Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
The Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard defined faith as a leap in the dark. But that’s not what true Christian faith is all about. Faith is resting in the sufficiency of the evidences.
Jesus’ disciples had a hard time accepting the evidence of His resurrection. They disbelieved the report of Mary Magdalene (16:11) and the two to whom Jesus appeared as they were walking in the country. When Jesus met with the Eleven, He upbraided them for their stubborn refusal to believe.
Every other major or minor religion derives its existence from the teachings or purported revelations of its founders. There is only one faith that claims validity because of an act of its Founder. Only Christianity has a risen Lord. All the other religious leaders are dead. Jesus’ resurrection validates all His teachings and the claims He made of Himself.
The French philosopher-atheist, Voltaire, was reputed to have said sarcastically: “Gentlemen, it would be easy to start a new religion to compete with Christianity. All the founder would have to do is die and then be raised from the dead.”
Mark’s gospel gives the condensed account of Jesus’ appearance to the two disciples on the Emmaus Road, shared in more detail by Luke (Luke 24:13–35). Mark also briefly reports on Jesus’ appearances, one week apart, to His disciples (Luke 24:36–40; John 20:19–29).
The refusal of the disciples to believe shows them as persons not easily duped. Chuck Colson (of Watergate scandal fame), a top aide to President Nixon, later became a Christian. He said,
“When I am challenged on the resurrection, my answer is always that the disciples and 500 others gave eyewitness accounts of seeing Jesus risen from the tomb. . . . [The Watergate] cover-up could only be held together for two weeks and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. . . . The disciples, . . . powerless men, peasants really, were facing not just embarrassment or political disgrace, but beatings, stonings, execution. . . . The apostles could not deny Jesus because they had seen Him face to face. . . . You can take it from an expert in cover-ups, nothing less than a resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and Lord.”
The story of Jesus comes down to this: Did He rise again from the dead? The disciples were certainly in no frame of mind to steal the body from a guarded tomb and then suffer and die for a concocted lie. The opposition did not steal the body or they would have produced the corpse when the disciples started preaching the resurrection.
There is only one answer that makes sense. Jesus rose again on the third day, as He had promised! He thereby demonstrated that everything He taught, everything He said about Himself was true. The great news is that His resurrection is not limited to Himself. When we die, we have the assurance that we, too, will be raised from the dead at His coming. His good news is our good news!
A Prayer: Lord Jesus, I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that You are risen from the dead!
Excerpted from Dr. Wood’s book, Fearless: How Jesus Changes Everything, available from Vital Resources.