Most committed Southern Baptist could recite the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 by heart. Jesus gave instructions to the disciples before He ascended to heaven about their task ahead and commanded them to go and make disciples in all the nations. Everyone knows this message in some way. It is a driving force behind the efforts of Southern Baptists to take the news of the gospel to every corner of the globe and every people that exists. But I am intrigued by the verses before this commission just as much. For instance, I am convinced that we should add verse eighteen to our quotations, because it explains that all of our efforts to carry out the Great Commission are only possible through Jesus authority. So verse eighteen belongs in the Great Commission, but verses sixteen and seventeen are even more enlightening.
The disciples had been given instructions by Jesus, through the women who came to the tomb, to meet on a mountainside. According to Matt 28:16, it was only the “eleven” who went to meet him there, which makes Matt 28:17 all the more remarkable. Matthew writes, “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Have you ever noticed this verse before? Have you ever heard a preacher preach a sermon about the Great Commission and include the fact that it was pronounced to a few “doubting Thomases,” pun intended? Jesus came and appeared to them and they still couldn’t get their mind around what and who they were seeing.
Out of all of the human traits that the disciples put on display in the gospels, this tendency to doubt might be the most amazing to us even as we find the tendency within us. The gospel doesn’t name names as to who the doubters even were, but it is a humbling thing to see that some of these men had their doubts even then. What does this mean to us as modern day believers?
First, doubts are normal. Listen, if these guys who had spent as long as three years or more walking and talking and eating and living life alongside Jesus had doubts when they “saw him” on that hill, it must be something God both expects and can handle when we have a doubt or two along the way. If you have doubts, take them to God or talk about them with another believer that you trust.
Second, not everyone that we share the gospel with is going to “get it” right then and there. In our heads we may understand this, but our hearts can oftentimes get frustrated at a lack of response to the gospel. If these disciples on the hill experienced doubt in this moment, why should we be surprised at people who have a problem accepting their testimony of who Christ is. I have had plenty of conversations with skeptical people who can’t believe that Christ is risen. I can hand them all of the evidence that I can find and they can still dismiss it if they choose. Some of them have even told me that the only way they can accept it as true is if Jesus himself appeared to them. Judging from this example, it might be tough for some folks even then. Jesus said that if someone wouldn’t accept the testimony of Moses and the prophets, they would not believe, even if they did get a witness back from the dead. (Luke 16:31)
Share the gospel with confidence, but always remember that we cannot “convince” someone into the Kingdom with evidence. If a risen Jesus Christ had trouble convincing all eleven disciples the instant He showed up, we are certainly going to run into a few doubters. Only God can change a heart and begin to make a disciple.