Posted on February 18, 2015
#93: No Doubt About It
“I just can’t believe it!” Maybe you’ve said those words at some point, when you heard news that seemed beyond comprehension. In today’s study, we’ll see this reaction from Jesus’ disciples when the women brought word of His resurrection. The problem was, the disciples should have been the first to believe. How did Jesus respond to their slow acceptance? Let’s take a look.
Read Mark 16:9-20.* Mark’s gospel is short and concise. Here, Mark expresses in a few verses what the other gospel writers tell in more detail. The following examples show how the accounts from Matthew, Luke and John flesh out Mark’s bare facts. (For the full parallel passages, see Matthew 28:8-20, Luke 24:9-53, and John 20:9—21:25.)
- Mark identifies Mary Magdalene as the first person to see the resurrected Christ (vs 9). All four gospels list Mary among the women who went to the tomb on that Sunday morning; John fills in the details of her story (John 20:1-18).
- Mary went to the mourning disciples with thrilling news: she had seen Jesus! But she met a wall of disbelief (vs. 10-11). Read more about this in Luke 24:10-11.
- Jesus appeared to two more of His followers, but the disciples failed to believe their report also (vs. 12-13). You’ll find more on their story in Luke 24:13-35.
- Finally, when the disciples were gathered (vs. 14a), Jesus appeared in their midst—not hindered a bit by locked doors! See Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23 for the rest of this story.
Mark doesn’t hide Jesus’ displeasure at His disciples’ lack of faith: “He [Jesus] reproached them for their disbelief and hardness of heart in refusing to believe those who had seen Him after He arose.” (vs. 14b) The Greek word Mark uses for “disbelief” implies that the one failing to believe “had a full opportunity of believing and has rejected it” (from Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, a great resource for discovering the full meaning of Bible terms). Jesus had equipped them beforehand with all the teaching they needed; but when the time came to draw on those promises, they came up empty.
Jesus showed them the scars in His hands and side as proof that He’d died and was now alive again (John 20:20). Yet some of them were still grasping for faith even after Jesus had been with them for forty days between His resurrection and ascension. They’d had ample time to accept the truth, “but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).
We may sympathize with the Eleven. Don’t we all have our doubts, our moments when faith is weak? It’s perfectly normal, isn’t it? Before we get too comfortable with excuses, think:
1) Jesus rebuked them for their weak faith. He’d hoped for better, expected more. Hebrews 11:6 warns that without faith, it’s impossible to please Him. James adds that “he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by winds. That man should not suppose he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a two-souled man, unstable in all he does” (Jas. 1:6b-8). The idea that I might disappoint Him with my own faithlessness is unbearable. It keeps me battling doubt, praying, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24)
2) His Word urges us to actively pursue faith. In advance of challenges, we can stockpile faith from His Word (Romans 10:17; 15:4; Psalm 119:165). Then when doubt arises, we’re ready to fend it off with “the shield of faith…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:16-17). Someone said, “We might step on a patch of doubt but we shouldn’t build camp there.” Jude 20 compels, “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith…” Be ready!
3) Those who choose faith are strong and useful to Him. Jesus reproached The Eleven for their disbelief, but that wasn’t the end of the story. Right on the heels of His rebuke, He opened their minds (Luke 24:45), breathed the Holy Spirit on them (John 20:22), and commissioned them to take His good news to all creation (Matthew, 28:18-20; Mark 16:15).
The disciples listened to the Lord, chose belief, accepted His commission, and changed the world in His name. In the same way, He can and will use anyone who chooses faith today—including me and you—no doubt about it!
* Your Bible may have a note that Mark 16:9-20 is not found in the earliest manuscripts; most scholars agree this is true. These verses were apparently added very early and were approved with the rest of Mark’s gospel for inclusion in the New Testament scriptures—probably since all the information in them is supported by other New Testament scripture. Some wonder if Mark’s writing was interrupted, forcing him to add an ending later. Some think another writer—perhaps a friend of Mark’s—added the ending. We can’t know for certain. But I’ve not found a single commentator or scholar who feels these verses should be omitted from the book of Mark, so I’ve included them as the ending to this course. Just two more posts, and we’ll wrap up our study. So glad you’ve been a part of Knowing Jesus!
© Diane McLoud 2015