Aloha Friday Message – May 22, 2021 – What is doubt?

2021AFC052220 – What is doubt?

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Matthew 28:17 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

Mark 16:6-16 Now after he [Jesus] rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. 12 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, Belovéd. This coming Sunday, May 24, 2020, a great many Christians will be celebrating The Ascension of the Lord. This is one of my favorite celebrations of the life of Christ. I’ve written about it here several times, notably in Aloha Friday Message – May 15, 2015 – Look Him Up! One of the readings in that event we commemorate next Sunday comes from Acts 1:1-11. Verses 10-11 read – 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” I make it a point to mention that the word “this” in that last sentence is supremely important. The Greek word used in this passage is very specific and means this one, the one visibly present here, the one just named and none other than this one. There’s not another one, there’s no way it could be someone else. It will be precisely, exactly, permanently that same guy you just saw take off into the clouds. It is HE who will return to you. (See 1917AFC042619 – THIS is important) This one verse in the whole New Testament confirms to me every word Jesus said to the Apostles, his Disciples, and every Christian that has ever lived. Exactly that one-and-only Jesus is coming back to get us in the same way he departed Earth! I tell you, if you can believe what those “two men in white robes said,” you have Hope and Peace and Joy and Love and  the Promise that he lives – not just in our hearts – but for sure and certain in his Father’s House of many dwellings. And honestly, folks, I don’t see how anyone cannot believe that if they’ve gotten anything from God’s Story of Salvation the B.I.B.L.E. Now, take a look at the first Key Verse for today. Those last three words astonish and appall me. It says, “but some doubted.”

Wha-a-a-a-a-a-t?!?!? When we see images of the ascension, we mostly see just the remaining 11 Apostles standing there looking into the sky as Jesus is taken up (or flies up on his own power) into the clouds and out of sight. In my mind’s-eye, however, I see Jesus’ mother Mary there with them, and the other Marys that had accompanied him along with Joanna and Susanna, Clopas, Joseph of Arimathea, and perhaps even some of the other converts – including a few from the Jewish priesthood – who loved him. He was seen by upwards of 500 persons, whether all at the same time or at various times during the forty days after the resurrection – we do not know, and so, perhaps it was more than just the eleven. Now why do I think that? That comes to mind because of those three startling words but some doubted.

You know I like to look into the original words, so once again we will dip a toe into those waters. The word Luke uses here is distazo which literally means twenty-thousand. Say what? It’s one of those idiomatic expressions that means “going two ways, shifting between positions; choosing “a double-stance” and hence vacillate (waver); (figuratively) uncertain at a crossroad because refusing to choose one way over the other – “wanting to have our cake and eat it too”; to halt between two opinions (views, beliefs).” It’s the same thing as not believing what you see!! You’ll remember the Apostle Thomas took that approach – “I’ll believe it when I see it.” A similar aphorism is “Seeing is believing.” Whether the gathering there as Jesus departed Earth was just the Eleven, or a small crowd of witnesses, all of them had seen Jesus’ many miracles, heard Jesus’ many admonitions and promises, and spent many months walking with him from Tyre and Sidon to Jerusalem and Bethphage. How could they do all of that and still have any doubts about anything Jesus did or said? We find a clue in Jesus’ own words to the Disciples and Apostles; it’s another biblical quote that has become a popular aphorism: “O YE OF LITTLE FAITH.”

Here again, we are wise to explore the content and context of that phrase. The word used in Greek is oligopistos – a fascinating word that is a contraction of olígos, which means a small quantity or a small number, and pístis which means faith. Oligopistos, then, is a state or action that occurs infrequently – Jesus is telling them to use and grow the faith they have, but they doubt – they are not just double-minded, they are 20,000-minded! The term describes someone whose “hearing” – understanding – is all stuffed up. Think of the three-year old with fingers in the ears going LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA! The Disciples cannot hear his voice, hear his message, hear his commands, hear his Love. They are insufficiently interested in HIM and therefore cannot increase their faith; in fact, they barely have faith. This word, oligopistos, is found only in the New Testament; it is not found in any known secular work! That alone should tell us that what Jesus is saying to “we of little faith” is extraordinarily important. If we are not interested enough in nurturing an intimate relationship with Jesus the Christ, if we do not hear or see how he teaches us and cares for us, if we fail to understand that being Christian means following Jesus by imitating his life and emulating his teaching, then we truly, surely are “O we of little faith.” We do not trust him. I say again, WE DO NOT TRUST HIM. Take a look at the instances in the Gospels where oligopistos occurs:

Matthew 6:30 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Matthew 8:26 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.

Matthew 14:31 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Again, distazo for “doubt”)

Matthew 16:8 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? (I urge you to read Matthew 16:5-12 to see this in context.)

Luke 12:28 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!

Every time Jesus uses this phrase – O you of little faith – it comes after he has spoken what God has given him to say, and they “fail to hear his voice.” What he says, what he does, who he is seems to them to be too fantastical. Their inadequate response in action says, “I don’t believe you.” Even after the Resurrection – after everything they had been through with Jesus, they could not, did not, would not believe, as we saw above:

Mark 16:1111 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
Mark 16:13 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.
Mark 16:14 14 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. Later as they were eating, Jesus appeared to the eleven and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
Eventually, after scolding them, eating with them, talking and walking with them, their faith began to strengthen a tiny bit.
Acts 1:3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. (Once again I urge you to read this very important passage in context at 1 Corinthians 15:3-11)

Having seen how difficult it was for Jesus’ contemporaries to believe him, what are we to do to improve our own small faith? Jesus’ own words can be our guide.

  • Hear my voice
  • Obey my commands
  • Have faith
  • Believe I am able to do this
  • Believe as children do
  • Trust me, believe in me
  • Trust my works
  • Love me and Love one another as I have Loved you
  • Most convincing of all – Do not doubt:
    • Matthew 21:19-22 19 And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 20 When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 Jesus answered them, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”

Belovéd, without a doubt we should, can, and will live in Faith. What is doubt? It is being overly-analytical – “20,000-minded” – about the reality of Jesus life, all of it. How is doubt thrown out? Through Faith, and faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  (See Romans 10:14-17) And how do we hear the Word of God? Love Jesus, keep his commandments, and rely on the Spirit of Truth: John 14:15-17 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

We will have Faith, and not doubt, if we have The Truth, the Life, and the Way within us. I don’t doubt that one teeny little bit! Jesus, I believe in YOU (↔ Music Link)

THIS SAME Jesus IS, WITHOUT A DOUBT, THE ONE I AM WAITING FOR BECAUSE I BELIEVE HIM. That is why our attitude of gratitude is absolutely essential. It makes it possible to hear his voice and find ever-greater faith.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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