Did the disciples really believe Jesus rose from the dead?
Grit and Grace
April 1, 2023
The short answer is no. No, the disciples did not believe Jesus rose from the dead, initially. None of them believed. Not even one! The New Testament teaches us that they actually fought hard not to believe in the resurrection.
This piece of evidence is actually very important because liberal scholars, who try and cast doubt on the resurrection, say the disciples were trying to psyche themselves up to believe in a resurrection. One popular explanation for the resurrection is that the disciples were actually hallucinating. They wanted to believe in a resurrection so badly that they created one from their own imaginations. According to the Bible, nothing could be farther than the truth.
All four gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) affirm that no one was anticipating a resurrection. The women in the account on Easter morning were concerned with who would roll the stone away so they could get in to anoint Jesus's body. The disciples were mourning and weeping over the death of Jesus on Easter morning, not celebrating. When the women reported to the disciples that the tomb was empty, they were doubtful and many did not believe it. When the disciples finally reached the empty tomb, they were convinced that someone had stolen the body, not that Jesus had resurrected.
The report of the women that angels had appeared to them was nonsense to the disciples and they didn't believe them. The 11 disciples had locked themselves in a room together because they were afraid they would see the same fate as their Teacher. The overwhelming emotion on Easter morning by the women and by the 11 disciples was one of sadness, weeping, fear and doubt. It wasn't just Doubting Thomas who doubted, it was everyone!
So what changed their minds? Every one of the disciples and many others came to believe in the resurrection because of the appearances of Jesus after he had risen from the grave. No empty tomb could convince them. Only seeing Jesus turned things around for them. Jesus appeared personally to Mary Magdalene, to the rest of the women, to Peter, to Cleopas and companion, to the 11 disciples without Thomas, and then to Thomas, and to many others, including Jesus' own half-brother James.
This is one of the important features in the gospel accounts that verify their historicity. If the gospel authors were embellishing the facts, they would have portrayed the disciples in a much better light. They would have been heroes and not cowards. Their faults would be covered up and their strengths projected. However, the disciples were pessimistic about the resurrection. They contributed the empty tomb to a human cause and did not believe that God had raised Jesus. They are not portrayed as men and women who were trying to get psyched up about a resurrection, but rather fought hard to believe it. When they came face to face with the resurrected Lord and Savior they came to believe in the resurrection. Jesus said to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen Me and yet believe." That's all of us who believe today!
Easter Sunday is right around the corner. My childhood pastor from Kansas City says every year, "Easter is the Superbowl of our faith!" Every Sunday we celebrate Christ's resurrection but Easter is marked on the church calendar in a special way. It is a time when families and friends gather together at their local church and really focus on and celebrate the truths that we learn from the resurrection. Here are some events we'd like to invite you to attend.
On April 5 (during Spring break) from 10 a.m. to noon we will have a Kids Easter Party. Kids K-5th grade are invited. Come join us for games, songs, Bible story, craft and a snack, too.
On April 7 we will have our Good Friday service from 6 to 7 p.m. Pastor Jonathon Plascencia will be giving the message with communion served. Anyone trusting in Christ as their personal Savior is welcome to participate in our Communion.
On April 9 our Easter service is at 10 a.m. with a potluck following the service. All are welcome! Mountain Bible Church is located at 630 Maple Street, Tehachapi.
Chris Frost is the pastor of The Mountain Bible Church of Tehachapi, and an on-call chaplain at Adventist Health Hospital. He is a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary (ThM) and has spoken at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland and worked on projects with Lexham Press and Kregel Academic and is published in "Bibliotheca Sacra." His newest adventure in 2023 will be his studies in Oxford on the apologetics of CS Lewis. Chris can be reached at email@example.com.