So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. Luke 24:-43
I’ve been reflecting on a relatively recent discovery. It has to do with the context of the Great Commission, and the fact that when the 11 met Jesus on the mountain where he gave us the Great Commission (“Go therefore and make disciples…”), some worshiped him. Some worshiped, but some doubted. Check it out in Matthew 28:17. I’ve reflected on their doubt and invited others to chime in as well. Some recognize that the trauma of seeing Jesus die would make it difficult to believe he was actually now alive. Others suggest that they were perhaps doubting how they could possibly fulfill this commission.
There may be other reasons as well for their doubt. But here we’re faced with the doubt that is more immediate to Jesus’ death. To some degree these people have an excuse for their doubts. The reality and cruelty of Jesus’ death is all too fresh on their minds. The disappointment and anguish of seeing their dreams dashed and their Lord crucified is no small trauma. To believe the early reports of the women would put them in danger of looking the fool if it were not true. The stakes were just too high. And when they do return they don’t verify the women’s story. They attest to Peter’s witness.
Women played a major role in the ministry of Jesus. Recall the healing the woman with the issue of blood and calling her a daughter of Abraham. Remember him speaking with the woman at the well, or receiving the loving attention of the sinful woman who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. And the first witnesses to the resurrection were women. But still the disciples did not believe.
We seem to think we’re more enlightened these days about the role of women. From the heroine in Star Wars to those in the Hidden Figures to Working Girl, women are playing a more and more prominent role in the dramas of life and science fiction. But where are the strong and faithful women in the likes of Mary, Martha, Salome, or Priscilla. Each of these had a strong role to play in Jesus’ ministry and the mission of God. I’m not sure we’ve got it better in hand than the early disciples.
Years later we have the written witness to the resurrection of Jesus. We have the evidence of the phenomenal growth of the early church that has consistently grown decade after decade. We have the witness of changed lives. We have the message of the women, Peter, John, Paul and all the apostles. Why do we still doubt? If Jesus has really be raised from the dead, why do we still fret? Why do we worry? Why do we doubt?
We all bear the sinful human flesh. The devil always fires his darts. The world continually offers its glitz. These conspire to cause doubt. They worry us because they press in on every side. And there are plenty of troubles in this world! And the devil is cunning. And the flesh wars against the Spirit.
Jesus asks, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” He doesn’t do that because he is ignorant of their thoughts or struggles. He does that to call them to a new place of hope and peace. So the question today is for you and me: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Jesus is risen. The tomb is empty. He reigns at God’s right hand. His greeting is, “Peace!”