We know many of the stories of faith recorded in the Gospels: like the royal official who was willing to take Jesus at his word, and believe that his son, deathly sick at a distance, would be healed; or the beggar woman who argued with Jesus, that she might receive, like a dog, just the scraps from his table. We also know that these stories of faith are often accompanied by conflict, as the with the man who revealed the struggle of his own soul, crying out to the Lord, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
But we may not so easily notice the stories of stubborn disbelief. We often see what we want to see, and dismiss what is uncomfortable. So let’s notice these verses from Mark 16, about Jesus’ disciples, following His resurrection from the dead:
11 When (the disciples ) heard that (Jesus) was alive and had been seen by (Mary Magdalene), they refused to believe it.
13 (Two disciples who encountered Jesus) went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.
14 Afterward (Jesus) appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.
16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
And then we have the well-known story of “doubting” Thomas, who said to the 10 disciples, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” “Doubt” is not a strong enough term for Thomas’ position. In opposition to the evidence; in opposition to the eye-witness testimony of his trusted companions - he refused to believe. Unwitting? or unwilling? Bewildered? or hard-hearted? In need of time and patience? or did he need to be warned, “he who has disbelieved will be condemned”?
There is such a thing as doubt. It is real, and it is common. When we doubt, we must come back to the testimony once again, and ask, “what does the Word of God say?” In accord with God’s gracious and authoritative Word, we have a responsibility to believe, and to obey. In this light, we see that faith is not some strange bird with fuzzy feathers. It is you grabbing hold of revealed truth with determination, and believing that God is real, and that Jesus is alive.