At the end of the Gospel according to Matthew we find this line, almost somewhat as an afterthought: “When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted (28:17).” And some doubted. If you’re trying to make your hero look good, this is isn’t usually the kind of thing you include.
These eleven disciples had been called by Jesus, and experienced his life changing and divine power. They watched him cast out demons, heal the disfigured and diseased, command the powers of nature and even some witnessed his awesome transfiguration. After all this, they abandoned him when the authorities came to arrest him. Not long after, they watched as he was shamefully executed by the Roman state. And yet three days later they hear news too good to be true, Jesus of Nazareth was alive, raised from the dead! And yet we are told that some worshipped… and some doubted.
Doubt is painful, precisely because it is the feeling of being uncertain. Feelings are deeply tied to our emotions. We hope something is true, and yet cannot be certain of it; this causes immense tension and anxiety. To be clear, doubting a blind faith may be a good thing. But this type of doubt is one that arises amongst reasons for one’s belief, in fact strong reasons for one’s beliefs. And you would expect for men who had seen the things they saw Jesus do, that they would have no doubts. And yet they did. The fact that the author of Matthew includes this, gives us good reason to think that he wasn’t just making stuff up. And as we claim God is the divine author, it’s safe to say he didn’t make a mistake by including that verse, he intended it. He also didn’t want robots, he wanted flesh and blood disciples who wrestled with doubts so that they would come to a deeper relational trust in their king. The gospel is an astoundingly divine story of God rescuing his world, it is also a deeply human story.
Jesus does not tell them, “Sorry you’re unqualified, you need to fix your doubt problem first.” No. He commands them go and be his witnesses, to make disciples and teach the very things he taught them. He has entrusted to them the mission, and it has just begun. Not only that but he says “And surely, I am with you always until the very end of the age.”
You may doubt, you may be uncertain, but Jesus invites you into his mission. The incarnate God welcomes you to his table. If he ate with sinners, he will surely eat with those who doubt. Even those who doubt are called to be a part of a community of disciples. This is the nature of discipleship. Doubt is not ideal; but it is the reality of wrestling with the tension of belief and experience. You may waver between worship and doubt, but you are called by the crucified and resurrected king Jesus to follow him. Follow him in the midst of doubt. The goal is Jesus and nothing less. You must pursue him, until you like Thomas come to encounter the scars of the living God. And until that day, you are called to be a witness and ambassador, proclaiming the victory of God in Christ, a shameful death which has blossomed into an emblem of victory. And even there in the midst of your doubt, he is there with you until the end of age.