Flying in an airplane can be difficult for an engineer. The principle of an airfoil – how it creates lift through disparate pressures on the various surfaces – is well established. Empirical testing has demonstrated that this design works, with evidence repeated in countless wind tunnels and computer simulations. The very fact that airplanes take off successfully every single day in our world confirms that lift is being generated. However, it’s still a somewhat counter-intuitive phenomenon, and one that is probably best to not think about too deeply while cruising at 50,000 feet over an ocean. (And, don’t even think about fatigue mechanics when watching an airplane wing flex against its rivets outside the plastic window!)
Consider the sequence of events after Jesus’ arrest, execution, burial, and resurrection: Jesus was clearly dead – there was no doubt of this. After He had been executed and buried on Friday (see Matthew 28:1-10), an earthquake occurred on the following Sunday, the stone in front of the tomb was moved, and Jesus was risen from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection was dramatic enough that it overwhelmed trained Roman soldiers, who took a payoff to hide the truth (see Matthew 28:11-15).
But then, the remaining disciples (excluding the late Judas Iscariot) each got at least one opportunity (and maybe more than one instance, in some cases) to see the resurrected Jesus. While it’s hard to imagine the emotions that the disciples felt when the reports they had heard of Jesus’ return were proven to be true, they weren’t all sure whether they could believe their own eyes.
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.
Matthew 28:16-17 NASB
Can you believe that, after all that they had experienced while following Jesus, they still doubted?
On the one hand, Jesus had demonstrated all manner of miracles, proving His identity and His authority. He had even brought dead people back to life. He had also explained what would happen. Furthermore, if anyone would have been able to verify the identity of the risen Jesus, it would have been those who had walked with Him for years. Other than perhaps His mother, these long-time followers and friends would be among the most qualified to clearly recognize Him, no matter how improbable His resurrection might have seemed.
On the other hand, we might understand that they were still reeling from the events that transpired in the hours immediately after they had eaten the Passover meal with Jesus. Certainly the possibility that Jesus would be captured and killed didn’t seem to be what the disciples expected, despite His prophecies about that very thing.
However, maybe we can relate. After all, we have the benefit of history, and the testimony of millions who have followed Jesus. He proves His faithfulness time and again, both in our lives, and in the lives of others around us who are following Him. The longer we live under His leadership, the more we see His all-knowing, loving, and sovereign wisdom. But, in the middle of trials, we are still tempted to doubt – sometimes even as the answers to our problems are coming into view.
I can’t pretend to change how you feel, any more than I can prevent my own temptation to doubt. However, when we are at our lowest point, that is the best time to trust what we know to be true: that Jesus is good to His word; that He has proven it; and that He will remain with us through our trials to the end. Resist the urge to doubt when the evidence speaks to the contrary.