He was dead and sealed in a tomb, where He remained for at least 36 hours.
He was alive and walked among them, even letting them touch the nail holes in His hands and feet.
Later, when Paul tells the details (1 Corinthians 15), he goes down the list of who saw Jesus afterHe rose from the dead: Cephas, the twelve, then five hundred brothers. To summarize:
Jesus died, rose from the dead, and five hundred people witnessed this.
Which is why what we read in Matthew 28 is so baffling: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted.”
I have a theory of which I become more convinced every day I think about it.
Not one of the eleven disciples Jesus took on that mountain doubted the facts about Jesus’ death and resurrection. The vocabulary in the Greek backs it up; Matthew doesn’t use the same word used for the kind of doubt that was unbelief, lack of faith and trust in Jesus.
It’s a different word, one that has to do with “wavering.”
Some worshiped; some wavered.
But why do some waver? Here are a few possible reasons:
- They didn’t know how to act around God. Seriously. It’s one thing to worship God; it’s another thing to hang around Him at a party. Have you ever been in the presence of a celebrity? It’s really hard not to overthink everything you say, to get nervous around them, or to catch yourself staring, watching everything they do. It’s why US Magazine has that ridiculously hilarious “Stars, they’re just like us” section. Now imagine being in the presence of God, and multiply that by infinity. Is it weird to have small talk with God? Should I just be on my knees in reverence all the time? How clingy is too clingy?
- They didn’t know how to act in their new reality. The only other place where this word for doubt is used is in Matthew 14, where Peter walks on water…until he doesn’t. Can you really blame him? Peter walking on water was like Keanu in the Matrix; it was going to take a little bit of time to adjust to a reality where the laws of nature didn’t apply! I can only imagine that it was also going to take a while to adjust to a creation where death no longer had dominion.
- They weren’t prepared for the implications. I preached about this two days ago (JESUS>fear). You don’t get to acknowledge the objective truth that Jesus died for the sins of the world, rose on the third day, and promises abundant and eternal life to all who believe…and then go back to your ordinary, regular life. If this is your truth, you lack integrity if you do not bow down and worship Jesus. Not only that, you lack integrity if you do not center the rest of your life around Jesus. That means everything. And anythingwe hold back from Jesus puts us in line with the “some” who doubted.
It bugs me when people who identify as Christians question the faith of other Christians; only God can know whether that saving faith exists, and “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). On the other hand…
It’s disconcerting for every pastor who wants to know the spiritual pulse of the church when 1/3 of the people who came on Easter are in worship the next Sunday.
“When they saw Jesus they worshiped Him, but some doubted.” No kidding. It happens today, too.
There are structures God would have us put in place to align our lives with Jesus. They’re spiritual disciplines that keep us rooted in worshiping Jesus and living our daily lives with integrity. People ignore these simple things all the time, and then fail to understand why their foundation crumbles.
Here are few simple structures that keep you worshiping, not wavering:
- Worship every week. God has gifts to offer you that you need, whether you realize it or not: wisdom, grace, and peace. We live in a city where people go out of town regularly or fill their weekend with other activities. But if you go more than a couple weeks away from worship, it will have an adverse impact on your walk with Jesus. Related to this (but missing the interpersonal element that is important): Be a hearer of the Word! Even if you’re not a reader, it’s now SO easy to subscribe to podcasts and hear the Word; just make sure you choose the right sources.
- Pray: talk with Jesus regularly. It’s simple enough to do, to train yourself to have a few times a day where you pause and reflect, even for a moment (morning, before meals, and bedtime makes five, and that’s a pretty great start). Prayer puts in place a pattern of regular conversation and awareness of what Jesus promises: “I am with you always!”
- Give a regular offering. Put a process in place where you pick an amount that is a percentage of your income, and put some sort of system in place where it becomes an automatic practice. Dropping a check in the offering plate on a Sunday works best when you’re in worship every Sunday; otherwise, you have to make it automatic, which just about every church (including ours) has a structure in place to help you. The reality is, if you’re not giving in a regular way, you’re being either spiritually lazy or believing the lie that you truly can’t afford to give even a small amount in a regular, disciplined way. If this sounds harsh, know that I’ve been there before, too, and only in hindsight can I see what a great blessing it was to make our giving automatic.
- Live your truth; live a holy life! Every one of us has areas of our life we try to hold back from God. I can’t count how many conversations I have where someone knows God’s truth and chooses to act in direct opposition, and then wonders why their life isn’t working out and their relationships are constantly breaking. I’m not here to kick you while you’re down, and God knows I do it, too; I’m here to say there’s a more excellent way Jesus wants to show you when your life is in alignment with Him.
- Live by grace. Truly repent (confess your sins to God), and truly embrace His forgiveness. Then, having been forgiven much, seek out every opportunity to be a person of grace, mercy and peace. Even more than living a holy life, this is how we best represent Jesus in this world.
Some worshiped; some wavered.
How can you witness the resurrected Jesus and not worship?