Editor’s Note: I am currently blogging through my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead. That book is available on Amazon by clicking the picture or link below. Please check it out! (Scroll down for links to the other parts to this post) (CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON LINK)
Chapter 16: Skeptical Ancients or Slack Jawed Yokels?
“And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus Himself came near and began to walk along with them. 16 But they were prevented from recognizing Him.17 Then He asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.
18 The one named Cleopas answered Him, “Are You the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” He asked them.
So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a Prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, 23 and when they didn’t find His body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see Him.” Luke 24:15-24
I know it is old school and quite dated, but I love the song “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco. That old hippie can sing, and every time I hear the song, I cry tears of gratitude. If you aren’t familiar with the song, here is the first part of the lyrics:
The gates and doors were barred And all the windows fastened down
I spent the night in sleeplessness And rose at every sound
Half in hope of sorrow And half in fear the day
Would find the soldiers breakin’ through To drag us all away
And just before the sunrise I heard something at the wall
The gate began to rattle And a voice began to call
I hurried to the window Looked down into the street
Expecting swords and torches And the sound of soldiers’ feet
But there was no one there but Mary So I went down to let her in
John stood there beside me As she told me where she’d been
She said they’ve moved Him in the night And none of us know where
The stone’s been rolled away And now His body isn’t there
We both ran towards the garden Then John ran on ahead
We found the stone and empty tomb Just the way that Mary said
But the winding sheet they wrapped Him in Was just an empty shell
And how or where they’d taken Him Was more than I could tell
Oh something strange had happened there Just what I did not know
John believed a miracle But I just turned to go
Circumstance and speculation Couldn’t lift me very high
‘Cause I’d seen them crucify Him Then I saw Him die.
I’m getting teary-eyed just reading the lyrics! The truth that Francisco’s song captures so well is the fact that the disciples DID NOT EXPECT JESUS TO RETURN FROM DEATH! Even though He had told them multiple times that He would rise again on the third day, they either didn’t understand, or take Him seriously at all, despite the fact that, according to Matthew, He plainly told the disciples THREE times, at least, that He would die and be raised up again. In fact, Matthew 27:63 notes that even the chief priests and the Pharisees knew that Jesus had said He would rise again; that is why they requested a guard to prevent anybody from rolling the stone away from the tomb!
So, of course, since Jesus told them that He would rise again on the third day, the disciples made a field trip to the graveyard that Sunday to wait, right? Right?! This is something I have never really understood about those guys. I don’t know that I would have believed that Jesus could come back from such a terrible and bloody death as the one represented by His crucifixion, but I do think I would have made the walk over to the cemetery Sunday morning just to see if something might happen, wouldn’t you have at least done that? The fact that NONE of the disciples of Jesus went to the grave that Sunday morning clearly demonstrates that they were not slack-jawed yokels that would believe anything because they were so primitive and dumb. They knew death was final just like people in 2017 know that death is final. In fact, due to most deaths occurring in and around homes (and not in hospitals) they were probably more exposed to death than most moderns are, and thus more confronted regularly by its hostility and finality.
C.S. Lewis calls the view that the ancients were dumb, primitive and uninformed, “chronological snobbery.” While it is true that they didn’t have iPhones, and they couldn’t call an Uber to get around to places, the fact is that they were actually quite intelligent, not jaded, and fully aware of the finality of death.
“Barfield never made me an Anthroposophist, but his counterattacks destroyed forever two elements in my own thought. In the first place he made short work of what I have called my “chronological snobbery,” the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.”
While the disciples didn’t show up at the tomb of Jesus on the third day. The faithful women certainly did – surely they would be waiting with eager joy to see the promised return of their messiah, right? Actually, the women didn’t come to greet a resurrected Jesus, they came laden with burial spices, wondering who would roll away the tomb door. They came to prepare the corpse of Jesus for eons of rotting in a tomb. Even the faithful women did not believe that Jesus would be bodily resurrected.
Not only that, but even when Jesus appeared to the disciples in person after the Resurrection, the Bible states that “some doubted.” We might assume that first century people were much more likely to believe that somebody could rise from the dead, than we moderns would be, but the evidence shows that they would be just as incredulous – if not more so – than modern, scientifically oriented people. That they had a prompt change of heart about the possibility of resurrection demonstrates and gives some level of proof that something happened to change their mind and take away their doubts.
One more bit of evidence to the idea that the disciples and followers of Jesus were not expecting a resurrection. As noted in the Scripture quoted at the beginning of this chapter, a follower named Cleopas and his unnamed friend were walking on the Emmaus road on the first Easter Sunday. Despite the fact that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and had already appeared to the women at the tomb, Cleopas and the other disciple were discouraged and arguing. Surely they must have been discouraged because they hadn’t heard Jesus was raised from the dead yet, correct? Unfortunately, that is not the case. According to Luke 24, Cleopas and friend had indeed been told that the women had seen the resurrected Jesus in the flesh! Why were they discouraged? Because they DID NOT believe the women! They were so certain of the finality of death that, despite Jesus’ multiple statements that He would rise after death, and despite hearing about the women’s claims to have seen Jesus, they still didn’t believe. This clearly demonstrates that the majority of the disciples and followers of Jesus fully expected Him to stay dead, and also demonstrates the high unlikelihood of their being involved in some sort of resurrection scam.
 Written by George S. Clinton • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group
 C S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, C.s. Lewis Signature Book (New York: HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2017),
Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead)