It’s been quite a day. Jesus, whom they took down from the cross, dead, and laid in a borrowed grave on Friday night was now, on the following Sunday, walking around making appearances to people. Appearing and disappearing; showing up over here, now there, now somewhere else. What do you make of this? And how many times does this need to happen before you begin to trust your senses and believe it? It’s going to take a while. One time and it would be pretty easy to explain away as your imagination run wild. But multiple times, to multiple people, in multiple places and you have something harder to deny.
First it was to the women, then to the two on the road to Emmaus with whom He talked for a couple of hours, then we are told an appearance to Peter separately was sandwiched in there, though we are not told directly about it — just that it happened (Luke 24:34). That’s when the two from Emmaus rush back to tell the others, and that evening, with the two of them and all the disciples, minus Thomas, in a room with closed doors, excitedly going over all that had transpired that day — over and over, you can imagine — when suddenly, Jesus was standing among them. That’s one of those deals when you turn to the guy on your right to ask what he thinks, and it’s Jesus!
“Peace be with you,” He said, and they needed peace because they were pretty shook up. Their initial thoughts were that they were seeing a ghost. “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” And then to prove it even further He asked if anyone had anything to eat and proceeded to eat a piece of broiled fish. Now how you do that with a body that can appear and disappear at will, except that it indicates something about the nature of our own resurrection bodies when we get them — something solid that can interact with the physical world, and yet operate outside of the restraints of that world as well. That’s a pretty special power.
Then Luke says, “He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Jesus gives us understanding; He can open and close our minds at will. Belief is not something we are totally in charge of. Just where God’s part and ours intermingle is a mystery, but we depend on Him for our understanding. That’s why prayer is so important in helping someone believe.
Almost daily I help one of Marti’s friends give physical therapy to her husband. He’s not well, is non-communicative and is a known atheist. I pray for him every day, that God would open his mind, and that Satan would get lost. Maybe you could pray too. It’s pretty tragic; he’s got nothing to do but lie in bed and stare at the end of his life. I always wonder what he sees.
Finally, Jesus commissioned the disciples to spread the news of His death and resurrection, until repentance for the forgiveness of sins is preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And Thomas still won’t believe, not for another eight days.
The way this went down after His resurrection, no one could have made this up. The multiple appearances, the struggle of faith, the overcoming of doubt — these are real things we all face every day. Jesus understands.