The Resurrection of Jesus (6): The Initial Unbelief of the Disciples

Another of the standout features of the Gospel resurrection narratives is the almost obstinate unbelief of the disciples, at least initially. This despite Jesus’ claim that the Jewish Scriptures predicted his resurrection and that Jesus, on more than one occasion, had told them he would die and rise from the dead.

The early followers of Jesus were not convinced at first. The two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25, Mark 16:12, 13) had given up and were going home, even after having heard rumors of his supposed resurrection from the dead. The Eleven did not believe the women who reported to them that the tomb was empty (Luke 24:11; Mark 16:14). Their words seemed like nonsense to them.

Even when at last Jesus appeared to the gathered disciples in the upper room (Luke 24:37-41) they were not predisposed to believe. They thought they were seeing a spirit and they were frightened. Jesus responded by showing them the physical evidence of his wounds. Thomas was not present with them at that time. He flatly refused to believe (John 20:25-29). It was not until Jesus invited Thomas to touch his nail scarred hands and wounded side that Thomas believed.

What can account for the dramatic transformation of these disciples from unbelief to belief. I submit that only an actual encounter with the resurrected Jesus would be sufficient to bring about such a change. 

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