Summary: Believe it or not, there was not a single Christian who even showed a sign of belief in the resurrection of Christ until they were compelled to believe by His very appearance.
An Irishman on holiday in New York went into a drug store and asked for a small tube of
toothpaste. When the clerk handed him a tube he noticed it was marked large. "I'd rather
have a small one," he said. "Listen bud," the clerk replied. "In this country toothpaste
comes in three sizes: Large, giant, and super. So if you want a small tube ask for large-see?"
The mystified traveler found himself caught up in the topsy turvy world of believe it or not
paradox where large can be the smallest thing available. There may be limits to what fiction
can produce, but most anything can be true in reality.
The proof that truth is often stranger than fiction is the fact that the first Christians were
also the first doubters, deniers, and disbelievers in the resurrection of Christ. The paradox of
Christian disbelievers is a biblical fact, believe it or not. That first glorious Easter dawn is
glorious to us as we look back from our point of view, but for those actually participating in
that first Easter it was far from glorious. In fact, as strange as it may seem, the first Easter
was the day of the greatest unbelief in history.
We think our day is one of unbelief and skepticism, but it cannot match the unbelief of the
first Easter. I doubt is there is any period of history that can match it, for it is the only time
in history where all believers were unbelievers. Believe it or not, there was not a single
Christian who even showed a sign of belief in the resurrection of Christ until they were
compelled to believe by His very appearance. Everyone of them, without exception, was a
confirmed skeptic and doubter.
We are so use to making the quick transition from gloomy Good Friday to glorious Easter
morning, that we tend to ignore the fact that Jesus had to work all day before He convinced
His own disciples that He was really risen and alive. The transition from gloom to glory was
not as swift as we have come to make it. It was a difficult process of persuasion, and not an
instantaneous transformation. As Christians, we often act as if belief was an easy thing, and
an effortless goal to attain, but this is not being realistic about man's nature, and His natural
skepticism. When it comes to the matter of death and life beyond the grave, men have deep
seeded doubts. All the evidence of our senses is against it, and man longs for evidence of the
senses to destroy his doubts. We are so dependent upon physical facts for assurance.
O Christ, that it were possible
For one short hour to see
The souls we loved, that they might tell us
What and where they be.
When James Russell Lowell returned from the funeral of one he loved dearer than life, he
said to those who tried to comfort him with the hope of communion in spirit,
But I who am earthly and weak,
Would give all my income from dreamland,
For a touch of her hand on my cheek.
Were these men deniers of the faith? Not at all! They were simply expressing the fact that
belief and faith do not come easy. The demand of the human mind for concrete evidence is so
strong that the leap of faith is hard to take. The biblical record recognizes this, and so,
believe it or not, the first believers were not men and women of faith, but men and women of
fact. They would not accept anything by faith. They not only would not take a leap of faith,
they would not even take a step of faith. All the critics of the resurrection have failed to
recognize that all of their false theories to explain the resurrection away were originated on
the first Easter by the Christian disciples themselves. We shall see this as we go along.
A. B. Bruce, the great Bible scholar, wrote, "The disciples were not clever, quick-witted,
sentimental men such as Renan makes them. They were stupid, slow-minded persons; very
honest, but very unapt to take in new ideas. They were like horses with blinders on, and could
see only in one direction,-that, namely, of their prejudices. It required the surgery of events
to insert a new truth into their minds. Nothing would change the current of their thoughts
but a dam work of undeniable fact. They could be convinced that Christ must die only by His
dying, that He would rise only by His rising, that His kingdom was not to be of this world,
only by the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost and the vocation of the Gentiles. Let us the
thankful for the honest stupidity of these men. It gives great value to their testimony. We