Matthew’s gospel makes relatively little of the post-resurrection activities of Jesus, certainly compared to John’s account. However, he does tell a story that is widely known as ‘The Great Commission’, which is a much-quoted passage in churches. Often just verses 18-20 are used but, when we had some time for small group Bible study at the Oxford and Cowley joint deanery synod this week, the passage my group picked from the three choices was Matthew 28:16-20.
Getting these extra verses gives a context to the commission. Jesus is speaking to the eleven remaining disciples (Judas having removed himself from the picture at the start of chapter 27). The location is a mountain in Galilee and, when they see Jesus, they worship him. And, often skipped over but calling for my attention this time, “some doubted” (v17).
Who was it? If we attempt to harmonise with John’s account, it probably wasn’t poor, much-maligned ‘Doubting’ Thomas. He’d had doubts but, on seeing his resurrected Lord, he worshipped without resorting to the poking at the evidence he earlier said he needed. It probably wasn’t Peter either, who Jesus drew aside one morning before breakfast at the sea shore and quietly drew him back with a personal commission to heal the self-inflicted wounds of Peter’s earlier betrayal. But, on this mountainside, in this sacred moment, some of them still knew what it was to be troubled in heart.
Much as we might like to imagine, there is nothing on earth that is guaranteed to wipe away all doubt and fear. And, conversely, nothing in our turbulent emotions that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.