Why we struggle to believe who Jesus is…

There’s a wonderful section in Luke’s gospel where Jesus is on the road with his disciples from Galilee to Jerusalem.

And Jesus takes the opportunity to do a lot of teaching though parables and stories. So that his disciples understand who he is and what the Kingdom of God is and how they can help to bring in this kingdom.

Just before they arrive at Jerusalem – where Jesus knows he will be arrested and executed – Jesus tells his disciples the story of the ‘rich man’ and Lazarus.

It goes like this.

The rich man and Lazarus

The rich man walks past Lazarus every day – who sits outside his house in abject poverty. But the rich man ignores him.
When the rich man and Lazarus both die, the rich man is cast into a fiery hell and Lazarus is welcomed into the ‘bosom of Abraham’ where he enjoys comfort and peace.

The rich man calls to Abraham and begs him to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them of their fate, if they do not mend their ways.

But Abraham says there’s no point. ‘They will not listen even if someone rises from the dead.’

In the story Jesus is pointing forward to his death and resurrection and predicts how people will still not accept the kingdom of God – even when he is raised from the dead.
And we see this fulfilled.

People don’t listen even when Jesus rises from the dead

Not only do the religious teachers and opponents of Jesus refuse to believe in the resurrection but his closest disciples find it hard to believe too.

Mary Magdalene thinks the gardener has moved Jesus’s body. Thomas won’t believe Jesus is risen until he puts his finger into the holes in his hands. The disciples on the road to Emmaus don’t recognise Jesus even though he is walking right beside them and talking to them.

Even weeks after the resurrection, the disciples are locked away in fear not knowing what to do. And it’s only when they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that they get it. They believe. And, in believing, they are transformed. They are no longer fearful and cowering but full of courage and conviction.

We don’t listen even when Jesus rises from the dead

So what about us?

Do we also struggle to believe in the resurrection?

Of course we do. We are only human and all our human experience points to death being an end from which there is no return.
We are like Mary looking for a natural explanation as to what happened to Jesus’s body. We are like Thomas wanting to have tangible proof of the resurrection. We are like the disciples on the road to Emmaus – unaware of the risen Christ, even when he is right beside us.

And, like the disciples, it is only by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit that we can believe.

How we come to believe

Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is about allowing God’s love for us to penetrate our whole being. And it’s only when we do this, when we accept and experience how much God loves us that we find ourselves believing. In fact, it starts to become more incredible that God would love us so much that he would give his life for us through Jesus and then not raise Jesus – and ourselves with him.

God loves you. Christ died for you. And Christ is risen – as all who trust in him will be raised too. Alleluia.

So don’t worry about your unbelief. Simply pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit and wait for your own Pentecost – when your faith comes alive. And you recognise the risen Christ.

Saying, like Mary, ‘Rabbouni!’. Saying, like Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Saying like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, ‘The Lord is risen indeed!’