I’ve always found it comforting that some of the disciples, maybe even all of the disciples (because the Greek isn’t particularly clear), on the mountain top doubted. Some, maybe even all of the 11 who were there in the presence of crucified and risen Jesus, had some questions, some reservations, some things that remained unclear in their minds.
Some, maybe all of the 11 who were hand-picked by Jesus, who walked with Jesus throughout his earthly work — these 11 saw the miracles, they witnessed the healings, they ate with him and prayed with him, they lived with Jesus for three years, they witnessed his death and saw signs of his resurrection and are now standing on a mountain top with him, and they were still of two minds.
Some, maybe all of the 11, find themselves at a crossroads. This is not the same kind of doubt or uncertainty that Thomas experiences in John’s Gospel. Matthew is using a different word here. These disciples are experiencing dis-tad-zo, they are going in two ways, shifting between positions, choosing a double stance. They’re waffling.
And it gives me just a little bit of comfort. Because that’s where I am these days. A lot of uncertainty. Being of two minds all the time. Feeling like I’m at a crossroads. I believe Jesus is showing up, but man, I’m experiencing a lot of dis-tad-zo.
Life is always this constant swirl of hope and despair, moments that are charged with equal parts of possibility and futility. But all of that just seems like it’s turned up to 11 right now. People are moving and working and organizing. There’s a conversation that’s being had throughout the world around the racism that has forever plagued our country. There’s a different kind of urgency and momentum. The death of George Floyd has activated something in our communities. Actual concrete steps are taking place. It seems and feels like something different might emerge.
But the reactions to that movement can, at times, feel equally strong. There’s a lot of dissent about what kind of change is necessary and how that change comes about, who leads that change. Then there is our collective attention span.
How long can we stay focused? How long will people stay interested? How long before we move onto the next thing? Did you know there’s an unseasonable tropical storm supposed to hit Louisiana later today? Oh, and there’s still growth in COVID-19 cases. Yay 2020.
But Jesus just kind of jumps right over their dis-tad-zo. He skips over their doubt. He doesn’t really even acknowledge their worship. Jesus just tells them to go. “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Get busy. Do the work. Be about love and justice. Be about mercy and life.
That’s what discipleship is about isn’t it? I mean, sure the Church has made it into an assimilation and an education program. But that’s not what following Jesus is about. It’s not an epistemological exercise; it’s not about knowing the right things or saying the right things. Discipleship isn’t about becoming like us so that you can do things our way, sing our hymns, eat our food, and pray our way. Discipleship isn’t about culture.
Making disciples, at least how Jesus is talking about it, is about participating in the in-breaking and the realization of God’s kingdom. Following Jesus is about doing the things that Jesus did. It’s about living the life that Jesus lived. It’s about being the people that God intends for us to be. It’s about death and new life. It’s about drawing more people into the saving and life-giving love and world reordering justice of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The work of the Church, the work of those who follow Jesus, is no small thing. It’s big stuff, holy stuff, this is God stuff.
And Jesus hands all of that over to those who are doubting, those who want it both ways, those who can’t quite believe and trust that Jesus means what he says and does. He gives this work to those who are scared and uncertain and are really confused about how to make this work. Jesus hands it over to the 11 disciples who have only been kind of reliable throughout their three years with him. He gives it to them and says go, do it, get it done.
It doesn’t seem like the best strategy does it? Why give it to those that are waffling? Why give this awesome responsibility to the disciples who are unsure, who have doubts, who feel like they’re being pulled in multiple directions? How will this important work ever get done?
But then Jesus says, remember, “I am with you always until the end of the age.”
Jesus says, look I know you’re scared. I know you have reservations. I know you don’t know how to do this — but I am with you always. You will not do this alone. You cannot do this alone. The work that I have given you is mine to accomplish through you. So go. And I will continue to show you what the kingdom of God looks like along the way.
This Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday. It’s the doctrine of the Church that everyone talks about and nobody really understands, and if they tell you otherwise, they’re probably not telling the truth.
But. But it’s important. Because, at the most basic level, it shows that God is a relational God. The fullness of who God is can only begin to be glimpsed through the interplay of one God who shows up in three persons. Our God is a God who plays well with others. Our God delights in connection and sharing and communicating. The Triune God is an expansive God who is always and forever pulling more people into this restorative and redemptive work.
A couple of nights ago, in Washington D.C., a street musician named Kenny Sway invited those who were protesting in our nation’s capital to take a knee and sing with him. Thousands joined him in a beautiful rendition of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.”
Take a look and a listen.
I think this is more than a cute or precious moment. I think this is a trinitarian moment. This is a God-moment. One of the fundamental claims of the trinity is that there is no part of God’s life that is not shared, and because of what Jesus has done on the cross and his rising from the grave, there is no part of human existence that is unfamiliar to God. For the duration of that song, in a time of deep conflict and justifiable unrest, the human experience was shared. We need one another. We need to share life with one another.
The invitation or the command to make disciples is an invitation or a command to share life with one another. All of it, the good and the bad.
Look, we will make mistakes. We will be clumsy and we will need to ask for forgiveness as we go about this work. We will be of two minds and uncertain and filled with doubts. But we have to go.
We are a part of the Triune God’s life, now and forever, and so is our neighbor. Let us work to share the fullness of that life with them, now and forever. Amen.