Harry Whittaker
Studies in the Gospels

248. "Yea, Yea ... Nay, Nay" (Luke 24:33-35; Mark 16:12)

The excited disciples lost no time in setting out to return to Jerusalem. The news the women had brought from the tomb, that they had seen a vision of angels and heard announcement of the Lord's resurrection, was questioned no longer. But now they themselves had better news to tell, for they had not only seen Jesus but had been in his company for hours. More than this, the meaning of his resurrection had been unfolded to them through incomparable exposition of Holy Scripture. Now they understood why it behoved the Christ—their Jesus—to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day. The sufferings of Christ, which made little sense when considered by themselves, now became the great satisfaction of their souls when seen in conjunction with "the glory that should follow."

All this was news incomparable. It must be told as speedily and as fully as possible. Always this is the proper reaction when a man leams the truth about Christ. He cannot keep it to himself. He must share it with others. And when, with the passing of time, he learns yet more about Christ, this too he must share with those capable of appreciating it. This is fellowship at its highest and best.

The night walk back to Jerusalem was undertaken without any qualms. They did not fear the dangers from which they had dissuaded Jesus, for now they knew him to be with them, though invisible: "He shall be with them, walking in the way." (Is. 35:8 RVm) And in the eastern sky the Passover full moon climbed higher to lighten their journey with its soft splendour. Not that they had any eyes for its loveliness. There was far too much of their new knowledge about Jesus to be talked over - one reassuring, pregnant detail after another.

Meanwhile, there was comparable excitement among the disciples back in Jerusalem. They had gathered together in the upper room to discuss with varying degrees of conviction the accumulating evidence that their Lord was risen. Although the story of the women about their encounter with the angels was first written off as delusion and fantasy, the unshakable conviction of Mary that she had seen the Lord, heard him speak, and had handled him, made a deep impression. But then Peter joined them, telling most circumstantially not only his own knowledge of the empty tomb but also that more recently Jesus had appeared to him in person with gracious reassurance e that for a man who loved as Peter loved there was complete forgiveness, even for one who had denied as he so shamefully did on Thursday night.

This latest accession of evidence and especially the complete transformation in Peter (it was almost a transfiguration) was sufficient to satisfy them. Doubts were thrust away. A great surge of gladness swept over them, and they fell to talking excitedly about whether Jesus would manifest himself again to them

The big exception to this conversion of mind was Thomas. He stubbornly refused to credit these stories of the impossible. What had seized them all that they should thus allow themselves to be swept away by a wave of mass hysteria? Only a week before, all that excited enthusiasm over the Lord's triumphal entry into the city had come to nothing. The coming kingdom of Messiah, son of David, had faded out into a week of futile argument and disputation, with its ghastly anticlimax at Golgotha. Then wasn't it time they faced facts instead of deluding themselves with their wishful fantasies?

So Thomas doggedly insisted that for his part he would stick to hard facts. Let Jesus appear again and in so real a fashion that Thomas himself could insert a finger into the nail-pierced hands — then, and then only, would he believe these stories about resurrection.

Even as they were arguing there came a frantic beating on the door, and urgent voices clamoured for admission. Every one's heart stood still with apprehension. The fears, already expressed, that they would be held accountable by the chief priests for the disappearance of their Leader's body, flashed once again through the minds of all — but only for a brief moment. A second later the voice of Cleopas was recognized and the door thrown open in welcome.

As the two from Emmaus entered, their own message was drowned in a chorus of eager reassurances: "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon." When their own story was told, and told again, detail by detail, the excitement intensified. Thomas, still unconvinced, lost patience with the rest and went off into the night. (Thomas' departure is a necessary inference from Luke 24:35 and John 20:24).

Not all whom he left behind were completely convinced, and when the facts were combed over, doubt began to grow afresh. It is possible that Mark's phrase about disbelief (16:13) is intended to suggest this present division of the disciples into two groups - those who believed and those who didn't (see ch. 249).

Perhaps their discussion went something like this: (what follows here is, of course, pure imagination).

"At what time, do you say, did you last see Jesus at your meal table?"

"Just as it fell dark. Of this we are sure!"

"Simon, when was it that the Lord appeared to you?"

"Less than an hour after dark."

"But how can a man be in two places so far apart within so short a time? Consider how long it took these two to come from Emmaus, and they came as fast as their feet would travel."

"There is something else as well. Cleopas, you say that one moment he was with you at the table breaking bread, and the next moment he was gone?"

"Yes, it was just so. It happened within a second."

"You saw him get up from his seat and walk out of the house?"

"No, I'm sure he didn't, for we never took our eyes off him. One moment he was there, the next moment he was gone."

"But does that make sense? If he was the dead Jesus come to life again, he couldn't vanish like that. Surely that shows that it was just your imagination playing tricks with you — and all because of your tremendous eagerness to see the Lord again. That must be it. And we were mistaken in thinking that God restored him to us. Your story doesn't hold water."

"Neither believed they them," is Mark's curt summary of their ultimate attitude.

NOTES: Luke 24:34-35

They told. Not only the detailed story but also its meaning: Jude 7, 15; Acts 15:12,14; 10:8; 21:19.

Made known in the breaking of bread; which experience would tell the discerning that the Bridegroom was not taken away from them:Mt. 9:15.

Mark 16:12

In another form. A number of passages suggest that this might not mean a different physical appearance, but the change of demeanour and attitude which would be inevitable when the Lord became immortal: Phil. 2:6,7; Dan. 4:33; 5:6,10; 7:28.

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