By Naomi Cassata
Nothing better expresses the obliviousness of Jesus’ followers concerning his resurrection than the statement, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). The women were seeking out a dead man. Jesus was supposed to be exactly where they had laid him—in a cold, dark, and lifeless tomb. They had witnessed his death. Jesus was not alive—he could not be, so they thought.
When Jesus died, it appeared to be the end to his ministry and life. But Jesus had told them about the suffering he would endure; Peter rebuked the talk of his impending death. Along with all this bad news, Jesus purposely gave them hope that all was not lost—there would indeed be a resurrection.
Then why did Peter cut off the ear of one coming to take Christ away to fulfill his purpose? Why did they mourn his death as though he would never rise again? Why were they not sitting by his tomb, waiting for his appearance three days later? Simply put, the disciples were not looking for a resurrection.
As If I Hadn’t Heard
I think about my own unfulfilled life before I truly believed in the resurrected Savior. Growing up in church, I had heard the gospel message more times than I could count. I went to church three times a week, memorized Scripture, did charitable deeds, knew all the Bible stories, and had good morals. So what’s wrong with this picture? For some reason, I wasn’t moved by all this. I did a lot of good things when I was supposed to or when I was around other Christians, but in reality, it was all mechanical orthodoxy.
Like the disciples, I heard over and over again the words of Christ. The message intended to bring endless hope, the words meant to bring inexpressible joy and radical change didn’t stir me. Don’t misunderstand me, I never questioned that Jesus was the Son of God. I definitely believed—only nothing much changed inside me despite this knowledge. There was definitely something missing in my life. I didn’t know that the life of Christ was meant to be lived inside me and not just in the pages of the Bible. And so I continued on with life as if I hadn’t heard.
Doubt Filled Their Hearts
When the disciples were told of Jesus’ resurrection, “they did not believe it” (Mark 16:11). In other words, they doubted. It seemed so unbelievable to their ears. They thought his life was over, so they closed the book and doubt filled their hearts.
Think about it—Jesus’ followers saw his beatings firsthand, they knew the thorns dug deeply into his head; his face was unrecognizable; he was marred; even the final blow, the sword in his side, confirmed the end of his life. Their hopes of Jesus redeeming Israel and reigning as King were dashed. Death was not part of the story they had in mind. It was not supposed to happen—at least not this way. Death always meant the end. But they had forgotten, they were not the ones who wrote the book.
Jesus’ resurrection happened somewhat inconspicuously. In fact, it was actually done humbly. There were no trumpets surrounding his resurrection. No spectacular light show. No elaborate announcement. No fanfare. Only those closest to him were privileged to see him. The news didn’t spread quickly; it happened gradually. What a contrast to how we often do things. God’s ways are surely not our ways.
Later, when Jesus appeared to his disciples, he opened their understanding. Their unbelief was thick and needed an adjustment. Luke said, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). All the words he had spoken previously made sense then. Their eyes were unveiled and they believed.
Even though Jesus had told them the very same words earlier, they couldn’t grasp what he meant. That’s why they had not looked for a resurrection. Once Jesus fulfilled his words, they understood. That meant the book had to be reopened in the disciples’ lives. What they would soon understand was that Jesus’ death was not the end, rather the beginning.
No Resurrection, No Hope
We can’t talk about Jesus’ death without talking about his resurrection. Many times when witnessing to others, we tell only half the story of Christ. Jesus’ resurrection is as much a part of the salvation message as his death. A.W. Tozer said it best: “We understand and acknowledge that the Resurrection has placed a glorious crown upon all of Christ’s sufferings!”
In the church of Corinth, some were saying that there was no resurrection. Paul corrected this lie, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). If there were no resurrection of Christ, there would be no resurrection hope for us. But Christ paved the way for us all!
It wasn’t until my teen years that I truly believed and understood what Jesus’ death and resurrection meant. I was attending a Christian summer camp away from home, and the minister relayed what I had heard all my life—the life of Christ. But something happened that night. Like Christ did for the disciples, he opened my mind and spirit to see my need for a Savior and to understand that he alone was the answer. I finally understood why Jesus died and rose—so that I could have life! It became personal. Most of all, it brought real change in my life.
His Life Causes Change
For years, many of my choices and good deeds had stemmed from what was expected of me—pleasing others, not God. Growing up and being around other Christians all of my life, I fell into the Christian groove, if you will. But then Jesus became my reason. My choices no longer centered on what was expected of me or what others were doing; instead, they came from new life living in me.
I have learned that Christ didn’t just ascend to Heaven—he is living in me. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is living in all his followers. When I decided to follow Christ, he filled me with his life.
His life in us will bring change—change that stems from loving and knowing him, change that compels us to live for him wholeheartedly, and change that puts in us a desire to tell others so they too may have life.
In the fall, black-eyed Susans bloom and fill the unmowed ditches and barren lots in my parents’ neighborhood. Sometimes there are hundreds of them, standing tall, with their deep golden petals bringing beauty in the most desolate places. When their season ends, the seeds die and get buried in the soil beneath, waiting for another autumn to appear so they again can spring forth life. Isn’t that similar to the story of Christ? The master died, was buried, and then arose, so that many more can be raised from that same resurrection power.
Fruit of Resurrection
After Jesus was received into Heaven, it says of his followers, “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere” (Mark 16:20). What a contrast to his death. We read no plans of them telling others about the Savior who died. But now Jesus was risen! They didn’t sit around wondering what their next move should be. It was clear because the story made sense to them. What they received, what they understood after Christ arose, could not be kept silent. It was the fuel to get them moving into God’s will.
Luke said, “And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:53). The doubt had dissipated. The unbelief was no more. The joy that was missing after Christ’s death now filled their hearts.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die,” (John 11:25). Our present life and our future hope of resurrection are both wrapped up in Jesus. His resurrection is not simply something we read about in the pages of the Bible. It’s not something we just celebrate once a year. It’s not a story we merely admire. It’s the life of Christ. And he is living in and through us each and every day.
Naomi Cassata is a freelance writer in Callahan, Florida.