If you want to read about some crazy disbelief then check out today’s reading in Mark 16.
Mark wrote how the disciples responded to the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. How would you expect these eleven men to respond–men who had walked with Jesus for three years, seeing him raise the dead, heal the sick, walk on water and feed the multitudes? Wouldn’t the news of his resurrection be welcomed with joy?
Mary Magdelene was the first to tell them about Jesus (16:10-11). They refused to believe.
Two other disciples then told them they saw Jesus (16:12-13). They still didn’t believe.
They wouldn’t disbelieve for long.
Afterward [Jesus] appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. (Mark 16:14)
Two things struck me about this passage:
1. Remember how Jesus responded to the faith of the bleeding woman in Mark 5. What a difference between that woman and the disciples! Jesus commended the woman for her faith in him, because she heard the reports about him and believed. But Jesus rebuked his own disciples for their “unbelief and hardness of heart,” because they heard the reports of the resurrection and did not believe.
It’s easy to see from these two accounts the kind of faith that Jesus commends and rewards. I wonder which kind of faith in Jesus we exhibit on a regular basis. How often are our hearts hard toward the things of God? How often do we succumb to our circumstances and allow our faith to erode?
But, lest we get discouraged let me share some good news.
2. See how Jesus dealt with his disciples after he rebuked them.
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15)
Jesus commissioned those with hard hearts and unbelief with the task of proclaiming the good news to the whole world. Why would he do that? They refused to believe the resurrection witness. Their hearts were hard toward the testimony of their own brothers and sisters. But Jesus restored them to ministry anyway.
That’s good news. That’s grace in action.
Jesus uses people who refuse to believe. He gets a hold of them and turns their world upside down. And then he puts them to work on the only lasting work–the joy of telling others the good news. That’s what he did with his first disciples and that’s what he still does with all who respond to him with faith.
You might think your faith is small. It probably is. That’s good. If it was any larger you might be tempted to believe you don’t need Jesus. But be encouraged by the fact that Jesus uses us for his glory and our joy despite our lack of faith.
And what should our response be to this grace? Praise with grateful hearts, and witness boldly. Because he’s given us great grace.