Matthew’s telling of the resurrection includes a familiar passage of Scripture, often called “The Great Commission”. Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20] This is how Matthew’s gospel ends. But before this final sentence, some interesting things happen.
Once again women are the first to see Jesus, they are the first to worship, and the first to tell others about his resurrection. Alongside the story of the women who go and tell the other disciples what had happened, there is the parallel story of the Temple police guard who also go and tell the Chief priests what had happened. They also saw the angel. I wonder what the guards said? We don’t know. All Matthew tells us is that the religious authorities bought the guards cooperation to create the “official” version of events.
The eleven disciples go where Jesus told them to go in Galilee. They see and worship Jesus (just like the women did just a few verses before) and then Jesus gives the “Great Commission”. Except there is this interesting clause right before Jesus speaks. “When they [the disciples] saw him [Jesus] they worshiped him; but some doubted.” [Matthew 28:17]
What? Some of the disciples doubted? We might be tempted to ask, “How could they? Jesus told them this was going to happen. They are looking right at him! What does it take for them to believe?”
What does it take? What does it take to shed the crushing sorrow and fear of the past three days? Are you really seeing Jesus? Can you believe your eyes? Or is grief and longing and hope altering your perception?
The older I get, the less likely I am to blithely assume that I would be among the doubt free. Age can bring an honesty about one’s limitations along with some humility. So I hope I would be among those who believed, but I’m not so quick to claim my spot these days. Not because I don’t believe now, but because I know my own limited and failable humanity. Because I know my own humanity, I recognize the limited and fallible humanity of the first disciples.
Here’s the other interesting thing. We are never told who the doubters were. We have no idea who they might have been. As best we know from the other gospels and early church tradition, all eleven of the remaining disciples go on to live out Jesus’ “Great Commission.” This episode of doubt doesn’t seem to have been a major problem.
And so take heart. Moments of doubt happen even when everyone around you seems certain. Moments of doubt happen in times danger or in times of grief. Moments of doubt- sometimes longer than a moment -happen. Doubts happen, even to the “best” of us. Just look at the disciples. People who spent years with Jesus. If they had a moment, or longer of doubt, you can also. Because God’s grace is real and true. As is God’s love. And nothing, not even doubt, ever ultimately separates us from God’s love.