“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” (John 20:19)
“That day” remains the most incredible one in history, unparalleled in significance for its earth-shattering impact. “On the evening of that day” Christ’s disciples should have been brimming with excitement, anticipating that at any moment their risen Messiah would reappear just as he had promised. Hadn’t Jesus repeatedly warned them about his imminent crucifixion? Hadn’t he prophesied in vivid detail exactly what would occur in order to reinforce their faith and prepare them for the atrocities ahead? But his words had trickled like grains of sand slipping through their hands. Now, the disciples were frightened children cowering in retreat, clasping onto fear’s hand.
Time and again Jesus had spelled it out: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise” (Mark 9:31). But that promise had vanished from the disciples’ minds. They refused to believe Mary Magdalene’s early morning report that Jesus had risen. They heard the tomb was empty but were clueless as to what that meant. Surely, the same brutal officials who tortured their Lord could inflict similar punishment on them. Focused on the fact that their leader was crucified, and life as they knew it was no more, terror became their new master. Jesus’ comforting words “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1) were irrelevant and ignored.
The ones who had repeatedly experienced Jesus’ words and deeds forgot them. Christ had allowed the disciples to hear of Lazarus’ grave illness, and then be eye witnesses to his miraculous resurrection. Smack dab in their midst Jesus had said, “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). They occupied the premier seats as this dead man wrapped in burial cloth walked out of his tomb. If death could not prevail against this friend whom Jesus loved, obviously it could not clutch Christ either.
The twelve had been near when Jesus announced “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). If only they could have recalled this bold declaration it might have infused them with hope. Jesus had made certain they heard and saw and experienced him as the one capable of resurrecting the dead. Perhaps if they had only remembered, they might have remained steady until that third day.
The disciples missed out on a grand opportunity to believe God. Jesus had given them his word; he never fails to keep it. As his followers, God is calling us to trust him in spite of our current circumstances. He has provided us with written proof, limitless examples, fulfilled prophecies, and the gift of faith in himself. “Trust me,” Jesus tells us repeatedly. “Do not fear. Remember who I am and what I have already accomplished. Wait expectantly for me to act and anticipate what I will accomplish for my great glory and good.”
May we be people of anticipation!
Elizabeth Karram Mitchell