Sunday, April 27, 2014

What Does It Take?

Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.  Mark 16:9-11  NKJV

“Persistent unbelief in light of contrary evidence is willful ignorance!”

After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either  Mark 16:12-13  NKJV

Sooner or later the time comes where we do or say something that tends to date ourselves, and today will be my day.  Back when I was very little I can remember watching television with my parents as they enjoyed their favorite shows.  One of these was a program called “Perry Mason”.  It was centered around a criminal lawyer and the cases he took on to defend, and all the twists and turns you would expect from a criminal trial.  I never recall seeing him lose a case, yet what I remember the most is how hard he worked to build his case by seeking out and presenting the evidence which always led to the inescapable conclusion of his clients’ innocence. 

I would find it hard to believe that there are many believers today who have read the account of what transpired after Jesus death and resurrection and not wondered about the disciples’ response and their lack of understanding as well as their stubborn refusal to believe.  I use the term stubborn simply because the disciples chose to ignore an established principle in play since Old Testament times concerning the weight of evidence to be given to two or three witnesses.

“Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.  Deuteronomy 17:6  NKJV

“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.  Deuteronomy 19:15  NKJV

Jesus also taught this very principle during His ministry when He discussed the subject of discipline within the Church.

“But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established  Matthew 18:16  NKJV

In the above passage from Mark we find that the disciples were presented with the testimony of at least three witnesses to the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead in Mary, and then two of their own.  Yet for some reason they still chose not to believe what was being told to them.  Now maybe, just maybe I could understand how difficult the fact of the resurrection might be to believe if it were not for the fact that Jesus Himself had told them that this was exactly what was going to occur before it ever happened!

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”                     Luke 9:20-22  NKJV

So what would your reaction be to someone who refused to believe even though the evidence presented to support a position met all the criteria necessary by established legal principles?  I daresay your thoughts would be less than kind, and truthfully mine would refer back to all of the passages in Proverbs which describe fools.  Does that seem harsh?  Maybe it would help to look at Jesus’ reaction to the disciples and their stubborn refusal to believe the evidence.

Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.  Mark 16:14  NKJV

So let us start with the word translated rebuke.  In the Greek it is the word oneidiz┼Ź which means to reproach, upbraid, revile.  Now I don’t think you have to be an English scholar to understand exactly what is being described here.  I believe what we see here are the disciples being taken to the proverbial woodshed for some serious correctional instruction.  Jesus is less than pleased at their actions and He lets them know it.  The phrase “hardness of heart” is the one I tend to focus on because to me, that describes perfectly someone who chooses not to believe even though the evidence proves them wrong.

Have you ever wondered about those alive today who choose to willfully ignore the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection?  Have you ever tried to share your faith with someone only to find they totally reject the entire idea of Jesus dying for their sins and rising from the dead?  This is “hardness of heart” and it has never been more prevalent than it is in the world today.  Although we who believe find it difficult to understand why someone would choose to ignore the evidence the Bible presents for us, it is a fact of life that many will simply choose not to believe.

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.                       John 20:29-31  NKJV

The disciples had to see Jesus’ face in order to accept the reality of the resurrection, and they received the rebuke they deserved from Jesus Himself.  Yet look at the words of Jesus to Thomas which are a promise to those of us who choose to believe.  We are blessed, and will continue to be blessed, because we choose to believe the evidence of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Keep watching.