struggling with disbelief at the thought of Jesus being alive. Even though this was all in accordance with His predictions prior to His death. He had told them He was going to die. And He had told them He would rise again three days later. But now that it had happened, the disciples couldn't bring themselves to accept the news. Later on, Jesus would rebuke them for their unbelief. After revealing Himself to the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus, Jesus said to them, "You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn't it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory? Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:25-27 NLT).
Their belief was based on ignorance. They didn't know the facts. They were biblically illiterate and had missed the major point of what the Scriptures had revealed about the Messiah. But they weren't alone. Their own religious leaders and the experts in the Law had also missed the forest for the trees. These men were highly knowledgeable of the Scriptures, but they too had failed to see the predictions regarding the Messiah's suffering and death. They wanted a conquering king and a political savior. They weren't looking for a suffering savior. They had no use for a martyred Messiah. So when news of Jesus' resurrection began to spread, it was met with unbelief. Why? Because it was unbelievable. It was too good to be true. It was impossible. But when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus, she was in for a surprise. Because not only was the tomb empty, but her dead Messiah was alive and talked with her. I love the encounter between the two of them. Before she even recognized Him, Jesus asked her, "Dear woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?" (John 20:15 NLT). Mary thought He was the gardener and responded, "If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him" (John 20:15 NLT). As far as Mary was concerned, Jesus was still dead, and His body had somehow been misplaced. But then Jesus spoke her name, "Mary!" and immediately she recognized Him and fell at His feet. Her doubt was turned into belief. The impossible had happened. She had had a personal, intimate encounter with the risen Lord. And Jesus instructed her to go and tell the others His message. But they too would struggle with disbelief until they had the same personal, intimate encounter with Jesus. The word of another was not going to be enough. For their disbelief and doubt to be radically reversed, they were going to have to see Jesus face to face. And it is still that way today. We can tell others about our encounter with Jesus. We can share what we have seen and heard, but until they have a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus themselves, they will continue to disbelieve. But thankfully, Jesus is still revealing Himself to doubters today. He is still having personal, life-changing encounters with unbelievers and helping turn them into faithful followers.
I can tell what Jesus has done for me. I can testify that He is indeed risen and alive and active in my life. But it is not until You choose to reveal Yourself to the lost that they will truly believe. Thank You Jesus that You are still patiently, persistently revealing Yourself to a world filled with doubters and disbelievers. And thank You that I was one of them. Amen.