“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” are the famous last words of Nathan Hale, a patriot fighting for the United States in the American Revolution. Originally by trade a schoolteacher, Nathan Hale, like many others in that time, soon found himself selflessly fighting for our country’s independence. These powerful last words were spoken right before Nathan was captured and hung for spying on British troops for the United States.
Have you ever thought about your last words? The last thought that you want to be remembered for? If you’ve seen any action movies with a main protagonist and antagonist, then you can already picture the scene. The good guy is tied up and out of options. The bad guy is about to win, and they ask the good guy, “any last words?” This is the part where the protagonist usually tells a crazy monologue about how the mission was always to save the world and become a hero, and wouldn’t you know it, they usually get out of the trap and save the day.
As much as we love the last words we hear in movies, we know there are none more important than the last words spoken by Jesus. At the end of Matthew 28, we find Jesus’s last words, more commonly known as the Great Commission. When you think about Matthew 28, you’re probably like me and immediately start to think about the Great Commission. Now Jesus’s last words are significantly important to the life of a believer, but if we only look at this event in the chapter, we miss out on an integral part of the Christian faith.
This chapter opens up with the story of Jesus’s resurrection. Just as Jesus had predicted and told the disciples, on the third day He defeated sin and death and conquered the grave. The morning when Jesus rose again two women, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, had gone to visit the tomb that Jesus was buried in. The scriptures say in Matthew 28:2 that, “Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it”.
The guards who were tasked with watching the tomb to make sure Jesus’s disciples didn’t steal his body were so scared of the event taking place that they fainted. Then the angel of the Lord spoke to the women and said, “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. Come, see where His body was lying.”
What a powerful message for us to remember – He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. You and I don’t need to fear life or death, because we serve a God that has overcome it all! And the good news that Romans 6:10-11 tells us is the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us today!
But that’s not where the story ends! Both Mary’s leave from the tomb to go tell the disciples what they have seen when the resurrected Jesus appears to them. The scriptures say that the two women ran to Him and worshiped Him, but that Jesus tells them not to be afraid and to tell the disciples to leave for Galilee where He will meet them.
The two women tell the disciples, and they all leave for Galilee to see the resurrected Jesus themselves. In verse 17, an interesting note is made about the disciples as they worship. The scripture says, “but some of them doubted!” And I’m sure some of you are already calling for the disciples to be crucified in your minds. You’re probably thinking, “How could the disciples of all people doubt Jesus?”
We have to recognize our modern understanding of the term doubt is typically used to describe outright unbelief. Especially in our modern Christian vocabulary. Doubt is practically a cuss word. But in the Greek, the word used here is better described as "to hesitate". So, when the scripture says that some of the disciples doubted, it really would mean that some of them hesitated to worship the resurrected Jesus.
But notice Jesus’s response. He didn’t lash out at the unnamed disciples for their hesitation! His immediate response is to give His disciples the Great Commission. Jesus used his last words to share His mission with the disciples. The same mission that you and I are called to live out as believers today.
Maybe today you’re somebody who has struggled with doubt when it comes to your faith. The good news is – you’re not alone! The men who walked and lived with Jesus doubted too. But Jesus didn’t leave His disciples in a place of doubt, He gave them a mission to live for. And the same is true for us! God wants to replace the doubt in you with a passion for others! A passion to live out the Great Commission!