I love the honesty of the gospels. Here we have the closing moment of Matthew, the moment to bring it all home, the moment to make “the sale,” and Matthew tells us that after all these wondrous signs—the resurrected Jesus appearing to them in flesh and bones—some of the disciples still doubted!
This is NOT how people who are making up a story write down what they believe; it’s not how you tell a story if you are worried about its credibility. In cults and control groups, there is no room for doubt.
Faith and doubt are not opposites when we follow Jesus. It’s never about certitude. It’s about trust.
Jesus not only goes on to commission the doubters, he leaves the entire project of redemption to some who still aren’t quite sure that he’s for real; that what happened just happened.
He trusts us—the doubters—with his story and with the mysteries—baptism, his triune name!
So what’s happening here, as Christ ascends back to God? This is perhaps the most neglected moment in the gospels but it’s central to the story of God with us.
The Ascension changed everything, for the event discloses a great mystery: that to be God is in essence to be human, to be flesh and blood, because of Jesus Christ.
A human is now forever God in the person of the Son, and what it means to be God is now forever tied to *this* particular human being, and what it means to be human is now forever tied to this God.
As a fellow human Jesus is our mediator and advocate, made like his brothers and sisters in every way so that he might be One who rules and judges those whose existence he understands from the inside, because he lived our human story with us in the most vulnerable, authentic, and beautiful way.
In Jesus, God has a mother and a betrayer. In Jesus, God has scars and God has memories… of meals and laughter with his friends and cold nights huddled together against the desert air in cloaks, he recalls storms at sea and a grinding emptiness at the tomb of his friend.
In Jesus, God knows hunger and thirst and loneliness and pain. In Jesus, God knows the human devastation of divorce and disease and death.
In Jesus, the One like a son of man who’s been given all authority in heaven and on earth is also one of us. And Jesus discloses a God who rules all things by a humility we cannot even begin to grasp. His power is disclosed in weakness and poverty, by surrender and trust.
The One who is to be our judge, renders his judgment on his human brothers and sisters from the brutal cross to which we nailed him: “Father forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”
And he is now and forever there with the Father in the flesh, for us, and we are there close to the heart of Father in Jesus, as his body. We are mystically one with God in the humanity of Jesus and God is one with us, and loves us. Praise Him.
Rector, Holy Redeemer Church, Rochester Hills, MI