They Were Disbelieving for Joy

They Were Disbelieving for Joy

While they [the two disciples from the road to Emmaus] were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them (Luke 24:36-43).

There is an interesting turn of phrase here. Verse 41 is literally, “disbelieving from the joy and marveling.” I like how the NIV translates it: “they were disbelieving for joy.”

This reminds me of the people who appear on those call-in radio contests. The announcer says, “Congratulations, you win the prize!” The caller says, “No, really? I never win anything. Is it really me? It can’t be. You’re kidding!” I would guess there is a lot of eye-rolling in radio studios. But admittedly I would probably act the same shocked way. It’s such an unexpected thing to win a contest, that it takes a while for the thrill to overcome the sense of disbelief.

When I watch the disciples “disbelieving for joy,” and Jesus’ laboring to overcome their disbelief with a reminder of His previous promises and the testimony of the Scriptures, I wonder if there are a number of other promises from God we find it difficult to allow ourselves to accept.

The forgiveness of sins.

Paul says in Ephesians 1:7-8, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” Forgiveness? It almost seems too good to be true! The God of heaven, who is so perfectly holy that no sin can abide in His presence (Habakkuk 1:13), so holy not even Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 6:5) nor the angels (Isaiah 6:2) can face Him fully, so holy even creation flees at His approach (Revelation 20:11), the God who is always justified when He pours out His wrath (Romans 3:5, James 1:20); this same God has offered His own Son upon a cruel cross to provide redemption from sins.

When the Jewish crowd on Pentecost were cut to the heart and said, “What shall we do?” a perfectly legitimate response from Peter could have been, “You killed God’s Son ... there’s nothing you can do except await your doom!” But he said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

When Paul was confronted by Jesus for persecuting Him, it could have been a quick meeting to smite this “violent aggressor” (1 Timothy 1:13). Instead, Jesus told him to “enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do” (Acts 9:5) to obtain forgiveness and begin his new work in Jesus’ service.

And when I became the enemy of God through rebellion and sin, He could have abandoned me to Hell. Thanks be to God, it was “while we were still helpless Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Do people refuse this gift partly because they can’t believe God would bestow it? May I learn to accept it, and to live in a way that shows my appreciation for it.

The promise of heaven.

Perhaps it’s not as amazing to think that people want to dwell forever with God as it is to think that God wants to dwell eternally with people! There’s a book. If you belong to Jesus, this book has your name in it (Luke 10:20, Rev. 3:5, 20:15, 21:27, Heb. 12:23). Those people are destined for an eternity in God’s presence. Sign up is easy if you would just submit to Jesus. Do we refuse because we can’t believe such fulfillment is offered freely?

The fellowship of believers

It’s ironic. In this age of social media, there is an epidemic of loneliness. When you become a Christian, you are baptized into His body (1 Cor. 12:13). It’s a family that will care for you (Heb. 13:1), support you (3 Thess. 3:13), build you up (1 Cor. 14:26), eat with you (Acts 2:46), pray for you (Col. 4:12), visit you in distress (2 Tim. 1:17), and always has your best interests in mind even when it rebukes you (Rom. 15:14). What joy and acceptance are found in the church! And it’s yours if you’ll have it.

Yes, these blessings (and more!) are for you! Preparations for them stretch back into all eternity. Let your disbelief give way to amazement. Believe them and receive them!

–John Guzzetta