1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.
3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large.
5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.
7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.
10 She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.
11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
12 After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.
13 And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.
14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.
20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
Believing seems to be the major issue. Even for those who had been with Him for years, had heard Him specifically outline what was to come, and were hearing accounts from those who had already personally observed Him, it wasn’t possible to actually believe until they had an encounter themselves. In this account, even the women at the tomb who were first told by the angel were too afraid to say anything about it. Possibly their telling was more that Jesus wasn’t in the tomb than that He was alive. For all of His followers, telling alone would not be enough. Even before His crucifixion, it was the experience of His power in a personal demonstration that took many from skeptical hearers to all-out believers.
The challenge with believing, then, should not be a discouraging one. It’s not like no one else has had this same issue. The answer to unbelief, though, will be as it was in these days following Jesus’ resurrection – in the personal encounter of His presence. Even first-hand testimonies alone will not turn the doubting heart into a believing one. They may inspire an inquiry, but as in the case of so many who have gone before, it was in the actual experience of His tangible presence in manifestation that doubt was removed from the hardened heart. The commission Jesus gave toward the end was that they were to tell the gospel. But with that telling, He promised demonstrations of the Spirit’s power to confirm and bring belief to the hearers.
Whether it’s in a sickness healed, bondage delivered, need met, or simply an overwhelming encounter of the Spirit’s breath, there is a personal introduction to Jesus that the Spirit has come to provide through those who have already believed. Everything that can happen in a heart, taking it from darkness to light and death to life, is dependent on its believing. Where true believing overtakes a heart, it will be led to everything about Jesus in the abundance of life that leaves nothing out. This commission we’ve been given, then, is to carry the full encounter of Jesus – His story, but also the very personal encounter of His very life, delivered in a vessel that itself is overwhelmed with belief through a personal, step-by-step walk with the Master. From our own continual experience of Him will come a word, a touch, and a fragrance of knowing Him that will melt hardened hearts of unbelief into the believing hearts of the saved.