The disciples were cowards. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, they initially asked if they should fight to protect Jesus and Peter did so by cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant with his sword. Jesus told them to stop resisting and allowed Himself to be taken into custody. Upon His arrest the disciples fled. Peter followed at a distance all the way to temple courts. Peter’s bravery didn’t last long because when confronted, he denied Jesus three times. When he met Jesus’ eyes following the third denial he fled from the courtyard and wept bitterly (Luke 22:39-62). The disciples were not having a good night. They were fearful and in hiding.
People that look for ways to reject Christianity fall into the easy trap of thinking the disciples were nothing but cowardly liars. Their fears were justified. Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten, and crucified. Word reached them that he died and his tomb was guarded by heavily armed Roman soldiers. As far as the disciples were concerned, this was the end of the story.
Thankfully, its nowhere near the end of the story as far as Jesus is concerned. In fact, His story is still being written in the lives of His followers today. On Sunday morning, the disciples heard a fantastic story from Mary Magdalene. Not only has Jesus risen from the dead as He promised, but she saw Him! Peter and John race to discover an empty tomb. They remained fearful, but a sense of wonder began to seep in. Later that night, Jesus appeared to all of His disciples except Thomas. A week later, Thomas, back with the other disciples saw Him and boldly proclaimed Jesus to be, “My Lord and my God”!
For those stuck in denial, they are left with holding on to ideas such as these same cowardly disciples overpowered the Roman troops and stole Jesus’ body and lied about His resurrection. Women were not considered reliable eyewitnesses in those days yet the writers of the Gospels agree that Jesus first appeared to women. The only way they would say that would be if it was the truth. If they were lying they would have chosen “reliable” first eyewitnesses like Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea. Finally, Jesus suffered the most humiliating death possible. No-one would celebrate the life of someone who was crucified because it was a mark of shame. Christians have made Jesus’ crucifixion the central theme of their teaching. Why would you choose such a humiliating story; unless it is true?
Written by Darren Hansen, Christian Studies Teacher & Christian Studies Department Chair at Rockford Lutheran School