What were the disciples thinking? After all they’d seen Jesus do, after all His miracles, after all His teaching, did they still not get it? He’d spoken openly to them about His death and resurrection, so why were they surprised when His body wasn’t in the tomb? They should have been waiting in anticipation at the tomb on Sunday morning, not locked away in hiding. In fact, the ones who remembered Jesus’ promise of resurrection were His enemies—the chief priests and Pharisees. They went to Pilate and told him that Jesus had foretold His resurrection. Their motives were completely wrong, mind you. They pleaded with Pilate to post a guard so no one could come steal the body. But the fact remains that they, rather than the disciples, were the ones who remembered Jesus’ promise. In that sense, the unbelievers put the believers to shame. Yet now Jesus had risen, and that changed everything.
Consider for a moment the disciples’ predicament. They had just seen their Lord crucified and die a horrible death. They had believed He would save Israel, and even though He’d spoken of His death, none of them comprehended quite what that meant. It didn’t fit their earthly-minded view of the Messiah. So now what? Would they be next? Would someone come for them too? Their actions were driven by fear. They didn’t want to be condemned to the same cruel fate as their rabbi had been, so they did what they thought they had to do—they hid. I wonder what they talked about amongst themselves over those three long days? Do you think any of them, in the back of their minds, mused, You know, He did say He would rise from the dead. Is it possible? Do you think…? Did any of them voice the thought aloud? Or were they too scared? Scared that they’d misunderstood His meaning or that He wasn’t really who He said He was? What were they thinking?
But while the disciples were hiding, the chief priests and Pharisees were acting. They weren’t afraid to be mocked for listening to Jesus’ words. Quite the opposite, actually. They were probably afraid, deep down, that maybe—just maybe—this Jesus actually could be the Messiah. What if He did rise from the dead, as He’d supposedly raised Lazarus? What would that mean for them? Impossible, yes, but what if His disciples were thinking along the same lines and decided to steal the body and pretend He’d risen? That was much more plausible than a man actually rising from the dead. So not only did they post the guard, they then paid off those guards to spread the lie of Jesus’ body being stolen. Their actions were completely wrong, but they were a step ahead of the disciples in taking Jesus at His Word.
What about us today? When does our fear give way to cowardice? When do we refuse to cling to God’s promises for fear of being disappointed? Do we doubt God’s Word because He isn’t acting according to our own timeframe? Whatever our reasons, there’s one thing for certain: the enemy is under no doubt. The enemy, Satan, knows God will keep His promises. He knows, because he’s already been defeated. He is keenly aware of Christ’s imminent return, and that his time is short. So while we’re hiding behind our doubts and excuses, Satan is acting. He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” as 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us. Those who oppose the Gospel are not scared to speak openly against Christianity, yet we are often timid in our witness to the world, afraid that we’ll be mocked or offend someone. So instead we sit quietly, saying nothing, while others mock and offend our faith and the Lord Himself.
Take courage, dear ones. When Jesus appeared to His disciples, He didn’t yell at them for not believing Him. Rather, He gave them His peace, and with it, His power. He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit. He sent those cowering disciples into the world to spread the Good News with boldness and confidence. And they did. Of those disciples in hiding that Easter morning, all but one of them became martyrs for Jesus. They may have doubted Jesus when He died, but no longer. By God’s strength, they held firm to their faith even unto death. Why the change? Because Jesus had risen.
And that changed everything.