Luke 24:25-26 “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
Foolish, slow–these are not compliments or terms of endearment. The Greek behind “foolish” suggests mostly empty space between their ears. “Hello! Any brain cells in there?” Jesus is suggesting that they suffer from a lack of knowledge, even though they don’t suffer from a lack of instruction, or a lack of experience. “Why don’t you guys get it?”
Is Jesus’ being unreasonable in expecting these men to know better? Is the way he addresses them mean? No, sometimes you have to let a person see his fault in plain words. It is not the time to worry about wounding a fragile self-esteem. Admittedly, sometimes people don’t understand because they just haven’t been taught. For some a concept may be too difficult to grasp. That’s not the case here. These two were underachieving. They were grasping less than they were capable of.
As exhibit A, Jesus points out that they turned a blind eye to all the prophets had written about his sufferings and his resurrection. Jesus often referred to these prophecies during his ministry. Why hadn’t they listened and paid attention? As exhibit B he could have referred to the many times he himself told them, “I am going to suffer, die, and rise.” After all, his enemies got it. They asked for a guard at his tomb because they remembered Jesus saying he would rise in three days. Was it asking too much for the men who loved and trusted him to take his words seriously?
Sometimes we don’t see, because we don’t want to. During my college years I tutored high school students in Algebra and Latin. Sometimes I believe they didn’t understand because they didn’t want to. Algebra and Latin can be hard, I know. But not everything is hard to get. With some of these students, if they were to “get” the concepts they claimed were confusing, then they would have to do the work themselves going forward. They would have to do the assignments without someone walking them through it. So long as they could say, “I don’t get it,” they could lean on someone else to do the thinking for them.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t get that the Christ first had to suffer, and then enter his glory, in part, because they didn’t want to. If they understood it and believed it, that meant big changes to their plans and behavior. It meant Jesus wouldn’t be the deliverer to set their country free and make it great again. More than that, it meant that the grand future of success, riches, and power they were planning for themselves wasn’t going to happen. To follow Jesus means to go where he goes: first suffering, then glory. I am sorry if that is a disappointing conclusion. But it is why we need the risen Lord to open our eyes and overcome our foolish hearts, so slow to believe.
This has application to every time we approach the word of God. We come to a passage in the Bible, and we say that it is hard to understand because we don’t want to believe it. The words are simple. A five-year-old could tell you what they are saying. But if we believe them, then we are going to have to change. We are going to have to admit something about ourselves, or about our God. It may say wonderful things about him, but not so much about you and me. The world will hate us and reject us for believing it. So we say these words don’t make sense to us. Or we say that it is just someone’s interpretation.
Don’t let the gospel become one of those things. People have been denying the plain meaning of Jesus’ cross and empty tomb since the time of the apostles. But Isaiah could explain Jesus’ cross seven hundred years before it happened. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (53:5-6).
People who say Jesus’ body didn’t literally leave the tomb (because people don’t rise from the dead) think they are “modern” and “smart.” They are neither. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
The truth is so much better, and it isn’t hard to understand. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus’ return to life is “firstfruits.” It is the promise that other resurrections will follow his—our resurrections. That is the smart thing to believe.
God give us wisdom to do so.