Summary: Jesus brought 1)peace by showing the reality of the resurrection, and 2)purpose by showing the wellspring of witnessing.
Luke 23:36-49 – Doubting Disciples
Charles Swindoll in his book Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back tells the story of a farmer who wanted to impress his hunting buddies. To impress them, he bought the smartest, most expensive hunting dog he could find. He trained this dog to do things no other dog on earth could do---impossible feats that would surely amaze anyone. Then he invited the neighbors to go duck hunting with him. After a long patient wait in the boat a group of ducks flew over and the hunters were able to make a few hits. Several ducks fell in the water. "Go get ‘em!" shouted the proud owner to his magnificent dog. The dog leaped out of the boat, walked on the water, and picked up a bird and returned to the boat. As soon as he dropped the duck in the boat he trotted off across the water again and grabbed another duck and brought it back to the boat. The owner beamed with pride as his wonderful dog walked across the water and retrieved each of the birds one by one. Unable to resist the opportunity to brag a bit he asked his fellow hunters, "Do you notice anything unusual about my dog?” One of them rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"Yes," he finally said. "Come to think of it, I do! That silly dog doesn’t know how to swim does he?"
Sometimes it seems there’s a cynic or a critic in each of us. We often want to burst someone’s bubble, rather than let them live in their blissful ignorance. We focus on the negative – why something can’t happen – instead of the positive – why something can or could happen. We play what we call the devil’s advocate, as if Satan needed a lawyer to help bail him out.
Today and next Sunday we will look at doubt. What is it that turns faith into criticism, that turns simple trust into cynicism? Our bible passage today looks at Jesus’ 5th appearance to His followers after His resurrection. His first was to Mary Magdalene; then to several women. He appeared to Peter sometime Easter Sunday afternoon, and then to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, a town outside of Jerusalem. These two disciples, Cleopas and perhaps his wife Mary, came back and told the rest of the disciples (except Thomas, as John writes) that they had just seen the risen Jesus. We pick up our story in Luke 24:36-49.
Let’s be honest: what would you have done in that situation? If you just came back from a funeral, and you were in your house mourning, and some of the pall bearers ran in the house and said that the dead guy just came back to life? You’d probably think you were in a horror movie, right?
It’s fairly normal to scoff at what sounds impossible. Even though Jesus had told them that He would come back to life again, they either didn’t take Him literally or they didn’t understand Him. And when they did see Him, they thought He was just a ghost or a spirit, not real.
Do we ever see Jesus that way? Even as Christians, do our doubts get in the way of true faith? I’ve met a lot of Christians – I’ve even been that Christian, for that matter – to whom Jesus seems far away, just a ghost in a daydream. He’s there, yes, but there’s so much blocking the way. So much doesn’t seem to make sense – so many arguments against the existence of God, or the possibility of a resurrection, or whether Jesus was ever real, or whether you can trust in the Bible. So many things to make you doubt whether or not all that you’ve heard is real or worth believing in. Is that you today? Do you have so many struggles intellectually that a simple faith seems impossible to find?
Well, how does Jesus treat people with doubt? We know He rewards those with faith, but how does Jesus respond to people who have a hard time believing? Christ appeared to those first disciples to bring and show two things, and He might just want to show you the same.
The first thing that Jesus wanted to bring his doubting disciples, his faith-challenged followers, was peace (v36). As the people were hiding out, with doors locked out of fear, as John 19:23 tells us, Jesus instantly appeared. They were hiding out in fear, fear of what others might say or accuse them of. Is that much different for us? Too many of us live in fear of what others will say or accuse us of. The Bible says that the fear of men is a snare; it catches us, immobilizes us, holds us back. What the people needed to know was that things would be OK. God was in control. There was nothing to fear from people because obviously, God sees who we are in secret.