The Oxymorons We Live With

By Rev. Tim Yee

May 13, 2017

And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

Matthew 28:17


Birds sitting on multiple electrical wires running parallel to each other.Do you have a favorite oxymoron? Jumbo shrimp. Airline food. Act naturally. Or for those of us who remember the 90’s: Microsoft Works. I think the New Testament has a couple of apparent oxymorons. The first is “crucified Messiah”. Keep in mind I’m calling these apparent oxymorons because, though they might seem absurd, in God’s wisdom they are simply true.

The last thing the followers of Jesus were expecting was that their future king would be executed. Though Jesus alluded to his own death and explicitly stated that he must suffer, die, and rise again, the disciples seemed to have little concept of the resurrection or a Messiah who needed to succumb to death in order to achieve victory. It would take some time for them to get it.

The second apparent oxymoron is “doubting disciple”. You would think that these first-century followers of Jesus would not have doubt since they saw Jesus in-person and could verify that he not only was actually dead but now really alive. But Matthew does not hide the fact that “some still doubted.”

I implore my congregation to grow in faith each week and yet I also understand that each of us wrestles with doubt in some way. I find it encouraging that those closest to Jesus still doubted and yet God used those very imperfect disciples to launch his church and lead his mission on earth. Apparently God can still use leaders who wrestle with doubt.

The challenge is to find places where we as leaders can share our doubts. I often try to do this with my congregation through sermons and other contexts where I share my own process of dealing with doubts. I must be careful to not lead people to assume that I’ve lost faith. I want them to know that even pastors can doubt at times as well. I’ll admit sometimes people don’t like to see their leaders express doubt, while others find it refreshingly authentic. I think leaders simply need to be honest, whether that means sharing some incredible vision they are excited about or letting their team know they are wrestling with some setbacks. Ultimately we hope that those we lead don’t consider the phrase “honest leaders” an oxymoron. The challenge is how to share honestly without crossing lines that would undermine our leadership.

The oxymoron of leadership is what we’ll reflect on tomorrow.


Do you think leaders should share their doubts openly? If so, how do you do this appropriately in your context? Have you had a negative experience where you think a leader shared too openly?

How does it make you feel that Jesus didn’t reject these doubting disciples?

Think of past leaders that have impacted your life. How did these leaders express doubts in a way that didn’t undermine their leadership?


Lord, help us to be honest leaders who acknowledge our limitations while simultaneously holding onto hope in you. When people look at our lives may they see both a faithful follower of Jesus and a real human being who struggles like everybody else. Give me the grace to allow others around me to be honest about their struggles so that we can grow together as we lean on your strength. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryJesus’ Death and Resurrection (Matthew 27-28)

Rev. Tim Yee

Contributor Emeritus & Pastor

Rev. Tim Yee is Pastor of Union Church of Los Angeles, a 100-year-old church in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo District where he serves a diverse church of professionals, internment camp survivors, artists and homeless. He serves on the Board of Union Rescue Mission where he leads the P...

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