I Doubt It

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  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 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him;
but some doubted.
doubt and prayer

This is what I love about Easter:
Jesus rises from the dead and appears to his followers,
they see him, they touch him,
he talks to them and eats with them,
he forgives them and blesses them;
and forever after they become witnesses
to the resurrection of the dead
in Jesus Christ our Lord—
…but some doubted.

Every single Easter story in the Bible has fear and confusion and doubt.

It seems as if it is impossible to have faith in the resurrected Jesus
without also having doubts—
and that … that’s okay.

Believers worship Jesus, and they have their doubts,
and one does not have to cancel out the other.

Doubts are uncomfortable and nobody wants them;
and of course, Jesus wants you
to put doubt aside and have faith in him.

But doubt is okay,
doubt is not a problem for Jesus.

Certainty—that’s hard as nails to work with;
certainty is like trying to turn a rock into bread.

But doubt—doubt is pliable;
Jesus can work with doubt—
in fact, God can create faith out of doubt.

Indeed, God has to—it’s not much of anything, doubt;
but it is the only thing God has to work with.

It’s not much to work with, doubt;
but it’s okay, doubt is not a problem for Jesus,
Jesus can work with doubt—
God can create faith out of doubt.

How does God do that?

When the disciples cannot separate their faith and worship
from their doubts and fears,
what does Jesus do?

Does he get mad? Does he lecture?

“Come on, you guys! I’m counting on you!
What more do you want? You can see me, you can feel me.
So just stop it—believe in me or else!
Believe in me right now, or just forget the whole thing.
Believe in me or I’m leaving.”

No; he almost seems to ignore their doubts altogether.

Matthew says that when the disciples doubted
Jesus didn’t walk out on them—he came closer, he came near them.

That is God’s response to doubt:
God who created you, seeks you;
God who created you for a relationship with himself
comes looking for you.

You have your doubts,
and God answers with covenant, with promise,
with the renewal of God’s promise
to be your God—in spite of your doubts.

And the invitation—no, the call—
for you to be what God created you to be:
to be in relationship with God,
to worship and to obey,
to give up being for yourself alone
and to be for God and to be for God’s creation.

They doubted, Matthew says, and when they did,
Jesus came to them and said to them,
“All authority has been 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 I have commanded you.”

Jesus answers your doubts with trust—
he trusts you with this great commission:
Jesus’ answer to your doubts
is to call you back to your God-given purpose.

If, as Bishop Eaton said on Holy Trinity Sunday;
if “creation is God’s decision not to look after himself
but to focus God’s energies and purposes on the creation,”
then Jesus answer is not to blame you for your doubts and fears,
or even to worry himself very much about them—
Jesus just isn’t very interested in your doubts.

But Jesus is concerned about what you will do with your life,
and so Jesus responds to your doubts
with a call to move beyond them
and find your purpose in life:
in worship and obedience to Jesus’ call,
to go out there and be for God and for God’s creation.

Jesus does not debate with you about your doubts;
he embraces you, doubts and all.
When we are faithless, he remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13),
for God has committed Godself to us,
and God cannot deny God’s self.

God created you with a purpose,
to be in relationship with him,
and God will not give up
calling you back to your purpose again and again.

When you have your doubts
and would rather give up and walk away,
Christ pursues you, for you are his.

God, coming at you:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

God, baptizing you
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

God, sending you away, into the world,
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

One God, the Holy Trinity,
the name in which you live and move and have your being;
the name of the one who created you,
and the one who saves you,
and the one who keeps you;
one God, the holy Trinity, who will not leave the world alone.

This is the promise of Christ to you, and to this broken world:

I will not let you go;
I am with you always, to the end of the age,
doubts or no doubts.

Amen.

© Paul R. Olsen

Paul Olsen

Paul Olsen

ELCA Pastor
King of Glory Lutheran Church, Boise ID

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