Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped 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
Those of us who are doing The Bible Challenge (reading the whole Bible in a year), finished the Gospel of Matthew today. There's kind of a breathless nature to this reading ... we finish Matthew today and dive right into Mark tomorrow ... but today's finale deserves at least a little pause to reflect. As I've sat with it this morning, three thoughts jumped out at me.
The disciples went to Galilee -- Even though Jesus sends them to "make disciples of all nations," where he told them to meet him first was in Galilee. Why is that important? Because Galilee was their home. We meet Jesus where we are. Our commission to follow Jesus starts at home, right where we are. Not coincidentally, that's often the toughest place to do it ... the place where the relationships matter the most to us and where we have the most to lose. It's easier to go from strange town to strange town and kick the dust off your feet if they start throwing cabbage at you ... but sitting at the family dinner table? That's hard work. And yet Jesus, like Paul McCartney sings, "Get back to where you once belonged."
Some doubted - If this isn't one of the coolest little asides in all of scripture, I don't know what is. The resurrected Jesus is standing right in front of them on a mountain ... and still some doubted. Perfect faith is not about never doubting. Doubting is to be expected. It's a sign of a real, engaged and true faith. Doubting is why we always follow Jesus in community. So that when we doubt, we have the faith of the community to carry us. The ability to own our doubts and still listen for Jesus and walk together with Jesus is the hallmark of Christian community. Some doubted? Damn straight!
Always - There is one promise of Christ ... and that is the promise of presence. We are not promised prosperity or health or respect or anything like it. We are not promised that our lives will not completely fall apart or that we won't be hit by a bus or that our best friends and spouses won't betray us. But we are promised that through it all, God will be with us. And if we are to follow Jesus together, that is what we promise to embody for each other. When the worst life has to offer happens to us, we can't promise to have the magic words to say to make it all better (those don't exist), we can't promise to fix each other, we can't promise even to make sense of it all. But we can look at one another as sisters and brothers in Christ and say "I am with you always, to the end." That is the greatest witness we can have of the Gospel of Christ to the nations of the earth ... we will love you and walk with you to the end. Do we really need anything else?
What do you think when you read the Great Commission? What jumps out at you?