June 4, 2023
But Some Doubted
As I mentioned in the opening, this is “Trinity Sunday” in the lectionary calendar. It’s not high on the list of important Sundays in most people’s estimation. It was a doctrine that was argued vehemently in the second and third centuries, but it’s not a doctrine that most folks today get too excited about. I’m guessing that most Christians simply accept the idea of a triune God, -three in one, as of the hard to define doctrines of the church and let it go at that. I am not going to bore you with the arguments of Athanasius and Tertullian and all those others. The truth is I can’t keep it all straight in my head either. We’ll just leave it with ‘One God with three personas’. But do know that still in the Orthodox and Catholic tradition it is still true that if you are not baptized in the name of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” your baptism is not considered legit. In large part that is true because of the passage from Matthew this morning. It is the only place in scripture that this baptismal code is specifically spelled out. Matthew attributes those words to Jesus, or at least the resurrected Christ, but there are no definitions or explanations attached.
It may strike you as surprising, but this is the first appearance of the Resurrected Jesus to the disciples in Matthew. Only the women, specifically Mary Magdalene and another Mary, have seen him before this. There is no upper room appearance, no Emmaus Rd. walk, and no doubting Thomas in Matthew. And note this appearance is back in Galilee, not in and around Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and Luke has the ascension. Matthew is second only to Mark in the brevity of the experiences of the Risen Christ. Here, Jesus appears once to the women and then here where he gives the Great Commission and then Jesus is gone.
Matthew’s overriding theme casts Jesus as the New Moses. –Moses is rescued from Pharaoh’s edict to kill male babies; Jesus is rescued from the slaughter of innocents by King Herod. Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt with the help of God, and Jesus is brought out of Egypt to Nazareth by Mary & Joseph through the providence of God. Moses delivers the 10 Commandments from a mountain, and Jesus does the Sermon on the Mount. In the end Moses goes up on a mountain and delivers a final speech pointing to the Promised Land and then simply disappears, in Matthew Jesus gives the final commission from a mountain top, as we read today, and then simply disappears.
The one little caveat that Matthew slips in here is that “Some doubted.” Don’t you find that both comforting and intriguing? Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus told the disciples just after they had finished the Last Supper that he would meet them later back in Galilee. Matthew says that the Angels that appeared to the two Mary’s at the tomb Easter morning told them to go to tell the disciples to go to the mountain in Galilee where he would appear to them. It has to be several days later because Galilee is almost 100 miles to the north.
It is another ‘Mountain Top’ experience, and though they worship him, some doubted. Doesn’t that resonate with you? Even as they encounter the Risen Christ some are having doubts. The inference is that they can hardly believe what is going on. Can this really be Jesus? Is this really real?
The reason I chose the Common English version to read today is because it follows the majority of translations and includes the word, “some”. The RSV updated edition just says, “They doubted”. -The reason is the Greek simply says “The Ones” doubted which may imply “They” or mean “some”. Just one of the struggles of translation, does “The Ones” mean, “They”- as in all of them, or does it mean “Some?” Whichever, it gives me heart that these disciples, who gave their lives to preaching and teaching the Resurrected Christ, had their moments of doubt, even in the midst of a Resurrection appearance. Maybe faith is never as simple and certain as we imagine it is for others, even the disciples. Faith is like a living thing in us. It varies in strength and intensity. We may doubt our own experiences of grace.
They were, all together on the mountain where they encountered the Risen Christ, even so, some doubted. No one was critiqued, or criticized, or rejected because of their doubts. Jesus simply affirms that he has been given authority and power by God and then commissions them to preach & teach what he has shared with them and make disciples in all nations, assuring them that he will be with them always.
So today we come to this communion table knowing that whatever our doubts or struggles with faith, Jesus does not reject us. Instead he welcomes us to this table with an affirmation of God’s Love, made evident in the Crucifixion and Resurrection. He embraces us with the promise that he will be with us till the end of time. He encourages us with the challenge to go and make disciples calling us to make a difference in the world. He calls us to go out to the world and witness with our lives to God’s love and hope for humanity. His presence will be with us in times of rejoicing and times of struggle.
The bread and the cup today are reminders of his presence and of the love and forgiveness of God that was manifest in him. Whatever your struggles of faith he still deems you worthy; still extends his blessings and his calling. And he invites you to come and take of the Cup of Grace.