Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:14,15
Peter M. Prange
What a fascinating portrait the evangelists paint for us in their accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and its aftermath. One would expect these narratives to be filled with reports of unfettered joy and celebration. “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” Instead Jesus’ resurrection was met with fear and doubts.
Doubting Easter joy
Thomas was the most infamous skeptic (John 20:24-29), but his reaction to the splendor of Easter was really not unique. Luke tells us that when the women came to Jesus’ disciples and announced what they had seen and heard, those men dismissed it as “nonsense.” Mark makes it clear that their refusal to believe the women’s Easter proclamation wasn’t a simple misunderstanding. It was a refusal to believe.
Are we really any different? Do we live our daily lives as God’s people in unfettered Easter joy and confidence, or are our lives instead regularly punctuated, interrupted, and thrown off balance by our fear and doubts? Do we regularly take St. Paul’s Easter-inspired hymn on our lips and proclaim to ourselves and to others that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39)? Or do we instead allow the worries and cares of our day-to-day lives load us down with burdens too heavy for us to bear by ourselves? Am I really confident that Christ is risen and that he who rules all things for the good of his people is indeed working all things for my eternal good?
We are naturally just as skeptical and cold-hearted as Thomas and his colleagues were. And our Savior responds to our doubts in exactly the same way he responded to theirs: He rebukes us for our lack of faith and our stubborn refusal to believe.
Proclaiming Jesus’ victory
But what does he do next? Amazingly, he does not kick us to the curb. Instead he calls us to proclaim with joy his eternal promises, to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Jesus can’t find any better missionaries than those who struggle with the same fear and doubts that every sinful person experiences. Who better to proclaim the profound comfort found in the gospel of Christ’s resurrection than those who have so desperately needed it for themselves?
Remember, it was only after King David had fallen into horrific sin and cold-hearted unbelief that he was prompted to pray, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you” (Psalm 51:12,13). And it was only after Jesus rescued a man long-possessed by a legion of demons that he directed him to go and “tell how much God has done for you” (Luke 8:39).
So we too are called from our cold-heartedness to proclaim the victory found for broken sinners in Jesus alone. Christ is risen indeed! Believe it and then proclaim it to others!
Contributing editor Peter Prange is pastor at Bethany, Kenosha, Wisconsin.
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Author: Peter M. Prange
Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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