Doubt: Free the goats

by | Sep 10, 2023

In this week’s chapters from our companion book, The Shepherd’s Wife, Pheodora discovers the Romans executed her brother, Yeshua, on a cross.. But there’s more.

Three days later, His followers discovered that the tomb where her brother was buried was empty and witnessed Him being alive. Could He be the long-awaited Messiah?

Meanwhile, Pheodora realizes she has too much invested in the hope she and her husband put into two goats that she needed to sell for an upcoming festival. The money she expected for two unblemished white goats should be enough to pay her husband’s debt and free him from prison.

If her brother really is who He and others claimed, there would be no need for sacrificial goats. After all, if His death was the final sacrifice, once and for all, then there would no longer be a need for the priests to slaughter an innocent animal as atonement. “Of course,” she mused to herself, “As long as the religious leaders held onto the past, they would always need goats!”

The writer of Matthew doesn’t tell us about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in Jerusalem that we read about in Luke and John. Instead, we are told that the eleven disciples, on the word of the testimony of a few women, expected to meet Jesus at a mountain in Galilee, where Jesus told them to meet Him.

Matthew tells us they saw Jesus and worshiped Him, but some of them doubted. Jesus then told His disciples that He held all authority in heaven and on earth, and that they were to go to the people of all nations and teach them to be disciples.

Jesus says that they are to baptize these strangers and teach them to do everything Jesus told them to do. Jesus also leaves them with the promise that He would be with them always.

Go to all people and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Matthew 28:19-20

Dr. Thomas Long, a preaching professor at the Candler School of Theology writes, “Jesus is on an unnamed mountain in backwater Galilee with a congregation of eleven, down form twelve the week before, and even some of them are doubtful and not so sure why they have come to worship this day.”

Telling these original disciples to go out and make disciples of the world is bit like telling them to go find a cure for leprosy. And while you’re at it stop hunger and bring about world peace. Or it’s like me telling you all we need to transform this neighborhood from a place that people avoid to a community of abundance where people would love to spend time. It’s an overwhelming expectation.

There was something about the relationship that these faithful disciples had with Jesus, that despite prevailing wisdom, something in them led them to believe that what Jesus was asking them to do could be done. Likewise, we are called to be just as faithful.


Mother Teresa became Saint Teresa of Calcutta on September 4, 2016. She also received the Nobel Prize for her work with the poorest of the poor. Hanging on a wall inside her home was a poem that reminded her that no matter how much she did to fulfill the mission that Jesus gives His followers to do, there will always be critics and naysayers. And whatever work you accomplish will not quite be finished and most of the good you do will go unnoticed, even by the people you help.

But the poem reminded her to do it, anyway. After all, your work isn’t about what others think about you. It’s what God knows about you.

Based on her writings published after her death, the world was left a lasting gift by Saint Teresa. We learned that even a Saint struggles with feelings of doubt and inadequacy.

The disciples and others we read about in scripture who followed Jesus – Peter, John, James, Thomas and the others — they are us. They are you and me. The disciples were real people, for sure. Perhaps the reason Jesus chose who He chose means that anybody can be a disciple.

You just have to give up trying to be someone you’re not long enough to become who God created you to be. And this is hard for most of us.

As long as we hold on to a past where we didn’t know that Jesus is Lord, we’ll still need goats of some sort. But if we’re willing to free the goats, we’ll also be free to tell others about the God we know. Better yet, when we do that which God gives us to do, the good news of Jesus Christ comes to life.

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Pastor Tommy


Our series was inspired by and relies on content provided by Angela Hunt. The Shepherds Wife. Jerusalem Road Series. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2020.

Dr. Thomas Long. “Homiletical Perspective,” Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol 3, David Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor, Eds. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.

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