We just hit on one of my favorite verses of the whole Bible. It says, “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Of all the opportunities to believe wholeheartedly, in all of history, this must have been the absolute best opportunity to believe without question.
If you’re a disciple, you have spent between two and three years with this Jesus, learning from him, following him, and getting to know him. On Friday you watched him die. And today he stands in front of you… alive. Maybe these ones who doubt actually doubt themselves. A theologian once said something like, “Easter isn’t just about the resurrection of a body, but it isn’t less than that either.” The risen Christ is a challenge. This resurrection is a miracle and a mystery that is bigger even than one who was dead becoming alive again. That makes it easy to doubt.
When I was growing up, you’d hear the oldsters, that is, the people I called old, who were probably around 40 years old to be honest- they would say, “When in doubt, pull your Bible out.” So being in 8th grade or so, you pull out your Bible, flip randomly, press your finger into its pages and end up turning the passage in which a bunch of kids make fun Elisha and he summons two bears to come out of the woods and eat the children who had said unkind things… and you wonder how that story is supposed to help you with doubt.
So, you come back to Sunday school the next week, and say to that teacher, “so you’re telling me, that disciples who knew Jesus both before and after the resurrection and saw him, in person, and even worshipped him in person, and they still doubted. Yet, I, who have not seen the risen Lord in person, am just supposed to pick up my Bible and believe beyond a shadow of a doubt.” Yeah, that sounds totally reasonable.
In fact, I’m starting to believe that if you read your Bible, doubt is a constant companion of the faithful.
Trouble in our world
“Where is my faith? – even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. – My God – how painful is this unknown pain. It pains without ceasing. – I have no faith. – I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart – & make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me – I am afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy – If there be God, – please forgive me. – Mother Teresa”
If there is one person in our modern world who we would consider a saint, it would be her. In fact, I have heard people say derisively, “Well, it’s not like she’s Mother Teresa.”
If she doubted and struggled, what hope do we have?
Redemption in the Bible:
“When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Almost like Jesus doesn’t care what they doubt or believe, he just keeps talking over them. He says, one verse later, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of every nation baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus doesn’t care that they doubt; he just sends them onward to make new disciples. In John chapter 20, Jesus says, “Because you have seen me, you have believed [which is not true in Matthew]; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus sends those who struggle with believing on to share the story of what they have seen and not believed with people like us. Jesus cares more about how we live for him than what we believe about him.
Redemption in Our World
If that weren’t true, what hope could we have? We find Mother Teresa, our faithful mother in Christ, struggling to name God in her life. But, even as she struggles, she says that the heart of the gospel is, “You did it to me.” Five words. Five fingers. Treat every person like they are the resurrected Christ and you will see God, even if you doubt. Just like the disciples, “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” They worship anyway. Even in their doubt. Even in their uncertainty, they worship anyway.
So, is that something that we can do as we wait for faith? Can we worship the Christ that we can see? Just like Mother Teresa who saw Christ in the suffering of others and remembered Jesus’ call when he said, “I was hungry… I was thirsty… I was naked… I was sick…. I was in prison.” Jesus said, “when you cared for these, you cared for me.” It’s what we do when we doubt. We look for the living Christ who lives in those who need our help.
Remembering that even when we struggle to see Christ in our lives, in our communities, even in our churches, the resurrected Christ lives in the one in need. The resurrected Christ stands before us, in our doubt, in our fear, in our faith, saying to us, “You did it to me.”