Jesus came and stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you!’… The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
In the middle of a major change in life things often seem bewildering. Looking back, we may be able to see the pattern to what God was doing. Whether by accident or design, the oldest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel ended abruptly with the empty tomb, at a moment of confusion for his followers. A later editor has added this brief summary of the resurrection stories, aimed to make a particular point.
We hear that Jesus appeared to Mary, then to a couple. When they reported it to others ‘who had been with’ Jesus they were not believed. Failure to believe the witnesses is rebuked as stubborn refusal and lack of faith. This seems harsh: it is incredible that a man who has died should be seen alive. It would be natural to conclude that the witnesses were mistaken or deceived–but this was not a normal situation. These men had been closely with Jesus for three years and had already seen the power and glory of God revealed through the things that he said and did. If they had put aside their own stubborn egos and listened with care and attention to what Mary was saying, they could have seen that everything they had learned about Jesus pointed towards the wonderful event of the resurrection.
The writer labors the point because all over the world these disciples are now preaching the good news to people who will only be able to learn it second-hand from the eyewitnesses. If they put aside stubborn pride and listen with open hearts to the whole gospel from the beginning they too can believe that Jesus is alive, at the right hand of God, able to save them from eternal death and bring them into life.
Gospel evidence for the resurrection can be helpful in evangelism, but people also need to encounter the living Jesus–the same now as he was on earth.