Luke 24:9-12 (CEV)
9-10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some other women were the ones who had gone to the tomb. When they returned, they told the eleven apostles and the others what had happened. 11 The apostles thought it was all nonsense, and they would not believe.
12 But Peter ran to the tomb. And when he stooped down and looked in, he saw only the burial clothes. Then he returned, wondering what had happened.
So, not surprisingly, the women’s story isn’t believed by the apostles.
Maybe they figure they’re the men, so they know better.
Perhaps they figure that it’s impossible, so it can’t be true.
Maybe they figure the women are hallucinating or simply overwrought with grief.
Most of the guys simply write off what the women say. They are too afraid to investigate what this might mean. Let’s face it, if the authorities are willing to kill your leader, what might happen to you if you’re found hanging around an unexplainably empty tomb where your leader is supposed to be very obviously very dead?
Proven but still not believed
Peter on the other hand is impulsive enough to at least go and see whether the story checks out. He runs down to the tomb and, low and behold, it’s just got the burial cloths left, but no body, and the stone is rolled away. Even then he ‘wonders’ what had happened. Even then he doesn’t believe what the women have told him.
And I wonder how often that is true for us when someone tells us news about Jesus? Especially when that news doesn’t fit our pre-existing preconceptions? I wonder how often the way that we have always understood things to be gets in the way of us seeing God’s Kingdom breaking forth in greater and greater measure.
Because here’s the thing.
If God’s Kingdom isn’t simply an arbitrary place that we will go to some day when we die; if God’s Kingdom isn’t a political kingdom with a ruler and a throne and a castle and a crown – if instead God’s Kingdom is an active, ever-developing wave of transformation going out into the world to birth new, better, more Christ-like ways of being and thinking and acting – then we need to be careful that we don’t miss the Kingdom breaking forth because it sounds too much like nonsense.
Peter and the apostles sat there in the closed, locked Upper Room that first day of the week petrified and confused and unbelieving. The women came to explain what God was doing. The apostles couldn’t accept it, though. They closed their eyes and their ears and their minds to the possibility that this might be true – and in so doing, denied themselves the hope, the joy, and the relief that might have come to them had they simply been willing to believe.
Faithful and Reliable Witnesses
Sure it seems weird that the women would be the ones to tell them. But these were women who they knew – well! These women had served them and cooked for them. They had washed laundry for them and cared for them for upwards of three years. They had frequently dipped into their own pockets or the pockets of their husbands to provide for the needs of the apostles. And these women were people who they had the opportunity to come to know. People who they should see as faithful and reliable witnesses.
Sure it seems weird that Jesus is alive when they had so recently watched him die. But these are men who have seen Jesus raise at least two other people from the dead. One person had been in the tomb for four days by the time they got there. These guys have witnessed countless other miraculous acts in their time together. They have seen that illness and injury and death do not have to be the end of the story.
Sure it seems weird that Jesus would die just to rise again. Lots of things Jesus did seemed weird at first glance, I suspect. But they heard Jesus’ teaching about his death and resurrection at least as often as the women over the years. The women believe, but the guys are unwilling to allow the pieces to fit together.
And just like it would have been helpful if the apostles hadn’t dismissed the words of the first witnesses – the women – as nonsense, I would suggest that if we are going to pray for God’s Kingdom to come in greater and greater measure in our world today, then it’s going to be important that we don’t write off as nonsense the witness of those we may be inclined to discount, or the direction of God that we might find surprising, unexpected or even shocking.
Because in writing it off as nonsense, the apostles missed out on the joy and delight of the Kingdom that was already bigger than they had ever hoped or imagined.
- Have you ever been told a story about what God is doing or has done in someone’s life?
- Did you find it easy to believe, or hard to believe?
- Have you ever felt like God’s Spirit was calling you to do something that seemed improbable or unexpected?
- How willing were you to trust the Spirit?
- How often have you missed out on the growth of God’s Kingdom because it all seemed like nonsense?
- What would it look like to lean in to the mystery of God? To ask God to show you where God is currently stretching the boundaries of the Kingdom where you are?
This study is part of an entire journey through the book of Luke. If you’ve enjoyed it, please visit https://www.voxalliance.ca/category/devotionals/luke/ for the rest of this series.