The Bible is an extremely fascinating book. I have read Mark’s account of Resurrection Sunday multiple times over more than sixty years of “walking in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). Yet, with today’s reading of this passage, the Spirit of God highlighted these gems.
Soon after the resurrection, Mark gives few details but focuses on the response of believers as they are confronted with the fact. The first gem observed is that, in a culture that at best-tolerated women in the public eye (they could not testify in court), women are the first to be witnesses to His resurrection, “Go and tell his disciples and Peter” (14:1-7). The second gem is the thoughtfulness of Jesus, as seen in that instruction. After all, Peter had been told he would deny him, precisely when, and he did. So, Jesus ensures he is included in that instruction to go and tell his disciples.
When God is doing something dynamic, the normal human response is that of these women (8). The first response is that of amazement! Wow! The second is, “They are afraid”—what am I to make of this? This is a repeated scene whenever an angel shows up.
Not only were these three women selected by God to be the first witnesses, Mary Magdalene, remember, the gal possessed by seven demons whom Jesus cast out, is the first to see Him alive and well! (9).
Resurrection Sunday begins with massive unbelief. Jesus spent three years establishing the authenticity of His Messiahship. He did so in at least three ways that flew like three flags in His donkey motorcade on Palm Sunday and throughout the holy week. They were—
- Authoritative teaching
- Performance of miracles—supernatural power over nature and demons
- Prediction of his death, burial, and resurrection
If any people should have stood and applauded when Jesus stepped into the room (14), it is this group of eleven. They observed him for three years. They witnessed miracles. They experienced miracles (the feeding of the crowds, the incident on the sea, and Peter being rescued when his faith failed and he began to sink into the sea). His prophetic words repeatedly instructed them.
However, each had 30 or more years of a religious mindset to overcome. The Apostle Paul, on several occasions, challenges believers with the necessity of having the mind (mindset) renewed. In God’s providence, contemporary neuroscience provides us with a growing understanding of the mechanics of the brain, which only reinforces what Paul and Jesus taught 2000 years ago. Three components work together to achieve this renewal. They are:
- intake of the Word of God,
- the work of the Holy Spirit, and
- the intentional efforts of the individual to respond to the prior two.
Jesus’ rebuke that morning (14) was very specific. The charge He filed was twofold. First was the hardness of the heart, and the second was unbelief. The hardness of the heart is developed with the entertainment of questions that create doubt. As I thought about this, here are the types of questions that I would expect to have heard.
- Yes, He said he would be resurrected, but honestly, was that not just marching rhetoric?
- He surely did not literally mean three days like Jonah in the belly of the fish, did He? I heard others discussing that statement of his and they saw it as meaning He would finally overtake the Romans after their trials and defeat them.
- So, what do we do now? He is dead.
Peter illustrates unbelief in another Gospel where he says to James and John, “I am going fishing,” which in the context of his life meant, “I am finished with Jesus. I am going back to my trade, fisherman.” This is what we do when we are disappointed with God—when he does not perform as the genie in the jar and do our bidding (that we would call prayer) or when some tragedy occurs in our or a loved one’s life and we think God has vacated the premises and let it happen. For them, He let their dream of freedom from the Romans dissolve.
Questions to ponder., Do you think there is a lesson here for today’s conservative American Christians? Or, today’s believer for whom that wonder chemo drug does not work?
Despite their hardness of heart and unbelief as displayed during His trials and now manifested in the discussions around this table that He walked in on, He not only rebukes them (let me tell you how I hear His words, “You fools! You are sitting here crying in the milk of your disappointment and creating a root of bitterness while you figure out, “Ok, now what!”
“Well,” as it were, Jesus says, “Stop it! Gird up your loins!” That meant getting ready for hard work or battle. It was the ancient way of saying, Man up! I have a job, a career, a destiny for you. Here it is, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation!”
Think about it. Whether you are a Christian who is an addict or in prison for a horrible crime or a twenty-something whose been sleeping with your girlfriend, Jesus says:
- Stop it!
- Man (or woman—see Proverbs 31:17) up for the battle and begin with your unbelief and hardness of heart.
- Engage in my campaign to take the Gospel to the world.
The Easter Message
This is message of this Easter season. Every one of us who is a believer is a disciple. Every disciple finds her/himself sitting at this table at some point, pondering the questions that generate hardness of heart and unbelief. You can count on it. Jesus is coming to that table and will challenge you to stop it, gird up your loins, and exercise faith (belief) by engaging in “while going make disciples of every nation because you have my resurrected authority and support,” as Matthew recorded the fuller expression as Jesus’ last words on earth (Matthew 28:18-20).
The Easter Message is always with us and will always change our lives as it did the disciples who, within twenty years, forced the world to witness, “They have turned the world upside down!” (Acts 17:6)