This year, more than ever before, I’ve been meditating on the forty days after Jesus’ resurrection. Focusing on what Jesus DID and what He SAID to His followers during this time period yields significant take–aways for how we follow Jesus twenty centuries later.
In spite of Jesus’ repeated revelations of His resurrected body, His followers persistently “doubted” and “refused to believe” (Mark 16:11). Thomas, known as “the twin,” usually shoulders most of the shame for this community of confusion.
- “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” John 20:25
But the rest of Jesus’ followers share equally that blame.
- Luke records that when women returned from the empty tomb with the amazing news that Jesus had risen, the disciples received their report as “nonsense” and “would not believe them.” (Luke 24:11)
- Jesus Himself called two runaway followers en route to Emmaus, “foolish and slow of heart to believe.” (Luke 24:25)
- When these same two made a quick turn–around trip back to Jerusalem to share how their “hearts were burning within” (Luke 24:32) once they realized that Jesus was alive in their midst, the disciples “did not believe them either.” (Mark 16:13)
Probably the most startling example is found within the context of what Christians affectionately call the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28 … “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations …” The preceding verses reveal the condition of His audience.
- “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped; but some were doubtful.” (Matthew 28:16–17)
Excuse me?! … are you kidding?! … some of the eleven were “doubtful”?!
After more than three years of near–daily contact with Jesus, witnessing amazing miracles, hearing prophetic teachings … followed by more than a month of face–to–face encounters with the resurrected Jesus … and they’re wavering in their opinions of Him! The root word for “doubtful” in the Greek language means “twice,” indicating they were having “second thoughts” about Him. Incredible! … right? … but don’t we act the same way sometimes?
So far this blog post has been fairly negative … but here’s the Good News …
Doubting didn’t deter Jesus from commissioning!
What makes the “Great Commission” great is not only the One Who does the commissioning, but those who get commissioned … doubters!
Matthew’s Gospel is no isolated text in this matter …
- Mark records that after Jesus “reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart …” He commissioned them (Mark 16:14–15).
- Luke reveals the “Great Commission” coming right after Jesus questions His followers, “… why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38).
The apostle Paul gets it right in Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And then Jesus proceeds to commission us for His Kingdom purposes … even when we’re confused or doubtful.
Let’s face it … we may be confused about how God works in our world. We may be hard–hearted toward matters of faith. At times, we might even feel like following Jesus is “nonsense.” But our doubts will never deter Jesus from accomplishing His purposes for our lives … IF we let Him.
Peace & Joy!