Doubt Whispers

Matthew 28:16-20 – Trinity Sunday & 1st Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, June 15, 2014

“When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17)

doubt-300x276Jesus, alone on a mountain with the inner circle of eleven disciples, tells them to, “Make disciples of all the nations.” It’s called the Great Commission. And then Matthew ends.

How did Jesus feel about giving that instruction? Or what did Jesus think about the glaring absence of Judas, the traitor who made the twelve become eleven? Was he confident or nervous about Peter’s leadership? We don’t know, for here—as elsewhere—the Gospel writer doesn’t share much about Jesus’ interior thoughts. Frequently, the faithful reader only knows Jesus’ spoken words. Maybe Jesus’ silence could be called the Gospels’ great omission?

But we do know something about “the eleven” at the end of Matthew.

They worshiped Jesus. The ancient Greek could also be translated as “bowed.” Whether it’s translated into English as the more emotionally charged worship or the physical action of bowing, all of the disciples apparently participated in this final response to the risen Christ.

Along with worshiping/bowing, some of Jesus’ inner circle—maybe ten of the eleven, maybe only one—felt . . . doubt.

All worshiped, some doubted. Continue reading →

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In The Tombs

John 11:1-45  – The 5th Sunday of Lent – for Sunday, April 6, 2014

“Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (John 11:39)

Jesus had left for Ephraim with his disciples.

Mary was tending to Lazarus, by his bed while he slept. (And ate and slept and ate a little more.)

Caravaggio's "The Raising of Lazarus."
Caravaggio’s “The Raising of Lazarus.”

The crowds had dispersed. So many of our neighbors, along with the curious and suspicious, had traveled from the tomb to our home. They’d asked questions, whispered and schemed. There were those that loudly boasted they’d now follow Jesus to heaven or hell or Jerusalem or wherever he led. There were those already exaggerating my brother’s rebirth, telling of Jesus’ casting magical spells or seeing bolts of lightning before the rock at the tomb was removed or hearing angelic mutterings. And there were those who silently watched, never joining in the backslapping and cheering. They skulked away after they’d witnessed Lazarus emerging from the darkness. I knew they despised my brother and resented Jesus. I knew where this last group would go. They may have been close-mouthed here in Bethany, but a few hours later—mark my words—they’d conspire with the priests in the Temple or the Roman soldiers . . . and more likely both.

There was no safe place. Not in Bethany. Not anywhere.

But there was one place where I could be alone. I needed to think. Needed to pray. Needed to ask for forgiveness.

And so I’d returned to my brother’s tomb. Now empty, the hordes gone, and with this long, disturbing, divine day coming to a close. I reassured Mary I’d return before dark. Tonight, I’d stay by Lazarus’ side and give my sister a chance to rest.

In the cool shadow of the tomb’s threshold, its wide opening like a mouth forming a shout, I recalled the last days.

I told everyone, especially when the night of the third day came, that the stench from the tomb was a dead animal. A rat. A mole. A bird dragged inside by a feral cat. The stench was not my brother Lazarus. Continue reading →

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On The Uneven Steps

John 3:1-17  – The 2nd Sunday of Lent – for Sunday, March 16, 2014

“He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God . . .’” (John 3:2)

I scurried from Jesus’ hovel, grateful for the night . . .
I scurried from Jesus’ hovel, grateful for the night . . .

I scurried from Jesus’ hovel, grateful for the night that still hid my actions. Call me a coward, if you will. Yes, I had avoided the indoor lamps casting slivers of light across the dusty avenues on the way over. Yes, I had ducked into a few corners—like the one near the bakery—as I searched for the address. The only prayers I prayed before meeting him were about . . . not being seen. Deliver me from spying eyes! With Passover in Jerusalem, everyone went to bed late and woke early. Everyone wanted to earn an extra denarius. Thousands begged. Thousands more pretended how pious they were. Deliver me from Jerusalem at its commercial, crass worst.

I slowed by the bakery, far enough away from Jesus’ doorstep. Now no one could link me to the Nazarene. Instead of continuing, I slumped on the apothecary shop’s steps beside the bakery. A brew of yesterday’s perfumes and herbs irritated my nose. I was exhausted, but not from the walk. I could stride the breadth of Jerusalem and outpace men half my age.

It wasn’t the walk to Jesus, but the talk with him. Continue reading →

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