Why do doubts arise in your hearts? (Luke 24:38)


We live in a world full of suspicion and doubt, and it has only increased in the last 3-10 years. Whereas we used to have trusted leaders and professionals that could provide us with educated information and expert viewpoints, now we have politicized perspectives. Today we can find whoever with the best of credentials to confirm our already existing opinions. Anyone can have a platform with itching ears ready to listen.

So, when it comes to the Christian faith, what should we do with our doubt? Because, if we are honest, there are many people both on the outside and inside of the church who have their doubts about God and the Bible. And to those – and everyone – I want to say welcome.

The Bible is full of people who had suspicions, questions, and doubt.

  • Abraham, the patriarch of the OT, and his wife Sarai doubted God’s promises so much that they laughed in the face of God.
  • Moses doubted God’s power that he asked for someone else to perform the job, or at least a partner to assist him.
  • King David wrote a plethora of Psalms that are packed with uncertainties, worries, fears, and doubts.
  • Jesus’ disciples were dubious selections to lead the church after His ascension. Their selfish disputes and regular doubts in the Gospel accounts revealed the powerful transformation from the Holy Spirit through the apostles in the book of Acts.

And, if we are honest, this room and church has many people who have doubts. Personally, some of the most significant turning points in my life have come out of seasons of doubt.

  • 9th grade freshman identity.
  • 12th grade discerning priorities of career, friends, and faith.
  • ~5 years later at college of multiple aspersions on Scriptures. I purchased new Bible w/o notes and spent time with God.
  • Coming to SPBC… and various moments.

So, doubters are invited and welcomed here.

EXAMINE Hard Sayings: Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise? (Lk 24:38)
Jesus’ resurrection means doubts cannot destroy our faith
(Lk 24:36-38).

36  As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38  And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

During Jesus’ arrest the disciples fled. Their doubts increased internally and became contagious externally. There were few who remained by Jesus’ side until His death. Jesus’ mother persisted weeping until His last breath. John, the young and beloved disciple, endured to take care of Mary. There seems to be other women from Galilee who stood at a distance, perhaps with closed eyes and turned heads from the cross (cf Lk 23:49, 55-56). And, we know of a man named Joseph of Arimathea, who asked Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for a Jewish burial. That’s it! The other disciples scattered in fear, shame, and doubt.

Unfortunately, none of them expected Jesus to resurrect. Even though Jesus predicted multiple times that He had to die but He would rise on the third day, all the disciples expected Jesus’ corpse to be present in the tomb. Followers of Jesus hopes were dashed because they “hoped he was the one to redeem Israel” but Jesus is dead, and Israel is still under Roman oppression (cf Lk 24:21). The most faithful of the disciples – the women – came to tomb expecting to find a wrapped body and spread proper burial spices. Yet, an angel appeared asking, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Jesus is not here but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). Afterwards, the women told Peter and John, and the other disciples, and the rest is history.

After Jesus was resurrected, He appears to small groups of disciples. First, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20). Then Jesus appears to two travelers to Emmaus (Lk 24). Then Jesus visits a small group of disciples hiding behind locked doors (Jn 20); and then Jesus reveals His nail-pierced hands and punctured side to Thomas. Jesus also returned to His brother James and family with multiple appearances to over 500 eyewitnesses over 40-day period (cf 1 Cor 15:1-7; Ac 1:3).

Jesus’ question, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? arises because they thought He was a spirit/ghost, like an apparition. If the disciples believed Jesus’ resurrection was a possibility, their first reactions would not have ben doubt or fear. But Jesus calms their alarm saying, “Peace to you!” In Luke’s Gospel, “peace” and “salvation” are intricately linked (cf. 1:79; 2:14, 29; 7:50; 8:48; 10:5–7; 19:38).[1] In other words, Jesus was saying – “Your doubts do not define you nor destroy your faith.”

Despite some had forgotten their professed readiness to die for their faith. [2] Despite the reality these disciples had broken their promises to trust Jesus. Despite that they all were backsliders and cowards. Yet not a single sharp rebuke rolls off Jesus’ tongue. Jesus calmly comforts and speaks peace to them. Jesus was/is far more willing to forgive than we are deserving of grace.

Despite the disciples all being backsliders and cowards. Yet not a single sharp rebuke rolls off Jesus’ tongue. Jesus calmly comforts and speaks peace to them. Jesus was/is far more willing to forgive than we are deserving of grace.

At this point, we need to also recognize there is a difference between doubt and unbelief. Unbelief is based upon rebellion, but doubt is based upon relationship. When someone expresses unbelief, they have made a decision of the will that they do not want any discussion of the topic. Their minds are closed, and their hearts are hardened. But those who doubt still have an open mind and soft heart. They are not rebelling but simply have something that is hindering the relationship from moving forward.

So, if you have unbelief of Jesus and the Scriptures, yet you are still present with us – you are to be affirmed for your courage to show up in church. I don’t say that with judgment but with sincere admiration that you care enough about the person who invited you to be present. You are welcome here and to explore at whatever level of interest you may have.

If you have doubts, then the key is not to be idle but be diligent in seeking answers to questions, be accountable for spiritual habits, and putting your faith into practice.

  • Jesus invites them to touch His body – not in virtual pixels but in person.
  • Jesus taught Scriptures to overcome their doubts.
  • Likewise, we must participate in Jesus’ body – the church – and deepen our life in the Scriptures. Luke wrote this Gospel to Theophilus (Lk 1:1-4), one who inquired of eyewitness research concerning Jesus. Today, we are Theophilus. So, an action step you can take is to read the Bible Project Gospels in 90-days plan on YouVersion, and discuss it with 4-7+ others.
    • Many question certain topics: creation, Exodus, miracles, eternal life, or other NT teachings on topics. That’s fine but start with the identity of Jesus before the implications of Christianity.
      Further, be serious enough to write down your questions and search for the answers.

Jesus’ resurrection means disasters cannot dissuade our faith (Lk 24:39-43).

39 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.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43  and he took it and ate before them.

The disciples’ doubts were overcome because they stepped toward Jesus not away. They saw His body with flesh and bones, touched His hands and feet, discerning that Jesus was not a ghost or misidentified individual (cf 1 Jn 1:1). Even more marvelous, Jesus asked for food and He ate before them to prove He was not a phantom or figment of their imagination. And suddenly, their suspicion turned to smiles and blissfulness.

The absolute horror of crucifixion with disfigured face, maimed body parts, lashes, and puncture wounds have all been redeemed with resurrection. The fact that Jesus’ glorified body maintained wounds and scars reflects that God has a testimony behind our tests; a purpose behind our pain; and a story behind our suffering.

You see, initially the disciples saw the unjust trials, the undeserved crucifixion, and the unfortunate death and burial of Jesus as the end of their hopes and dreams squashed. But, after their encounter with the resurrected Jesus, they were able to look back on those events as fulfillment of God’s prophecies and commitment to God’s promises. Their doubts and Jesus’ disaster had become redeemed.[3]

The disciples saw unjust trials, undeserved crucifixion, & unfortunate death of Jesus as the end of hope. But, after seeing the resurrected Jesus, they looked back on those events as fulfillment of God’s prophecies & promises. Their doubts & Jesus’ disaster had become redeemed.

Illus[4]: In the movie Cars 2, Mater (Tow Truck) has opportunity to remodel his vehicle and fix dents & scratches. Yet, he refuses saying, “I don’t get them dents buffed, pulled, filled, or painted by nobody. They way too valuable.” Another person (car – Holley Shiftwell) asks, “Your dents are valuable? Really?” Mater responds, “I come by each one of ‘em with my best friend Lightning McQueen. I don’t fix these. I wanna remember these dents forever.”  

Likewise, some of our darkest circumstances and deepest wounds have become defining moments.

  • When a job is lost, that leads to discerning different directions and life goals.
  • When a mate separates, that leads to your search for wholeness and love in the Lord.
  • When a child experiences struggles, that leads to parenting realization that you need wisdom from above.
  • When diagnosed with a terminal disease, that leads to spending your days counting blessings rather than numbering problems, and drawing close to your Maker and Shepherd who leads us through the valley of the shadow of death.
  • When a loved one dies, that leads to your realization that our days are numbered, and re-prioritization of daily faith and time spent.
  • When God seems far, we learn that He is nearer than ever, and we are closer to learning about His character, His ways, His word, and His heart.
  • Ask God for help to see troubles and disasters through eyes of eternity. One way to be able to see with an eternal perspective is instead of asking “Why me?” to ask “Who else?”
    • 2 Cor 1:4 “God comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Jesus’ resurrection means death cannot defeat our faith
(Lk 24:44-53).

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52  And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

While the disciples’ doubts were being removed, their hopes were also being clarified. While Jesus may not have been the Messiah they expected, He was the one they needed. Jesus came not to save us from empires that will be a mere footnote in history, but to deliver us from humanity’s supreme enemy of death.

Jesus took time to explain more fully the OT prophecies and how His birth, life, and death fulfilled the Scriptures. Jesus helped the disciples understand how adverse circumstances refined their character and developed them into better people and servants of the Lord. They were able to look back upon their three years with Jesus with greater appreciation and a sense of clarifying mission.

Their mission: 47 repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. Jewish disciples realized that Jerusalem was not the end game but the entire earth – all people everywhere.

Being a witness (μάρτυς) for Jesus meant a comprehensive purpose. They were filled with God’s Holy Spirit to live different than the world in reflecting the way Jesus lived. Knowing Jesus died, a martyr has a similar perilous potential outcome.

But suffering a dying a martyr’s death is not the dangerous element of the Christian’s mission. The dangerous element of the mission would have been keeping silent. It would be risky to sit back and soak in all the benefits of the gospel but not be sent out as Jesus commanded.

Do you understand why? Think about it – can you imagine seeing a man who had the power over nature to still storms, calm waves, strength to endure suffering of being crucified and only to rise and face His betrayers, backsliders, accusers, and murderers 3 days later? AND THEN seeing that man, looking in His eyes only to walk away saying, “Eh, that’s nice but being a witness makes me uncomfortable.” SERIOUSLY!?! Do you understand that you will look Jesus in His eyes, blazing with fire, to give an account? Not being a witness is more dangerous than being a witness who experiences human difficulty or death.

Remember Jesus said, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:4-5)

Not being a witness is more dangerous than being a witness who experiences human difficulty or death. God’s will for the believer is to hold nothing back, going all in, risking it all for the cause of Christ and the mission of God’s kingdom.

Jesus did not die for our safety but to send us out in daring and dangerous missions. God’s will for the believer is to hold nothing back, going all in, risking it all for the cause of Christ and the mission of God’s kingdom.


Sin’s payment is complete.

Suffering’s grief is redeemed.

The Savior who died is now alive.

Death is arrested and my past is behind.

Grace is free, forever I’m free.

Come join the song of all the redeemed.

[1] James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Luke, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Apollos, 2015).

[2] Paragraph inspired from Thabiti Anyabwile, Exalting Jesus in Luke, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2018), 359.

[3] This and next paragraph inspired from Charles R. Swindoll, Luke, vol. 3, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2017), 585.

[4] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1216475/characters/nm1249256

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s