Disbelieving for Joy
Apr 17, 2020  |  Pastor Rob Fuquay

Susan and I were married by Dr. Leighton Ferrell who for many years was the pastor of Highland Park UMC, Dallas, Texas where Susan was on staff at the time. In his book, Cries from the Cross, he begins a chapter with these words: “All progress prior to experience seems impossible.” Dr. Ferrell reaches back in history and points out that prior to astronauts walking on the moon such an idea was impossible, nothing more than comic book fantasy. Today, we might say that prior to internet realities like “zoom” meetings, the idea of staying connected with each other during a pandemic would have seemed impossible. How many things do you do just about every day that would have seemed impossible a decade or two ago? That’s because all progress prior to experience seems impossible.

Easter seemed impossible to the disciples, until they experienced a risen Jesus, and even then they still weren’t sure. There is a wonderful phrase in Luke’s gospel that describes the disciples’ reaction when Jesus appears after the resurrection. Mind you, according to Luke, this wasn’t the first encounter the disciples had with the risen Jesus. But before ascending to heaven he shows them his hands and feet, most likely because of the crucifixion marks, to prove it is him. Luke says that while in their joy they were disbelieving. I like the ESV’s translation best: “they disbelieved for joy.” 

For Jesus’ own inner circle, Easter seemed too good to be true but not in a way that discouraged them. They couldn’t fully believe that Jesus was alive, but it gave them hope, perhaps hope of knowing one day that maybe their experiences with Him were not over. 

If you ever get discouraged with your faith wondering why it is so hard to believe or stay consistent in your belief, just read the Easter stories! Faith didn’t come easy for Jesus’ followers, but they teach us what Easter faith looks like. It’s not so much about believing the impossible, as it is being hopeful about the possibilities of God we have yet to experience. It’s easy to feel “I’ll never find love,” “I’ll never get over this loss,” “I can’t see how things can improve.” Faith isn’t denying these feelings, it is disbelieving for joy. It is believing that what is impossible now is simply an experience that has yet to happen.