It had not taken long for the disciples to go into full survivor mode. After the death and burial of Jesus, the disciples hunkered down behind closed doors, fearing the wrath of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19). They had watched their teacher and friend endure a torturous end and now were left to fend for themselves. But they seemed to forget in that moment the promises of Jesus: “This is why the Father loves me—because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again” (John 10:17 NET), and “After I am raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee” (Mark 14:28 NET).
It must have been a dark time for the embattled disciples. They had, roughly a week prior, walked with the Messiah King who rode astride a colt and made His way to the temple through jubilant worshippers who cried out in joy, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9 NET). To them, the moment was the zenith of their pilgrimage with Christ—He was finally going to become the conquering king! How quickly they must have sunk into despair when he was arrested and led back through Jerusalem carrying the very cross upon which He would hang—all to the jeers, scoffing, and derision of the same people who had only a short time earlier laid down palm leaves before Him like red carpet for a king. It is no wonder that the disciples huddled together in a room, seeking solace and some way to make sense of all that had happened to their Messiah. What would become of them? Where should they go? What would they do?
How would you respond to a life-altering, turn-for-the-worse event? What emotions would you be battling to contain or control? Who would be there in your huddle—and most importantly, to whom would you look for direction?
Fortunately for the disciples, Jesus was not long in keeping His word. By appearing to the women near His tomb and instructing them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where He would meet them (Matthew 28:10), Jesus was fulfilling all He predicted He would do. We should not, however, blame the disciples for being skeptical. They were culturally conditioned to question the veracity of the women’s testimony. Not only that, but the chief priests and elders were conspiring to spread a different story: that Jesus’ body had been stolen (Matthew 28:11–15). Aside from the few who saw Him in the flesh, discerning what really happened to Jesus must have been virtually impossible.
Ponder this: in such a moment of confusion and sorrow, would you have remembered the promises spoken by Jesus? Would you have moved with utter certainty to wait for His arrival in Galilee?
Jesus knew the disciples’ crisis of faith. As He appeared to Cleopas and his travel companion on their seven-mile journey to Emmaus, he chided them for being “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25 NET). After walking and talking with Jesus, then breaking bread with Him at their destination, they finally recognized Him, only to see Him vanish from their sight. They were so profoundly moved by their encounter with Jesus that they immediately turned around and made the seven-mile trek back to Jerusalem—in the dark—in order to tell the gathered disciples that they had walked and talked with the resurrected Christ. But the eleven had not seen, and so confusion and uncertainty remained. It wasn’t until Jesus appeared in a room with closed doors, bearing marks on His hands and side, that doubt began to dispel. Like so many times before, Jesus met the disciples in their unbelief, and He made Himself known. The disciples’ personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus led to their belief.
Jesus has promised that He would be with us, equip us for life until His return, and empower us to do His work through supernatural means. He pronounced a blessing on those who have not seen Him and yet still believe (John 20:29). The question for us is twofold: Though we may not see Him, will we move forward in faith, remembering and believing in His promises? And, if He asks us to wait on Him, will we do so without losing hope?