There has been something that I have carried with me for almost 12 years now – it’s almost always on me. In my wallet, tucked behind my driver’s license, is a dollar bill. This bill is special to me. I received this dollar bill in a Valentine’s Day Card, no, not from my wife, but from my grandma and my grandpa. Why? Why do I to this day keep this dollar bill in my wallet tucked behind my driver’s license? Because not long after I received this dollar in the mail, my grandpa died. This dollar is the last thing he gave to me while he was alive…and I’ve kept it. A memory of him.
Perhaps some of you have done something similar with an item from a loved one. Maybe you’ve kept a piece of clothing, or a photograph, or some item of furniture, or a decoration that reminds you of them. But that’s just it, isn’t it? Those things that we keep, that we hold on to, that’s all they are, they’re a memory. And though it is nice to have those memories, the real thing, the real person, is gone. And sometimes that leaves us feeling quite isolated, quite alone.
That makes me think of those disciples after Jesus’ death. Do you remember how they more or less went into hiding after his death? They were scared. The locked themselves in homes; they didn’t go out. They were uncertain, and they probably felt abandoned and alone. Jesus was gone. But you know what happened. Jesus rose. He appeared to them. He ate in front of them. He stood among them and walked with them. He was alive. And here at the end of Matthew’s Gospel those disciples are now doing as Jesus instructed. They’re headed out to meet him on some mountain in Galilee.
So, we see this moment that Matthew records: Jesus maybe standing at the edge of a cliff looking down, watching, waiting. His disciples they’re climbing up the mountain; they spot Jesus. And then we get these two very different reactions to seeing the risen Lord. Matthew writes, “When they (the disciples) saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Worship and doubt, those were the reactions to the sight of Jesus. And that is all Matthew says. He doesn’t tell us why they doubted or what they doubted about Jesus, only that some doubted.
And I believe God didn’t have Matthew explain the exact reason for doubt to benefit us here today. The church, we, God’s people, worship Jesus. We are doing that right now. But we also have doubts. I’m sure you have doubts about God and about things you come across in the Bible. And your doubts are not necessarily the same as those disciples doubts on the mountain, nor are they the same as doubts I might have or the person sitting socially distant from you might have. But those doubts, they do get in the way. Sometime those doubts leave us feeling unworthy of God and of being in his presence, unworthy of doing his service. Other times, those doubts rob us of the peace he offers, and maybe they lead us far from him, or, worse, lead us to completely turn our backs on him. Those doubts are a result of sin, a sin that wishes to drag us from God for all eternity.
Don’t miss though what Jesus does in our moments of doubt. Look at verse 18, “Jesus came to them.” Jesus went to those disciples. This is an important point. Again, and again, we find this in the Bible. God comes to sinners. God approaches us, even as we are at times far far from him. He doesn’t leave us alone. That’s why he came to this earth in the first place. To be one of us in order to save us. So complete was the identification of Jesus Christ with this whole world, with us, that “God made him…to be sin for us.” And, in this way, sin’s awful power to separate was felt between the Father and the Son as God the Father turned his face, and left his Son, left Jesus, to suffer alone in hell.
All Jesus knew from eternity was the love of his Father, remember what he heard at his baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love.” But on that day, on that cross the eternally unbroken circle was broken…for you. And, so, as we watch Jesus approaching these disciples, some worshiping, some doubting, we see that loving Savior come also to us. And he speaks…And he tells us, worshipers, and doubters, what we are to do once he is gone. We are to “go.” That’s his vision…go
And, I don’t know about you, but I love the fact that the doubters are included in this. I love that Jesus doesn’t demand from you and from me a rock-solid faith and lighting quick spiritual insight to be a part of his vision. No, he simply tells us, all of us, to “go.” We are to go and make disciples. We are to go and be the ones who bring others to those waters of baptism where in the name of the triune God they are brought into our eternal family. You are the ones commissioned to do the great work that is the building of God’s Church on Earth.
Think about this Church for a moment, not just this church, Christ the Lord, but God’s Church throughout the world, It has not come so far on the winds of a lie; it has not dared to exist for the sake of a myth. Lifeless things sink or else float along with the force of the river, but not God’s Church. It is a living active thing. It swims upstream against the current of human history. It has a heartbeat and a pulse. It has us, and we are united, alive, and connected in the name of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This means Jesus is with us, and he says as much at the very end of this Gospel. This too, I think, is important. Jesus’ last words of the Gospel are a reminder that you and I are not alone. Here is what he says, “Surely, I am with you…always… to the very end of the age.” I am with you Jesus says. But is he? Ah, there is the doubt again.
How can I believe God even notices me on this dirty ball of rock called earth? “Who am I that God is mindful of me?” I mean look around. Turn on the news! We have a virus. We have killer hornets. Cannibal rats, injustice, riots and looting. Not to mention those never-ending personal problems in life, the worrying, the sickness, the sorrow, the death. Where is this God of power and love? “I am with you,” he says.
We each entered this world spiritually dead, cut adrift from God. Flesh giving birth to flesh. And, so it was, to add us to this living body, Christ required a fresh work and a new miracle. And he came to us, to you, Jesus showed up with grace in fresh supply, to cleanse you of all our sin by the washing with water and the Word. And so, here you are proof that God is with us, right now, because this Christian church, this body of true believers, we exist. And who are we? We are the blessed ones, the ones who “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” the ones who walk the path that runs past the skull-shaped hill of Calvary, who look at Jesus and know just what we are seeing. We know what it cost him to be our Savior. We know what it cost to make it so we could speak that triune name, Father, Son, and Spirit, to both welcome in new souls and also to teach and bless our own. We know God, and that means he is with us. We are not alone, and you haven’t been since the moment those first drops of baptismal water splashed on your face and you heard the name of your eternal God.
I carry around a dollar, and it brings to mind many good memories of my grandpa. Yet, at the same time, it’s a reminder that he is not here; he is dead. This dollar then also carries with it a reminder of sin. What do you carry around, memories or otherwise, that remind you that sin exists in this world? What a blessing then today to hear that Jesus is with us, and he carries us. He carries our sin far from us and walks with us until we are forever with him in eternity. And, while we are with him, and he with us, on this earth, he asks that we “go.” That we walk with him and share him with others, so that they too can know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. And, in this way, they can be just like us, never, ever, alone. God grant it. Amen.