Unbelievable

Luke 24:1‑12, 36‑53

Introduction Question

Thomas Kuhn famously described the struggle involved in accepting a new view of the world:

In science … novelty emerges only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation. Thomas Kuhn

The truth of this observation in the world of science has been demonstrated time and time again: Galileo and the revolution of the earth around the sun, Georges Lemaître and the Big Bang, Einstein and the theory of relativity — all were widely dismissed, ridiculed and resisted before becoming universally accepted. Why do you think changing our minds is so hard?

Do you think there is a similar ‘resistance’ to changing our minds in other areas of life? Do you see yourself as open to new ideas?

Read Luke 24:1‑12
1

What were these women expecting as they headed for the tomb?

2

They arrive to find the large rock covering the tomb rolled away and Jesus’ corpse missing. What sort of things do you think go through their minds upon finding the tomb empty?

3

As we saw before at Jesus’ birth, God sends angelic messengers to entrust to women the momentous news that Jesus is alive. But when they testify to what they’ve seen and heard to the disciples, the men don’t believe them because “their words seemed to them like nonsense” (verse 11). Why do you think they react like this? What do you make of that reaction, particularly in light of the argument the angels gave the women to pass on in verses 6-7?

4

Why do you think Peter goes to investigate himself? He finds the linen that had wrapped Jesus’ body still lying in the tomb. Why might that detail have stuck in Peter’s mind? What questions does it raise?

Luke leaves Peter wondering, and gives us the testimony of two other followers of Jesus of their meeting with the resurrected Jesus on the road outside Jerusalem. When they rush back to where the others are hiding to tell them what they’ve seen, they find that Simon Peter has now also seen him alive, and the others are beginning to believe what had initially sounded like nonsense.

Read Luke 24:36‑53
5

Can you sympathise with the disciples’ immediate reaction to Jesus’ appearance? What does it tell us about their expectations and pre-existing beliefs?

6

What reasons and motivations did they have for doubting what they had been told and were now seeing themselves? (What surprising element of this do we see in verse 41?) And what are the different reasons Jesus offers them to be convinced that it’s true?

7

Over the following five to six weeks Jesus’ appearances continued — in a room, by a lake, on a hillside — to those and many others of his followers. At one point he appeared to a group of over 500 at the same time.

Jesus explains in verses 46 and 47 that the storyline of the whole Bible points towards not only his death and resurrection, but the global spread of the news that because of it anyone from any nation who repents (turns away from their old life and comes to him) will be freely forgiven and welcomed home by God. That this message exploded across the Roman world at remarkable speed is one of the most undeniable and transformative facts of world history. It is accepted by atheist, agnostic, Jewish and Christian historians alike that these disciples — who as we’ve seen were at first so scared and sceptical — did indeed become “witnesses of these things”. They declared boldly and widely the offer of forgiveness through the crucified Jesus who they had seen risen from the dead — even though for many it led to their imprisonment and death.

What do you think motivated these men and women to share what they had seen and heard at such great cost to themselves?

8

Within moments, the disciples have been brought from their grief and despair to joy and amazement. As we look at our world and our lives we might resonate with their pain and despair. How might it change the way we approach these circumstances if we encountered the resurrected Jesus?

Why does this matter?

It is easy for us in the 21st Century to imagine that people in the 1st Century were completely naïve and had no trouble at all believing that someone had risen from the dead, or that he was in fact the Creator of the universe revealing himself as a human being. But Luke’s account seems to be emphasising the disciples’ slowness to believe. Far from extolling the virtues of ‘blind faith’ that disregards rationality and evidence, Luke shows us the ways they held onto their disbelief irrationally: first in the face of what they had seen and heard from Jesus before he died, then disregarding what the women told them, and for a while even refusing the evidence of their own eyes.

The famous High-Court judge Sir Edward Clarke once said:

As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the first Easter Day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. Sir Edward Clarke

What do you make of the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? What do you think is the most believable explanation?

Having reached the conclusion of Luke’s book, have you changed your mind in any way about Jesus or Christianity? Are there key issues on which your mind isn’t made up, and if so, how could you explore those things further?