The Opportunity To Believe
We are all offered the opportunity to believe the life, word and message of Jesus Christ. An opportunity may be described as a favorable circumstance that opens the possibility for something good to happen.
Mark 16 is a brief synopsis of some opportunities to believe and some of the resulting responses. The Apostle Paul also mentions in I Corinthians 15:5-8 some of those who reportedly saw Jesus after the resurrection. But in Paul's account he only alludes to his own response to the encounter with Jesus. His list of post-resurrection sightings is also not the same as Mark's. Since this discussion centers on the 'response' to an opportunity to believe, we will focus on Mark's review in chapter 16 of the biblical book that bears his name. For further study see Matthew 28 and Luke 24.
Mark 16 is, as stated earlier, a synopsis. The chapter contains only 20 verses but covers a time period of 40 days.
1st Opportunity in Mark 16:1-8
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene,who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Another account reports that there were two angels present. Since Mark is giving a brief overview and not all the details, he evidently only reported the speaking angel or the most prominent one.
Verse 8 seems to contradict what the other biblical accounts report. The others say that the women did tell the disciples what they had seen and heard. Verse 8 here probably intends that as the women left the tomb they did not tell anyone along the way what they had witnessed. But ultimately they did share their experience with the disciples.
At this time, the women did not see Jesus but did believe the witness of the angel(s) who spoke to them.
2nd Opportunity in Mark 16:9-11
9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
Mary Magdalene obviously had a sincere devotion to Jesus and His teaching. She trusted and believed what she saw and heard. It is noteworthy that Jesus appeared to her first. I believe because of her grief at His death and her unwavering commitment to Him, Jesus chose to show Himself to Mary first. Jesus knew she would seize the opportunity to believe. He wanted to ease her pain and bring joy to her heart again. Plus He knew she would be a credible witness that He was alive.
3rd Opportunity in Mark 16:12-13
12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.
As two of Jesus' believers were on their way to the village of Emmaus, Jesus joins them. In this case, He conceals His identity from them as they travel. Jesus asks what they are so intense and sad about. As they talk and walk Jesus begins to share with them about Himself from the scriptures but without yet letting them know who He is.
4th Opportunity in Mark 16:14
14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
Jesus already knew the level of faith of all of His closest followers. However, certainly it was a sore disappointment to Him that those who should have been the first to believe repeatedly rebuffed the eyewitness accounts of His return. It would seem that Jesus would have appeared to the eleven disciples first. But I believe He was testing their faith. He was giving them the Opportunity To Believe. They all (the eleven disciples) flunked the test miserably.
Jesus chose to reveal Himself to reliable witnesses who the eleven disciples should not have had any doubt believing their story. These were people who were faithful followers of the Lord. The disciples were well acquainted with all of them. Possibly the disciples skepticism may have been understandable if the witnesses were people unknown to them. But these were known faithful followers.
The Lord did not choose these people randomly. He knew who could be trusted to relay the message of His appearance with truthfulness and faith.
Each time the good news of the Lord's appearance was shared with the eleven disciples they rejected it. See Mark 16:11 and 13.
How many times have you been offered the Opportunity To Believe? Our faith should be based on what the Lord has said. Faith cannot be based on wishful thinking. The Word of God is the solid foundation for what we believe. In order to know what He said and is still saying, we need to read and know His Word.
If you haven't done so, open your heart and your spirit to the Opportunity To Believe. Our God does some amazing things. Those who choose not to believe may miss the comfort, strength, joy and wisdom that comes with having faith in God.