Jesus is risen! This is the final installment in a series exploring the appearances of the risen Christ. For resurrection week, our daily prayer has read along with Padraig O’Tuama to consider seven of these interactions. O’Tuama is a poet, theologian, and peacemaker whose book, In the Shelter, will help guide us.
Today’s Bible reading
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 to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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
More thoughts for meditation
Today’s reading, known as the Great Commission, represents the capstone teaching of Jesus’s ministry on earth. Objectively, it has all the set pieces of triumph including: a mountaintop setting in Galilee where it all started, expansive teaching, encouragement, assurance, and a dramatic exit. When they make this book into a movie cue Jackie Wilson’s Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher, roll credits. This passage is often used to kick off church missions campaigns and anchor teachings about religious conquest.
I am impacted by the doubt that shows up in the second verse. Repeating elements of Jesus’s resurrection encounters are confusion and doubt. Doubt grounds the experience in the tension of the incarnation. Of Jesus “entering the lives of ordinary people living in a society that holds hope with corruption”, writes O’Tuama. We have in one hand the assurance that God is making all things right, while the other hand bears witness to a “society that punishes those who are already punished.” We hear that God is using us to bring about his kingdom of love, while we hear echoes of our own failures and confusion. This beautiful tension helps me to make sense of faith in the world that confronts me, the now and not yet transformation of which I have a meaningful role.
We are people of story, it is how we make sense of our world and how we communicate meaning to others. Doubt makes room for others, as Jeanette Winterson writes, “when we tell a story we leave a gap, an opening. It is a version but never a final one.” The gospel of Matthew closes by leaving a gap, a way to bring Jesus’s teachings into our lived experience.
Suggestions for action
The rhythms of our Christian calendar are designed to help frame stories we tell our families about the faith. Consider preserving gaps in the stories you tell this season, leave room for others to find themselves in the story. Here is a prayer from Dr. King you can carry with you today:
“Purify our hearts that we may see thee. O God in these turbulent days when fear and doubt are mounting high, give us broad visions, penetrating eyes, and power of endurance. Help us to work with renewed vigor for a warless world, for a better distribution of wealth, and for a brotherhood that transcends race or color. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen” — Dr Martin Luther King Jr