Matins Devotion: November 20, 2023
Sometimes in your life, you encounter a rather strange kind of unbelief in people. It’s not the unbelief of ignorance, where people have legitimately never heard the Gospel before. Rather, the kind of unbelief where they have all the information in front of them, and yet they refuse to believe because they don’t want it to be true. They’ve heard the Scriptures. They’ve seen the clear, consistent story of salvation told from Genesis to Revelation. They’ve perceived the mercy and love of God at work in the church. And yet, they look at all of the things and say, “that didn’t happen. None of this is real.”
It’s a maddening and heartbreaking thing to encounter. How do you make someone see something he refuses to see? What information can you give to someone who just immediately throws all information in the trash?
This is something we see in the Chief Priests, who have all the information right in front of them. They have the promise of the resurrection. They have proof, testimony, clarity, everything you need. And yet they don’t believe because they simply don’t want it to be true. The Roman guards come to them with the word of the stone rolled away, the angel, the earthquake, the crucified yet risen Jesus. They saw it all. The Romans aren’t Christ’s disappointed followers trying to comfort themselves. They have nothing to gain by lying. What they’re saying is clearly true. And the chief priests’ response? “Here’s some money. Tell everyone his disciples stole his body.”
So what do you do when you encounter unbelief like this? Well, I don’t think it’s coincidental that Matthew goes immediately from this sorrowful moment to the joyous moment of what we commonly call the Great Commission. We got from the stubborn, obstinate unbelief of the Chief Priests to Jesus gathering His disciples, and making them apostles by sending them out into the world armed with the Gospel and the Sacraments. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe that I have commanded you.”
In other words, here Jesus is saying, “unbelief isn’t a riddle for you to solve. It’s not a challenge to find the unfindable words. Don’t worry about figuring out how to open the chained and locked hearts of the Chief Priests or anyone else. Just preach the word. Proclaim my death and resurrection. Proclaim my mercy and salvation. Pour out the waters of salvation on all who will receive them. Trust in the word and leave it to the Holy Spirit to solve the riddle of unbelief.”
So do that. Speak faithfully. Speak often. But don’t let your heart be broken by hearts broken with unbelief. God is faithful. He will accomplish His will and grow His kingdom. His word will not return to Him void.