As a child, I grew up in a pretty unconventional church. They were one of the flagship Jesus Movement churches in the Denver area. Every week, countless hippies gave their lives to Christ. And on Sunday nights, they were baptized.
One Sunday night, a man in a wheelchair wanted to be baptized. I’m not sure why he was confined to a wheelchair—all I knew was that he couldn’t walk. Well, once our pastors dunked him in the baptism tank, the man sprang out of the water jumping up and down, splashing and yelling “I’m healed!”
I remember the moment vividly because I was sitting on the front row with my best friend Kent. I was in the first grade at the time.
About 10 years ago I bumped into my friend Kent. We sat down for a cup of coffee and then he looked at me and asked, “Mike, do you remember that time we were sitting in church on a Sunday night when a man in the wheelchair was healed?” He then recounted the events exactly as I had remembered them.
As you read this, what’s stirring inside you? Do you believe me…or are doubts swirling around in your head?
If you’re wrestling with doubts, you’re in good company because that’s one of the subjects in our reading today.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Matthew 28:1-15. Like we discussed yesterday, Jesus was a true revolutionary. So who were the first people to discover that Jesus had risen from the dead? Two women (verse 1). In a culture that viewed women as inferior to men, this was pretty significant. But also notice that Jesus appeared to the two women before he appeared to the disciples. A woman’s testimony was considered unreliable in the culture of that time. This is one more reason to believe the Bible—and Jesus’ resurrection—is true. No Christian at that time would have made up a story about Jesus appearing to two women first. No one would have believed that.
The New Bible Dictionary offers an interesting insight into this account of the resurrection: “This is not an account of how Jesus rose from the dead but of how his resurrection was discovered. The miraculous removal of the stone was not in order to let Jesus out but to let the women in to see the empty tomb.”
In verse 10, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to “Tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” In light of abandoning him, Jesus was telling his disciples he was okay with them.
Matthew 28:16-20. This passage is loaded with meaning. Verses 18-20 form the Great Commission. But prefacing it, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. He can do whatever he wants—with nature and human nature. Jesus is in complete control.
The wording of verse 18 echoes Daniel 7:14: “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
The phrase in the Great Commission that is often overlooked (in my experience), is the command to teach Jesus’ disciples to obey. We receive salvation as a gift of grace. We can do nothing to earn it. But Jesus loves us too much to leave us as we are. He wants us to grow in our relationship with him and in our obedience to him.
Psalm 34:14. This phrase really speaks to me: “seek peace and pursue it.” In order to attain peace, it seems we must seek it and pursue it. Peace don’t just happen.
Proverbs 9:9. What great insight! Wise people are always learning, always growing. Perhaps that’s partly what makes them wise. But this also speaks to an attitude—a commitment to grow, and the humility to learn.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
One of the most incisive comments I’ve seen in Scripture is that after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples worshiped him “but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). Did you get that? Some of Jesus’ disciples doubted the resurrection—and they weren’t even criticized!
I’m the kind of person who at times prefers denial over reality. Rather than doubt God’s love for me, I suppress it. Rather than wrestle over the reality of miracles in Jesus’ day, I ignore it.
I’m sure the Scripture passage above includes Thomas, the patron saint of doubters. Yet legend (and some historical evidence) tells us that God used him make disciples in India.
So what does this tell us?
- God can handle our doubts. There’s no need to hide them from him because he sees them anyway.
- Our doubt doesn’t mean we don’t believe. In his book, Soul Survivor, Philip Yancey says that were there no room for doubt, there would be no room for faith, either. He further writes in his book Reaching for the Invisible God, “Doubt is the skeleton in the closet of faith, and I know no better way to treat a skeleton than to bring it into the open and expose it for what it is: not something to hide or fear, but a hard structure on which living tissue may grow.”
- Our doubt doesn’t preclude us from being used by God. Thomas serves as a good example for all of us.
Rather than suppress your doubts or allow them to paralyze you, why not bring them to Jesus? He can handle it!
- In what areas of your life do you struggle with acknowledging that Jesus is in control? Why is it a struggle?
- To what extent are you committed to learning and growing?
- What doubts do you wrestle with? How has God used them to build authentic faith in you?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.
D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed., Mt 28:1 (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994).