If we built our theology upon our circumstances, none of us would be believers. Now we are the children of God, but it often neither looks nor feels like it. Just like everyone else, we get sick, wrestle to break bad habits, struggle in our marriages, and watch our children make immature, foolish decisions. And in the end, just like everyone else, we die.
If we are honest, some of us reading this article are disappointed. We are disappointed with life. We are disappointed with ourselves. And some of you are perhaps just a little bit disappointed with God, for you prayed, but He didn’t answer. You longed for peace, but He gave trouble. You dreamed dreams, but He sent nightmares. Perhaps you even feel bitter at the Almighty. Like Naomi, your life no longer fits your name (Ruth 1:20).
Let’s take a moment today and walk beside a group of disappointed women (Mark 16:1–8). As they trudge doggedly on toward Jesus’ grave, a litany of dashed expectations harangue their souls. For a while, it seemed that He could do anything: Jesus healed the sick, cleansed the leper, stilled the storm, banished the devil, and could even raise the dead. He saved others, but the one thing He couldn’t do was save Himself. As they traipsed through the pre-dawn gloom, whatever these women were expecting, it was not Easter.
However, these ladies have many lessons to teach us, the chief of which is that the way Jesus responds to our expectations will often surprise us. This, of course, raises the question: What, then, can we expect from Him?
He Will Be Faithful When We Least Expect It
The grave of Christ quietly proclaims this. The Suffering Servant was, after all, supposed to have been buried in a mass grave with the other felons, but then Joseph intervened, just as Isaiah had foretold eight hundred years before (Isa. 53:8–9). But unbelief has blinded their eyes to the sola Scriptura logic of faith. They can see only what’s just ahead of them. They haven’t the hands to reach through “reality” and lay hold of the invisible but even more real promise of God. Did you catch the gentle rebuke in the angel’s message? “[Jesus] is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you” (Mark 16:7). Jesus had told them, hadn’t He? Again, and again, and again (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34). Unbelief is the ultimate realist. Like the famous old detective, its mantra is: “Just give me the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.” In the minds of these women and the disciples, the facts were rather blunt; Jesus was dead, gravestone dead. But faith views facts differently. What is faith but the ability to see what most men never see and to hold what most men never touch (Heb. 11:1)? To the eye of faith, a whole new world of facts opens up—facts that are more real than all the certainties that this world has to offer.
He Will Be Merciful When You Don’t Deserve It
Though the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about angels, one thing is certain: as God’s messengers, they do His will and not their own. The ability to improvise is not part of their job description. With that in mind, take a look at the angel’s appearance. It’s certainly on the least pyrotechnic end of angelic epiphanies. Normally in the Bible, when people see one of these celestial beings, they almost die with fright. But this one takes the appearance of a young man. Now, I have to confess, I have no idea how this works. Can angels dial down their brightness the way we do with our screens on a dark night, or do some angels look more spectacular than others? Whatever the case, we have to believe this rather understated angel was no accident. God knew these women were feeling a bit fragile. They couldn’t cope with shock and awe. Perhaps their heavenly Father also wanted their focus to remain on the angel’s word and not his appearance.