Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."
As I consider the Bible and my Christian life there are a handful of passages that truly shape me and have formed my identity.
Hey, random thought, if you’re reading, listening, or watching this would you be interested in discussing those passages with me in a virtual event on Discord? Let me know in the comments and we can get it set up.
Matthew 28:16-20 is one of those passages. As I think about the scope of my life, to this point, this little passage may have shaped my life more than just about any other.
Today is “Ascension Day" on the Christian calendar it’s the day that the Church commemorates Christ’s ascension to the right hand of the Father. This scene in Matthew 28 is known as the Great Commission. As Christ ascends he commissions his disciples to make learners, disciples, of everyone they meet.
This training that they are supposed to be doing is to teach people to live the way Jesus lived. This is the call and the responsibility of the Church. We are to train everyone we meet to live like Jesus.
What continues to be a “wow” moment for me in this passage though is not the commission itself. It’s something that happens right before. Did you catch it? The boys show up to the mountainside and they worship. In the NIV this line, “Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally,” gets translated this way, “But some doubted.”
Think about that.
These guys have lived with Jesus for three years. They saw him crucified. They saw the empty tomb. They have interacted with him over the last forty days since his resurrection. And still, some doubted.
These disciples, these apostles, would be the ones to lead the Jesus movement that would eventually spread throughout the world. Do you notice that Matthew doesn’t write, “Most were absolutely certain.” No, he highlights, “But some doubted.” From the beginning doubt has walked hand in hand with faith in the Jesus movement.
It seems to me that in today’s faith climate that “doubt” is a dirty word. So many clamor for “certainty.” But, we don’t need to. The movement was begun with doubt as part of it. Jesus doesn’t do anything to dispel their doubt. It is acknowledged as a reality and they are still called to teach the world about Jesus.
I absolutely love that doubt is present at the very beginning. When we act as though we have absolute certainty about things we miss out on the mystery and the beauty of following Christ. Certainty robs us of wonder. The more I follow Jesus the more I think when he talked about how we must become “like little children,” I think he meant this very thing. I think he wanted us to hold on to our wonder at the glory of the divine that is found in the grace, mercy, and love of Christ.
When Ethan was little he loved trains. On the days that it was just he and I we would often drive over to the train station in Normal, IL to watch the train arrive and leave. He loved it. He was always amazed by it. The expression of joy on his face was infectious. It didn’t matter how many times he saw that train he was just giddy. At some point he grew out of such things, as we all do.
I want to recapture the wonder and joy that comes with the wonder. So, I’m embracing my doubt and worshiping nonetheless. I choose to see the beauty and magic and mystery in the world. As I do so I’m finding that there is so much more joy in the doubt than there ever was in certainty.