The disciples didn’t get it. Jesus’ ministry, that is.
Pretty much ever.
We see hints at their incomprehension early on, when Jesus speaks in parables and the disciples don’t understand (Mark 4). Immediately after, they are terrified by a storm at sea, and Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith.
We learn that they are hard of heart in a second episode at sea (Mark 6:52)–a point that’s reiterated in another boat when the thousands-feeding twelve perseverate about forgetting bread (Mark 8:16-21).
But surely they got it, at least a little bit, when Peter confesses, “You are the Christ!” A little bit.
Not enough to keep Peter from rebuking Jesus when Jesus predicts his own rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection.
In Mark’s Gospel, the disciples never actually come around. They are, in the end, like the seed that falls on rocky soil (Peter–the rock!), that falls away when danger and persecution arises on account of the word.
Of course, the crucifixion isn’t the end of the story. Failure isn’t the end of Christianity. In Mark the disciples never actually get it at all.
That’s because there are no resurrection accounts.
One of the most important functions of resurrection is revelation.
It’s not a panacea, of course. We read in Matthew that the eleven do obeisance to Jesus, “but some doubted.” In fact, doubt or dullness continues to plague those who meet the resurrected Jesus.
But doubt does not win.
Jesus enlightens the minds, opens the eyes, convinces the doubting.
What does all this mean?
First, resurrection is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the “Christian” faith of the disciples.
Without the resurrection, the disciples are not only devoid of hope, they are devoid of understanding. In Luke 24, the people on the road to Emmaus are dismayed at Jesus’ death, because they had hoped that he was going to be the one to redeem Israel (v. 21).
It is only the revelation of the resurrected Jesus that transforms their understanding.
Second, and growing from the first point: this is why there is something deeply right about looking to the resurrection to help us understand the earliest Christology of the church.
The Christologies of the NT are reflections on the identity of Jesus through the lens of the shared conviction that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
This is why John 2:22 says that the disciples remembered and believed what Jesus had spoken “when he was risen from the dead.”
It is only after the resurrection, in Luke 24, that Jesus “opens their minds to understand the scriptures” that speak of the messiah as suffering and raised.
That Jesus is the Christ was a constant conviction of his companions. But what that actually meant for Jesus–not only his identity but his peculiar vocation, is only known in retrospect (at least, that’s how the Gospels and Paul depict it).
Resurrection entails revelation.
Revelation that Jesus’ ministry was not a failure.
Revelation that the Crucified is King.