Why People Find It Hard to Believe in the Resurrection

What Blocks Us From Fully Believing in the Most Powerful Event in History?

Mark 16

April 20, 2014 AM   Resurrection Sunday

Pastor Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland



I.       Introduction (Acts 26:8)


A.    Whatever the disciples of Jesus had believed, was all smashed at the cross


1.      They had believed that He was the promised Messiah of God

2.      That God’s perfect kingdom had come

3.      That there would be peace on earth

4.      That Israel would be restored as God’s light in the world

5.      That God’s people would be freed from sin’s grip

6.      And that Satan himself would be defeated


B.     Well, all of that and more, all came crumbling to dust the moment Jesus died on the cross


1.      It seemed now that the Pharisees who trusted their own goodness, had won

2.      The Sadducees who didn’t believe in anything that Jesus said, had won

3.      The Romans had won that day

4.      It seemed that death itself still was the ultimate winner – even over this Man called Jesus


C.     But don’t forget – that was not the end of the story! All of that was overturned just three days and three nights later!


II.    Background (Mark 16:1-13)


A.    It’s The First Day of the Week (Mark 16:1)


1.      It had been three long days and three long nights since the crucifixion


a.       Jesus was NOT crucified on Friday, but on Wednesday evening

b.      You need not just 3 days, but 3 days AND 3 nights - Like as Jonah was in the whale


2.      It’s Not the Sabbath anymore – but Sunday!

3.      The Sabbath was over – it had now moved into the past, where it now stays!

4.      Without any great fanfare, the entire Old Testament Law had died on that cross with Jesus

5.      This shows God was starting everything over – but this time, it was going to be different! And BOY has the world been made different because of what happened the FIRST Day of the week!


B.     The Visiting Women (Mark 16:1,2) – before sunrise


1.      Up come these women – quite a brave group of them approaching a grave in the dark before sunrise


a.       Mary Magdalene

b.      Mary the Mother of James and Joses

c.       Salome Zebedee – that’s James and Johns’ mother

d.      Joanna

e.       And other women


2.      They had been up very early (maybe all night) preparing an ointment of sweet smelling spices to place in the wrapping cloth around Jesus

3.      Concerned about honouring the death of Jesus – honouring His memory


a.       The last time they saw Jesus, they saw him being taken down from the cross and hurriedly placed in Joseph of Aramathea’s tomb before sunset 3 days earlier

b.      They did not know that Nicodemas and Joseph of Aramethea had already properly and honourably buried Jesus


4.      But notice, they believed Jesus was still dead – still lying cold in that tomb, and that He was NOT coming going to rise up again.


C.     The Problem They Faced (Mark 16:3)


1.      All their efforts hit a wall – literally, or at least in their mind they did when they remembered the tomb was sealed!

2.      They forgot… the tomb was sealed by a huge stone

3.      The stone was sealed by Pilate’s own signet ring

4.      Roman soldiers were guarding the tomb, keeping it sealed so no one could attempt to steal the body of Jesus

5.      Hmmmm. How are they going to do anything now?

6.      You see, They only expected death in that tomb, and they only expected problems at the tomb!


D.    The Surprise at the Tomb (Mark 16:4-6) – and it WAS a surprise!


1.      God LOVES surprises! And He produced some of the greatest surprises ever imagined on this First day of the week!

2.      The stone was already rolled back! Weighing at least 1 ton, but probably 2 tons was shoved aside!

3.      The soldiers who should be standing there, guarding the tomb, were asleep!

4.      As they looked inside the tomb, instead of a dead body, they saw bright angels there

5.      The tomb was empty of death, and instead filled with light!

6.      And as they stood there peering in, the Angels rebuked them for expecting to find a dead Jesus! REBUKED THEM! Remember this because it is what I am going to focus on in a few minutes!

7.      Then they heard the most fantastical words from the angels, that Jesus is alive again!

8.      I don’t think those women breathed for what may have seemed like an eternity as they struggled to take it all in!

9.      If the angels had not spoken to them to get back to the upper room, they would have passed out from shock!


E.     The Command – Go and Announce that Jesus LIVES Again! (Mark 16:7,8)


1.      Huh?

2.      This is such a reversal! That brief instant turned everything on its head!

3.      In an instant, these four woman were being told to believe that Jesus is very much alive!

4.      Let’s review…


a.       Four soldiers lying on the ground fast asleep – never see that while on duty

b.      A massive stoned already rolled back

c.       An empty tomb

d.      Two angels smiling and repeating, “The person you seek is NOT HERE! He is risen!”

e.       They didn’t have all the facts – all the evidence – but they were told they could believe it anyway!


5.      What a thing to believe! It was very hard for them to just believe, and yet here they were being told to not only believe, but to go and get others to believe!

6.      You have got to give them credit – they ran out of that tomb and ran to the upper room to go and tell all the apostles what they saw and found!


F.      They ALL Had a Hard Time Believing!


1.      The Women Had a Hard Time Believing

2.      The Apostles Had a Hard Time Believing (Mark 16:9-11)


a.       Mary Magdalene had already met someone claiming to be Jesus, who told her He was alive and was about to ascend to His Father

b.      And she had raced ahead of the other two women to go and tell the apostles herself

c.       So here come two different groups of women racing up the stairs and into the dark, upper room, where these men and women had shared the Lord’s last supper together, and then had returned from watching Him die!

d.      And one after another, these woman said that they saw the stone rolled away, the tomb completely empty, the grave clothes piled up on the floor, and that they had actually met angels, and then they all had met Jesus Himself and even HELD Him (Mt 28:8,9)!

e.       And you would think these faithful apostles would have said, “You know what, that is exactly what Jesus said would happen! Let’s believe it too!”

f.       But they didn’t! They laughed at these women. Said it was idle talk – a waste of time believing such nonsense!

g.      All they wanted to do was return to their mourning and weeping – isn’t that what so many want to keep doing TODAY?

h.      Peter and John ran to go and see the tomb for themselves (Luke 24:11,12)


1)      Only John was impressed enough to start believing

2)      But Peter came back, shaking his head in disbelief!


3.      Two Disciples on the Road to Emmaus Had a Hard Time Believing (Mark 16:12,13)


a.       That same morning, Jesus made a special trip to go and catch up with two of His disciples who were walking to a nearby town called Emmaus (read Luke 24 where this encounter is described in wonderful detail)

b.      And as they talked with Him, and complained about everything that they had seen happen over the past week, Jesus started going back through the Old Testament scriptures about His life, and then His death, and even His resurrection!

c.       And then Jesus rebuked THEM for being so slow, so hesitant to believe EVERYTHING written in the law and prophets!

d.      There is that REBUKE again! Jesus firmly corrected their attitude and their lack of trust

e.       It took Jesus opening their eyes before they would finally believe He really was alive!


4.      Finally, after a whole day of several people running all over excitedly announcing that Jesus REALLY was alive, Jesus Himself showed up… AND REBUKED THEM, for NOT believing (Mark 16:14), and He exposes our real problem with faith… a hard heart!


III. Message – What Stops Us From Fully Believing? (Mark 16:14)


A.    What stops any of us from confidently, and instantly believing that this Man, Jesus really is the promised Messiah, the Only Saviour of Mankind, and that He Lives?

B.     Not for lack of evidences (Luke 1:1-4)


1.      Over 20 Old Testament Prophecies pointing to a substitutionary death for sinners!


a.       That the Messiah would HAVE to suffer (Isaiah 53)


1)      He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

2)      Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

3)      But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

4)      He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

5)      He was taken from prison and from judgment:

6)      And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death;”


b.      And that He would then Rise again


1)      "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced…" Zechariah 12:10

2)      "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces." Isaiah 25:8


2.      Jesus’ own Predictions (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33,34) – time and again he reminded them of what he had come to do – die, and be buried and then rise again three days later!

3.      The very life of Jesus was one of MIRACLES – Duh! The resurrection was what He DID


a.       From His own birth being a miracle

b.      To His walking on water

c.       To His healing of the blind, the lame, the deaf, the dumb

d.      To His even raising several dead people – including a man declared dead for over 4 days (Lazarus)

e.       He divided 5 small loaves and bread and two small fish, and fed over 5,00 men, and just to prove it wasn’t a fluke accident, He did it again and fed 4,000 hungry men, besides women and children!

f.       If the resurrection requires a miracle (and it does), then Jesus proved He can do miracles!


4.      The Fact of the Empty Tomb.


a.       Listen to the words of the young man in white garments who met the women at the tomb of Jesus; Mark 16:6 “… Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here…" 

b.      Had the enemies of Jesus stolen away his body, they would have produced it later to silence the preaching of the resurrection. 

c.       Had his Apostles and/or disciples stolen it away, they would not have died preaching what they knew to be a falsehood.    

d.      Every precaution had been taken by the Roman government to prevent a resurrection trickery or deceit, but in spite of that, God outwitted Roman power, and robbed death itself of its prize through the greatest miracle of eternity.

e.       The Pagan Roman guards prove something amazing happened at the tomb. They reported back to the chief priests about the angels knocking them out and the tomb ALREADY being empty when the stone was rolled away. The council gave much money unto the soldiers saying that they should spread a lie that Jesus disciples stole his body in the night. (Matt 28:12-15)

f.       The priests were convinced of the testimony of the guards concerning the resurrection of Christ. Their bribes to the guards emphasized the fact of their conviction of it.


5.      Several resurrection appearances. Occurring for forty days up to His ascension to heaven.


a.       Jesus appeared no less than ten times before His ascension to Heaven (1 Cor 15:1-8)


1)      To Mary Magdalene first

2)      To the other women

3)      Two Emmaus disciples

4)      The ten apostles the first Sunday evening in the upper room

5)      Simon Peter

6)      Then to all the eleven together the next Sunday, this time including Thomas

7)      To 7 apostles who had gone fishing at the sea of Galilee in John 21

8)      James, the Lord’s half-brother.

9)      To over 500 brethren on a mountain in Galilee when He gave the great commission

10)  And then finally to a large crowd on Mt. Olivet just before his ascension.


b.      These many personal witnesses to his living presence bear powerful testimony to the validity of Christ's power and victory over death.

c.       Jesus said unto Thomas, “… because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)


6.      Pentecost is another proof. Jesus promised, "for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." (John 16:7) Christ's going away, was a specific requisite to the decent of the Holy Spirit, but without His resurrection from the dead there could have been no ascension. The coming of the Holy Spirit, proved that the risen Christ had gone back into heaven.

7.      Christ's appearance to Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9 gave great testimony to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.


a.       Saul, on the Damascus road became convinced of Christ's resurrection from the dead when Jesus spoke to him from heaven.

b.      It was this profound conviction that Christ was alive from the dead, that completely altered the character and conduct of Saul the persecutor... and made him, Paul the evangelist. 

c.       When Saul asked "who art thou, Lord?" it settled and satisfied the mind of the apostle concerning the Lordship of Jesus through the resurrection from the dead.


8.      Added to these, is the transforming power of Jesus upon the lives of millions during the 2,000 plus years since.


a.       We today stand together as witnesses to the fact that Christ arose from the dead and thus conquered sin, death, and the grave. 

b.      We clearly testify that Christ lives, and has transformed us from creatures of darkness and despair, to children of light and hope. We lift our voices in words of the song, "you ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart"


So, What stops any of us from confidently, and instantly believing that this Man, Jesus really is the promised Messiah, the Only Saviour of Mankind, and that He Lives?

Not for lack of evidences

C.    But Because of Two BIG Things


1.      Unbelief – lack of belief IN the evidences!


a.       We do not blindly just believe – and we don’t follow cunningly devised fables

b.      The Bible was written so that anyone could believe it (John 20:29-31; Rom 10:17)

c.       No, our problem, and the world’s problem is WE CHOOSE NOT TO BELIEVE

d.      People choose not to believe


1)      Because it simply is Crazy (Acts 17:18,32), because it is just flat out Impossible – death is supposed to be the end of a life

2)      Embarrassing to actually BELIEVE all this stuff (Acts 17:8)

3)      Even Heretical (Acts 4:1-3; 24:14,15)


e.       But a true Christian believes it anyway (Acts 26:6-8) – without hesitation!

f.       And just believing it changes a life!

g.      That’s why I preach so that people will make the choice that is the only choice that changes a life – from sinner to saint; from lost to found, from darkness to light; from dead in trespasses and sins, to alive in Christ!


2.      The second reason for unbelief is, Hardness of Heart!


a.       Both unbelief and hardness of heart go hand in hand! Fix either one, and the other will go away!

b.      Pharaoh had a heart problem – a HARD heart problem (Exod 8:19)

c.       So too did the apostles have problem – their hard heart stopped them (and stops us) from actually allowing the greatest transforming power to work in our lives!


1)      Instead of believing God can resurrect things, we believe in divorce (Mt 19:8)

2)      It slows us way down in our spiritual growth (Luke 24:25).So many people should be much more mature and strong as believers, but their hard heart hinders them!


d.      So, our problem is really, not in believing the miracles of the Bible, but in having a hard heart towards the God who does the miracles!

e.       For whatever reason you have a hard heart, it is not worth it!


3.      Do you know why so many people end up in a devil’s hell? Not because they DON’T know, but because they won’t believe! And their HARD heart won’t LET them believe!


IV. Conclusion


A.    The Resurrection of Jesus Christ fixes everything! It can fix ANYTHING that we believe to be impossible to fix!

B.     Look at what Christ’s Resurrection makes possible…


1.      Starting over – just like Peter needed to (Mark 16:7)

2.      Accepting forgiveness – like Mary Magdalene needed (Mark 16:1,9)

3.      Believing ALL things, every thing written in the whole Bible, like those two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:24-27). The resurrection convinces all of us that this Book is TRUE

4.      A whole new life – if we would only believe on Him – trust Him (Acts 4:7-10)

5.      Anything now is possible – because Jesus IS the resurrection (John 11:25)!

6.      The same Holy Spirit that had been in HIM, now resides in every believer – think about it!


C.     But NONE of that actually will work for you until your own hard heart is allowed to be softened, and your own unbelief is allowed to be filled with belief! (Hebrews 4:2)!

D.    Don’t waste your life mourning over circumstances and defeats and frustration with God simply because you do not understand what he is doing…

E.     And ask God soften your heart – to take away the stony heart, the angry heart, the hardened heart

F.      And then start believing absolutely EVERYTHING He said we can believe


1.      That He can forgive even YOU and all your sin

2.      That He is alive for evermore – not dead like all other religious leaders

3.      That He really cares about you and what you are going through

4.      That He is constantly at work, working all things together for good

5.      That He still answers prayer

6.      That He is coming again, very soon

7.      And that all the things that the disciples expected from Jesus the FIRST time he came, WILL all happen just as God promised, in His kingdom to come!


G.    If you will only believe!