Pastor Will SEALS
“Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!”
I believe we all know the story of Thomas, the one disciple who doubted Jesus’ resurrection, but here in Matthew we learn there was more than one disciple who doubted.
Matthew tells us some doubted – not just one disciple, but some of them – doubted whether Jesus really rose from the dead.
So, if you have ever had your own doubts about God, you’re in good company! Some of the disciples did too!
The same disciples who had first-hand experience with the Lord – the ones who walked and talked and ate with Jesus over the three years Jesus ministered in and around Galilee – still doubted whether the resurrected Christ they worshipped was really the same Jesus they walked and talked and ate and learned from.
Wow! The frankness and honesty of this scripture is so refreshing. Because it tells us that it’s okay to have our own doubts about God. We can be a follower of Jesus and still have our doubts.
Knowing the disciples doubted also invites us to be open about our doubts – to know we don’t have to come to church and put on some religious mask for ourselves and for others and act like we have absolute faith 100 % of the time.
Because, if we’re honest, we don’t.
I like the way Christian writer Frederick Beuchner puts it: “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don't have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”
Doubt, as another Christian writer, Courtney Jacob, said, is a natural part of our human experience.
She writes: “When facts don’t line up with our experience, when surreal things happen to us, or when events defy our expectations, doubt finds holes to seep into our faith. Sure, doubt touches each of us in different degrees; some of us struggle with doubt more frequently, and some of us find it more troubling than others. But each and every disciple of Jesus Christ will deal with times of questioning and doubt during their faith journey.”
I don’t know about you, but this gives me a sigh of relief.
Our doubts have a purpose. They are “the ants in the pants” of faith, as Frederick Beuchner said, keeping our faith awake and moving.
Our doubts invite us to question what we’ve been taught about religion and faith. That’s because the pat answers to life’s questions religion sometimes gives don’t always satisfy us or make sense to us or hold meaning for us.
Our doubts prompt us to question our faith, to be skeptical, and encourage us to go deeper: to seek more information and experience and decide for ourselves what we believe.
Our doubts may also drive us to find out for ourselves the realness of God.
So, if you ever have doubts, don’t let that stop you from coming to church to worship God.
That’s another lesson we learn from the disciples.
The disciples who doubted the risen Jesus did not let their doubts keep them from meeting Jesus on the mountain, even if they were not sure about believing that Christ was truly risen from the dead, or about risking themselves totally on the journey of faith to which he was calling them.
What does that mean for us?
It means we can still be part of a faith community like Trinity Church and have our doubts about God.
It means you can still come to worship even if you have questions about Jesus, and who he is, and whether you totally believe the resurrection or anything else about religion you’ve been taught to believe.
Because, as we like to say every Sunday: “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” Doubter, seeker, questioner, or believer. You are welcome here at Trinity Church.
We also learn from the gospel reading that even in our doubts, God is with us.
Jesus still gave those doubting disciples the Great Commission to do the work of the Lord, making disciples of Christ, teaching what Jesus taught them, before reassuring the disciples that he would always be with them.
Even when we have doubts, God is with us. Even when we have questions about our faith. Even when we are unsure of what to believe.
That’s because God’s love for us in unending. And Jesus meets us where we are in life.
We don’t need to be perfect people – having absolute faith 100 % of the time.
Quoting writer Courtney Jacob again, she says, “God never expects us to have all the answers or be perfect first – the doubters still doubted when Jesus gave them the Great Commission; they didn’t have to first get rid of their doubts and fix their faith.”
Continuing that line of thought, the Christian writer Richard Niell Donovan says, “Jesus does not rebuke the disciples. He understands their doubt but speaks to their faith. He understands their frailty but calls them to carry on his work. How wonderful!
“Jesus chose to do his work through the original less-than-perfect disciples, so we can be confident that he can do the same through us….
“They will sow seeds that will take root—multiply—waft across oceans on winds of faith. Jesus’ choice of ordinary people to carry out an extraordinary mission is fully in keeping with God’s work throughout history…To God, our ability is less important than our availability.”
Even with our doubts, Jesus is able to work in and through us to accomplish great things.
So, know it’s normal to have doubts.
Doubts have a purpose in our faith journey.
Don’t let your doubts stop you from coming to worship God and following Jesus.
Let God work in and through your doubts, and in doing so, perhaps that will lead you on the path to a greater, deeper, and richer faith. +