In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott considers a lesson from Matthew: If the disciples doubted, we can admit our own doubts, too.
Dear friends in Christ,
Today the church remembers Philip the Deacon. While his life and witness are very interesting indeed, I want here to comment on the assigned Gospel reading for this feast. The lectionary gives us a couple of verses from Matthew:
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 28:18-20)
The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by the Deacon Philip / Public domain
Now, we could talk about this all day long. We could talk about how Jesus has given us, as a church, our marching orders. Our first and primary task is making disciples. How are we doing at that? Or we could talk about baptism. Maybe we could have a lovely conversation about what it means to teach people everything that Jesus has commanded us. But I want to back up to the verses immediately before this assigned reading.
Beginning at verse 16, we read, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.” This all takes place immediately after Easter. The disciples had seen Jesus perform signs and wonders; he had told them he would be raised on the third day after his death; and here he was, in the flesh. How could they doubt?!
This is reassuring, is it not? If even those disciples could have doubts, maybe it’s understandable that we have doubts too. To their credit, they got on with it. They responded to new signs and new wonders, to the prompting of the Spirit. They didn’t dwell in doubt, but they allowed it to well up and be expressed.
St. John Chrysostom, in his sermon on this passage, observes that it is noteworthy how the disciples are able to share their doubts. They are able to be themselves. And Jesus does not chasten them. He challenges them, and they respond.
I hope that we can admit our own doubts and shortcomings. Jesus will not chasten us, but stands ready to embrace us and walk with us on our journey as disciples.