Matthew 28:16-20 | Holy Trinity, Year B
With Us to the End
In Matthew, the disciples don’t go to the Upper Room to wait after Jesus’s death. In the Gospel of Matthew, they “went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them” (v. 16). They are still up high (on a mountain) and they are still unclear about the future (v. 17), but they aren’t locked in the Upper Room. Those details don’t really matter. What does matter is that even after the disciples had seen Jesus, they still “doubted” (v. 17). And even more importantly, after they “doubted,” Jesus still gave them the Holy Spirit and the Great Commission, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (v. 20).
If the disciples, who had lived with Jesus and been taught by the Son of God Himself, could still doubt AND still be sent forth to do His work, then surely, God understands if I have some struggles. But, He wants me to understand that my struggles don’t preclude me from doing what He has sent me to earth to do, whatever that may be. That’s a pretty powerful message.
To do that, to live out my calling (and, perhaps, to first figure out my calling…), I have to get over myself. Ah, now there’s a stumbling block. I have to let go of all the preconceived notions I have about pretty much everything and see as God sees. What do I think makes for a successful life? Let it go. What do I think I should be doing? How do I think things should be managed? I may need to let that go too. That’s often my biggest stumbling block because we can’t just sit back and watch, nor do I think God wants us to. He calls us to be active participants in life, not merely passive observers. So how do I manage to let go of my expectations yet still be immersed in this worldly life? That’s the struggle in a nutshell—the same one the disciples faced and the same one God wants me to wrestle with.
I think this passage in Matthew offers hope in this quest. The disciples “saw him…worshiped…still doubted…” and then I imagine the cycle started again. But they kept turning to look at Jesus, and that’s what we have to do: look to Jesus. Not look to the people in charge or the institutions in our lives, but look to the source and summit of our lives here on earth, Jesus the Son of God. The people in charge and institutions may provide wise counsel, but ultimately, Jesus came so we could have a relationship with Him. That relationship is His gift and that is what we should ultimately depend upon.
We’ll never, on this side of heaven, get it 100% right. We can’t. We’re human, as were the disciples. But, we can keep trying and we can keep turning back when struggles and doubts weigh us down. We have to, because Jesus, the bearer of the Holy Spirit, commissioned us to do so, but He did it with the comforting reminder, “I am with you to the end of the age” (v. 20).