For the next two weeks, we’re studying Luke 24 together as the church. Luke 24 is Luke’s description of the events following Jesus’ resurrection.
We’re studying this chapter for 2 reasons: 1) this is the time of the year when the church typically focuses on the resurrection, and 2) we’re preparing for a chapter-by-chapter study of the book of Acts. (See my post “We’re about to begin studying the book of Acts together.“)
As I read through Luke 24, I noticed a recurring theme: the people who had spent time with Jesus did not believe that he had risen from the dead or did not recognize him, even after hearing personal testimony from others who had seen him alive (in some cases).
For example, in Luke 24, some women find Jesus’ tomb empty. Instead of finding his body, they find angels who tell them that Jesus has risen from the dead. (By the way, the angels also remind the women that Jesus had told them that he was going to be crucified and rise from the third day.)
When the women returned to tell Jesus’ other disciples what they had seen and heard, the others did not believe the women. In fact, they considered this idea that the women had seen angels and that Jesus had risen from the dead to be “idle talk.”
Cleopas and another disciple walked with Jesus on the way to Emmaus. But, they didn’t recognize him either. They knew that some people had claimed to see Jesus alive, but their words indicated that they did not believe it. Even while Jesus was teaching them from the OT Scriptures, the two did not recognize who Jesus was.
Once the two recognized Jesus and returned to the other disciples in Jerusalem, they were all still surprised when Jesus stood before them. They still had trouble believing that Jesus was physically alive, and thought that he must have been a spirit or a ghost.
So, these people had lived with Jesus for years. They heard him teach. They also heard him explain that he was going to die and be raised on the third day. He had told them this several times. But, when it actually happened, they did not believe it.
For the most part, they did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until they actually saw him, touched him, ate with him, or some other personal interaction with Jesus proving that he was both alive and human (i.e., not a ghost). For the two disciples walking to Emmaus, even a perfect description of Jesus from Scripture was not enough for them to believe, until their “eyes were opened.”
Why are we surprised that people today do not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead? Why are we surprised that people come up with other explanations for the empty tomb?
Yes, like the original disciples and Paul and other evangelists and apostles in Scripture, we proclaim the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, we must also understand that people will not believe until they also have a personal interaction with Jesus Christ.