Archive for August, 2019

Matthew 28:16-20

August 2, 2019

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 28:16-20

But some doubted…” Why did Matthew include that detail? Why do those words jump off the page?

These are the closing verses to Matthew’s gospel and the opening act in the future of the Christian movement. What does Jesus want his followers to do? To go into the world where they live. To make disciples by baptizing and teaching. I don’t think we need to be reminded that making disciples (those who actually follow Jesus in their lives by doing the things that Jesus did) is not the same thing as “signing people up to the membership list of a club.” Or maybe we do.

Jesus wraps his call to action with two reassuring messages. First, he opens with a reminder that he retains authority, and therefore accountability. He is in charge. He is the boss. It is right to respond in obedience to his commands. And then he closes with a promise, that he will be with them always, to the very end.

But some doubted….”

Those three words don’t change a thing about Jesus’ words to his disciples. They don’t change a thing in how Matthew tells the story. Matthew could have left those three words out and no one would have been the wiser.

Unlike the conspirators who concocted a story to cover their tracks, Matthew proves willing to tell the truth. Here’s the truth – for 2000 years now – many people have been so committed to the truth of Jesus that they have obediently done what he commanded. They have loved and served in Jesus’ name. They have walked with people to baptism and continuing maturity. They have created opportunities for Christian community to gather. And all the along the way, some doubted. More likely, all along the way, all doubted at some point.

Someone smarter than me once said that “doubt is the ants in the pants of faith.” Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, it is faith’s dance partner. Certainty is the opposite of faith. The question is never “Do I doubt?” but always “What happens when I doubt my doubts? Where shall I take my doubts…or where will they take me?”

Jesus has come to set us free. Certainty will never set us free. Only truth can do that. Truth that is a person, still with us now, to the end of the age.

Let us pray: Thank you Lord for those people who first brought us to you. Thank you for the songs and prayers that reached our ears long before we understood anything beyond how good it felt to be held close to our mothers or fathers. Thank you for the faithfulness of the saints before us to carry the message of your love and message to the world. Use us to do the same. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Matthew 28:11-15

August 1, 2019

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened.

After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”

So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day. Matthew 28:11-15

So here we go again. Fake news. Cover your tracks. Want to beat a story to the punch? Tell a whopper. The more afraid of the truth you are, the more outrageous your story.

You’re missing a body? From a carefully sealed tomb? Guarded by Roman soldiers? Obviously, a tax collector and a couple of Galilean fishermen must have out-smarted them. Yeah, yeah, that’s what happened.

The priests and the elders were the ones who hatched this plan. Again, this isn’t about their faith. It isn’t about their Jewishness. It is about how people with power will do anything to keep their power. Truth? Justice? Love of neighbor? None of that matters.

Or maybe it does.

Maybe the priests and the elders truly were morally convinced that Jesus represented a real threat to the health and welfare of the people. Maybe they saw in Jesus, not just someone who threatened their privileged positions of spiritual authority, but someone who threatened the physical security of the people in their charge. Maybe none of them wanted to needlessly stir up the Roman tiger.

If so, they might have felt their actions were justified. But they were flat out wrong. History would prove them wrong. Thirty years later their fears would be realized but Jesus would have nothing to do with it. Thirty years later, a serious attempt would be made to kick the Romans out of Jerusalem. It wouldn’t end well. It would be devastating.

Two old sayings come to mind. “The proof is in the pudding.” “Sooner or later, the chickens will come home to roost.”

There is more than one way to appreciate this whole story. We can look at it from the point of view of what it tells us about something that happened a long time ago. Or we can look at it from the point of view of how it gives us insights into human nature. Either road takes us to the same destination – which story will guide our lives?

Let us pray: Lord, you are truth. Your Word is truth. Your way of being in the world is truth. Yet there are so many other voices clamoring for attention, clamoring to be heard, demanding to be obeyed. Keep us centered in the truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.