But the disciples in Matthew are a work in progress. In Matthew's gospel, Jesus' pet name for the disciples is "little faith ones" (Mt. 6:30, 8:26). Faith the size of a grain of mustard seed is all you need and it is enough. The women believed because an angel spoke to them (Patte, 398) when they were confronted by a manifestation of divine power. After the resurrected Jesus speaks to the disciples at the end of Matthew's gospel, they believe. At least eventually, if not on the spot. The witness of the rest of the New Testament shows us the disciples preaching, teaching, healing, and sacrificing their lives when necessary. (Patte, 399) Jesus' commission to make disciples of all nations comes with the assurance that he will be with them to the end of the age.
Doing as Jesus Commands, Right Here, Right Now
Clearly, we are to do what Jesus tells us to do. The goal of the Christian Church is to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The message of this closing scene in Matthew is that any and everybody is called to make disciples any and everywhere. Jesus has told us clearly what to do.
How good are you at doing what you are told? How good are we at not allowing arrogance, negative patterns from the past, and doubts to hold us back from making disciples for Jesus Christ? We can't afford to wait until we are perfect and conditions are optimal to make disciples. Some people who call themselves Christians can't bring themselves to share their faith. They remain forever trapped on the mountain in this closing scene from Matthew, mired in their doubts and excuses.
When I need motivation to move off that mountain, I look to the unsung, unlikely, unknown evangelist in this story: that anonymous member of the guard who could not bring himself to keep the good news a secret.
Bob Ekblad, Reading the Bible with the Damned, Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.
John Ortberg,Know Doubt: The Importance of Embracing Uncertainty in Your Faith, Zondervan, 2008.
Daniel Patte,The Gospel According to Matthew: A Structural Commentary on Matthew's Faith, Fortress, 1987