A series of reflections on Jesus’ resurrection appearances, contributed by past and present Pepperdiners. Today’s is from alumnus at large John Alan Turner.
Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus commissions his disciples
The Great Commission is, perhaps, one of the most frequently quoted verses in all the Bible. At least in churches this is the case. Most church leaders have these verses memorized. Many churches have some variation of these verses as their “Mission Statement”.
You are probably no stranger to these verses. You may have known them by heart from a very early age.
“Then Jesus came to them [the eleven disciples] and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Imagine the scene. Jesus is standing there. His 11 closest friends are with him. They’d left everything behind to follow him: family, friends, careers, reputations. For three-and-a-half years they’d walked the dusty roads of Israel, following their rabbi wherever he went. They’d seen some amazing things. He healed sick people. He cast out demons. He fed thousands of people with the contents of a kid’s lunchbox. He walked on water. He brought dead people back to life. It was amazing.
But then they’d watched him get into some arguments with the most powerful people in the land. And then they watched as he was betrayed, tried and convicted. They saw him beaten and bloodied and murdered.
And then rumors started to circulate that he might be alive again. It was too crazy to believe until he suddenly appeared right in front of them. As if to answer their unspoken questions, he said, “I’m hungry. Do you guys have anything to eat?”
One of them — a man whose very name is now associated with the doubts most of us would have shared had we been in his sandals — wasn’t there to witness this eating resurrected Jesus. He found the whole thing hard to swallow, so he said, “I won’t believe it until I see him myself. And I want to see the scars. I want to touch the places where the nails went with my own hands.”
When Jesus finally met up with Thomas, Jesus didn’t scold Thomas or shame him. No, Jesus offered to provide the very evidence Thomas requested. Jesus never shies away from critical investigation or demand that his followers manufacture certainty where it isn’t warranted.
In short, these guys who followed Jesus had seen just about everything you can imagine. And yet — just before Jesus issues that Great Commission we talk so much about — we read an interesting thing.
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted” (Matthew 28:16-17).
Really? Some doubted? Still? Even after all that?
Here’s what I find interesting: Jesus doesn’t say, “Alright, I realize some of you have doubts, and that’s okay. You’ll sort those out on your own. In the meantime, the rest of you — the ones who don’t have any doubts — I want you to go and make disciples of all nations.”
No, he issues his Great Commission to everyone there — those who have doubts and those who don’t. I love this, because I know that every Sunday I get up to speak in front of a mixed bag of people. Some of the people in church are there to worship Jesus; but some doubt. Some are there to serve; but some doubt. Some are there to learn; but some doubt.
And they’re all disciples. Doubting doesn’t get you kicked out of the group. At least it shouldn’t. If someone says you can’t have doubts to be part of their group, find another group.
Disciples aren’t people who never doubt. Disciples just take their doubts with them as they go about doing what Jesus asks. They doubt and worship. They doubt and serve. They doubt and help others who doubt.
If you wait for absolute certainty before you do something, you’ll never get married, never have a child, never take a job, never get out of bed.
So, go on and get out there. Serve the poor. Visit the lonely. Tell people about Jesus. And take your doubts with you.
John Alan Turner (Seaver,’9[something]) is an author, speaker, teacher, minister and the founder and CEO of Faith 2.0, “Helping people live better lives… by re-examining what they really believe.” He’s also co-wrote the 52 greatest stories in the Bible. So, top that.