They had failed miserably and publicly. We would have told them to hang up their Bible bags and turn in their hymn books; maybe even take a back seat for a few months; or at the least, not too much public part for a while!
Not only had they fled at the first sign of danger in the garden (Mark 14:50), but now they had added to their failure. First it was Mary Magdalene who came to tell them that she had seen the Lord Jesus, alive! They were mourning and weeping when she came. Her words seemed the ravings of a woman whose imagination had taken control of her. They refused to believe.
But only shortly after that, not one person, but two hurried back from Emmaus. Their words were just as unbelievable: they claimed to have not only seen the Lord Jesus alive, but that He had walked with them along the road to Emmaus and then had actually sat and eaten with them. But logic, sane reasoning told them that somehow it could not be true. They had seen Him taken out to die. They had heard that He had been buried by Joseph and Nicodemus (they may have even blushed a little that they had failed to render this honor to Him). Yes, they were satisfied that He was dead and that these new reports were due to the vivid imaginations of enthusiastic followers.
But then, as they were eating together, suddenly He was there. He was actually there! (Mark 16:14). They could not doubt the reality. Eleven men could not be having the identical hallucination at the same exact moment.
What of their failure? He did not overlook their unbelief. It says that He “upbraided them” for their unbelief and hardness of heart. What a sense of failure must have overwhelmed them. You can almost see every head slowly bowing in shame. Eyes would have been averted as no one wanted to make eye contact.
But suddenly – did their ears deceive them – they thought they heard Him say, “Go YE into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). Could He really mean them? Was it possible that after fleeing the garden, failing to appear at the cross; faltering at His burial; and then the unbelief concerning His resurrection, was it really possible He would use them? His words were unmistakable: “Go YE!” The very men who had failed so miserably were now being taken up to be used by Him. Not only does He use men who have failed, but possibly He only uses instruments who have learned what failures they are.
Remember that Peter walked on water – the only man who ever did. He did so before he saw the waves and wind which led to his sinking. But, amazingly, he did so after as well, as He and the Lord walked back to the boat. God has a future for failures. Thank God!