Doubting Disciples

Mark 16:9-15
Acts 4:13-21 / Psa 118

He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart…
(Mark 16: 14)

Man always doubts the Promised word,
God has to take the initiative;
We always need to be assured...
Lord, why is it so hard to believe?

Having risen in the morning on the first day of the week, Jesus appeared first to Mary of Magdala from whom He had cast out seven devils. She then went to those who had been His companions, and who were mourning and in tears, and told them. But they did not believe her when they heard her say that He was alive and that she had seen Him. After this, He showed Himself under another form to two of them as they were on their way into the country. These went back and told the others, who did not believe them either. Lastly, He showed Himself to the Eleven themselves while they were at table. He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had refused to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:9-15)

Reflection

According to the Gospel of St. Mark, the risen Lord first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had once exorcised seven demons. When she told the disciples that Jesus had appeared to her they did not believe her. Neither did they believe their two companions who had walked with the Lord on the way to Emmaus, and returned to tell them the good news. It does not say in the Gospel of Mark who those two disciples were who were accosted by the risen Christ on their way to the countryside, but obviously they were part of the Lord’s inner circle of followers whose credibility were unquestionable. Everything that the Lord told the apostles would happen was fulfilled. He told them that He would be handed over to the Jews to be crucified and killed, and it happened. He told them that one of them would betray Him, and Judas did. He prophesied Peter’s denial before the cock crowed, and Peter’s cowardice came like clockwork. He brought Lazarus back to life, so why couldn’t they believe that He Who claimed to be the Resurrection and the Life could bring about His own resurrection?

There must have been a good reason why His disciples preferred to doubt their companions who had seen the risen Lord, and Jesus’ assurance Himself that He would rise again from the dead. Most of them had already undergone a great trauma in their simple uncomplicated lives. When their Master died, they were like sheep scattered without a shepherd, some hiding out in their homes, others escaping into the countryside. But at least the turmoil was over. They could begin again to pick up the pieces of their former lives, and go back to their old familiar haunts. Jesus coming back from the dead would mean that they could not go back to their comfortable past — it meant the dawning of a new era, a fearful future that they, the chosen ones were going to spearhead. The Holy Spirit had not yet come to inspire and embolden them. That was why they were afraid, and why they would readily doubt rather than believe.

It is human nature to doubt and be skeptical about things in the realm of the unknown. Even more so when we know that we are going to be involved in this “new thing”. “Let the young ones do it, they are more bold,” we say, or “Let the more senior members handle it– they have more experience.” Why do we doubt?

Isn’t faith in our capabilities, and faith in our God enough? Do we have true faith? If so, then there is no reason to be afraid, no reason to be skeptical or doubt. There’s every reason to say, “Yes, Lord, I do believe!”

Forgive us, Lord, whenever we doubt your love, or our capacity to follow Your Will. Help us to realize that in our mission there is no such thing as “can’t” or “won’t” when we are working for Your glory. Grant us the wisdom and humility to accept what we cannot understand, that we may put our trust in You. AMEN.

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