Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them; and when they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted.
One of the most refreshing passages of Scripture, and two verses that might actually seem a little obscure, is Matthew 28:16-17. Many of us are familiar with the verses that follow, Matthew 28:19-20, the Great Commission, which we will reflect on a few days from now. Before commissioning the Disciples to be Apostles, Jesus, we are told, directed them to a mountain in Galilee. Verse 17 says “When they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted.” Amazing that despite seeing Jesus, some of them still doubted. And then Jesus commissioned them as Apostles. He didn’t separate the strong believers from the doubters, He sent them all out.
What is refreshing is that these eleven, who had been so loyal and so close to Jesus still had their doubts, but they still showed up to worship. And Jesus commissioned them, doubts and all. He wanted all of them, the ones with strong faith and the ones whose faith was not so strong that day.
There are two beautiful lessons here. First, Jesus wants us, all of us. Whether we are strong in faith, or filled with doubt, He still wants us. He wants you! He wants me! He knows that everyone will have doubts. Part of faith is overcoming doubt. I would venture to say that some of the people with the greatest faith are also the ones who have overcome the greatest doubt. Look at St. Thomas—He doubted Jesus had risen from the dead, even when ten of his fellow disciples told him that they had seen Him. And Jesus still wanted Thomas. And Thomas still showed up at the next gathering of the disciples. Peter had told Jesus with confidence and with boldness that he wouldn’t deny Him even if it meant dying with him. That bold statement didn’t even last a few hours and Peter was invoking a curse on himself that he didn’t know who Jesus was. Can’t really doubt more than that. And yet Peter was still commissioned like all the rest of the Apostles and he was still their leader.
If someone asked me to write down the Bible verses I most relate to, these would be two of them. I go (or I try to go) as directed to the “mountains” where Jesus tells me to go—whether it was to the priesthood, or a new assignment to a new parish, or to a new challenge in my present ministry, or to other things that I still haven’t considered. Each time I have gone to a new “mountain,” I have always had doubts about my ability as well as why He was calling me to something in particular. Even things I’m good at and have a lot of experience at still cause me doubts. But I still go, doubts and all. I’m not saying that to pat myself on the back, but to tell you that I don’t always go with confidence. Many times I am riddled with doubts about not only my ability to do something but my faith itself. I sometimes have doubts about my callings—to serve as a priest, as a husband and as a father. But generally I am confident that these are God’s calls for my life. What I am not always confident about is my ability to function well in these calls. Am I really a good husband, or a good father, or a good priest? I also have doubts when unexpected challenges come up in these different roles. Why did God allow this, or not allow this? Why do I keep struggling with the same things? Why do I make the mistakes I make? Why can’t it all be easier?
I can only imagine what the disciples must have felt as they made their way to that mountain to which they were directed—what’s Jesus going to do next? We’ve already been jolted by the terror of the crucifixion and seen the glory of the resurrection, we’ve already left our homes and our families, there are lots of Romans and Jews who don’t like us or that we represent You. And yet they still showed up. My Spiritual Father (the priest I go to confession to, who serves as a guide and mentor, and has been someone I have trusted with my spiritual struggles for over twenty years) has taught me that “80 percent of life is just showing up. When we show up, things are possible. Nothing is possible when we don’t show up.” So when I am besieged with doubts, I try to remember these verses from today, that even the disciples had doubts, but they still showed up, and they still worshipped. For many of us, the greatest challenge to worshipping is just getting ourselves there. Once we are in the presence of God, then there is the opportunity for His grace to lead us to awe, humility, joy, faith and ultimately one step closer to our salvation.
You dwelt in a cave, O Christ our God, and a manger received you. Shepherds and Magi worshiped You. And then the message of the Prophets was fulfilled. The angelic hosts were filled with wonderment, and they shouted saying, “Glory to Your condescension, only Lord who loves humanity!” (Aposticha, Vespers of the Nativity, Trans. By Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Personal Reflection Point: Can you relate to the disciples who doubted Jesus?