It's true. I have known this passage of Scripture since I was a little girl. I have known what it was called, "The Great Commission", for almost as long. I probably have those words written in the margin of a Bible somewhere. Jesus on the mountain, Jesus giving his "last words" to his disciples, Jesus telling the eleven of them, "Go therefore into all the world and make disciples….."
How could I have not noticed those three little words for my whole life? Were they not present in the Bible of my youth? Could I have skimmed right over them for all these years?
"But some doubted."
Here's the scene: It is sometime after the resurrection. Jesus is on a mountain, one last time. He is teaching his disciples. They are all there (minus Judas). Now there are only eleven. And on the mountain, in his resurrected glory, they worship him.
But some doubted.
It seems out of place. Jesus is just about to give a bold command. Go into ALL THE WORLD, he will tell them, in the next verse, not just to the city nearest you, and not just to your family and friends. All the world is a Tall Order, especially if you don't know how big the world is going to be.
But some doubted.
I wonder which ones?, I can't help thinking. The scripture doesn't identify anyone by name, but I want to. I want to know who was certain and who doubted. I want to know if Peter, James and John are among the doubters, or if it was Matthew the tax collector, or Andrew or Bartholomew. I want to know who doubted, and what it was they had doubts about. Did they have doubts, still, about the resurrection? Even though they have seen him, they still can't quite believe it. Even though they are on the mountain with him, still…. how can it be true? Maybe that is it. Maybe it is the truth of the resurrection that they are doubting.
I am tempted to believe that they have doubts about whether they can do what Jesus is going to tell them to do, except that he hasn't told them to do anything yet. He hasn't sent them out yet. He has told them to meet him here, though, so perhaps they are anticipating. What is the next part of the journey? Where are they going to go now? What is Jesus going to say to them? What is he going to ask of them? They don't know yet, but they are worshipping…. and doubting.
I can't help thinking back to the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. At the end of time, the King will gather the nations before him, and divide them: sheep on the right and goats on the left. But today, here, on the mountain, there is no division. Jesus doesn't put the true believers on his right and the doubters on his left. He doesn't give the great commission (Go therefore into all the world….) only to the worshipful true believers, the ones who never doubted.
Of course, there are only eleven of them now. They are broken. They are not whole. And some of them are doubting. Still, with the utmost confidence, Jesus tells them to go into all the world and make disciples. And I can't help thinking that Jesus has a strategy here, a strategy in which the doubters will play an integral part.
The doubters have questions. The doubters are honest about it. The doubters admit that they don't know everything, that they don't understand everything.
In evangelism, these may not be liabilities. These may be strengths. At least, that's what I am starting to think.
This and the promise: "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." All the way to the end of the doubts, Jesus promises to be with us. The eleven. The worshippers and the doubters.