I am with you always
Andrew Sveda | Tuesday, November 29, 2022
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV). These last words of Jesus’ Great Commission have long been cherished by Christians. Why is this? What does this verse mean?
Let us first look at the words themselves. The original audience, the “you,” is “the eleven disciples” (28:16), but the promise here extends beyond the apostles for “the end of the age” refers to the Second Coming of Christ (Matthew 13:39-40, 49; 24:3). This, then, cannot be a statement for “the eleven” only but is for the entire Church throughout all of history.
What does it mean that Jesus will be “with” us? It does not mean that He is physically on earth, for He has ascended and is now seated at the right hand of the Father (1 Peter 3:22), nor does it refer to a bare omnipresence. Instead, it refers to the loving and active protection and care for His Church, which He builds (Matthew 16:18) and the grace, blessing and strength He gives to believers to glorify God, grow in Him, enjoy Him and make His name known. Moreover, Christ (with the Father) sends the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49, John 14:16), who indwells the believer (1 Corinthians 3:16), “is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Ephesians 1:14), works new life in us (Galatians 5:22, 2 Corinthians 3:18) and gives us wisdom, power, strength and courage to live for God and serve Him (John 14:16-26, Acts 1:8, 2 Timothy 1:6). Although hard to understand, Christ is said to be in us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:9-11). His title “God with us” (Matthew 1:23) did not pause at His ascension. He is truly with us even now.
This often remains superficial to us; we happily proclaim this truth when we are feeling good but disbelieve it when we’re hurting. But He is “always” with us, not just in the good times but also in difficulty, weakness, sorrow and the mundane. This is a teaching not merely to assent to but one to grab on to, to fight for and to let shape our hearts. Jesus believed the disciples needed to hear these words, and He knew we would too.
Jesus’ words here, first of all, deeply encourage and comfort us in ministry and relationships. The Lord sent His disciples out to preach the gospel to and build the Church in “all nations” (Matthew 28:19), but not even one person can be converted apart from God’s drawing (John 6:44). What man can cause a child of the devil (1 John 3:10), dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) and hating God (Romans 1:30, John 3:19-20), to be born again — to be a child of God who loves Him, desires to serve and please Him, and would even die for Him? None. Only God can do this. Only God can make such dry bones live (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Apart from God, our wisest words and most eloquent prose are futile. The smallest (in size) of ministries —leading a Bible study, raising children or mentoring a younger believer — highlight our weakness and utter dependence on the Lord. How desperate is our need for God, and how wonderful His promises that He will be with us always! That doesn’t mean God will convert everyone we talk to, but it does mean that His Word will go forth in power and will accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 55:11). If we are faithful to Him, our ministry will not be in vain. Even if it is small or unsuccessful by the world’s standards, we may rest assured that He is working through it, is with us and is glorified in even our small and fickle service.Christ’s words also serve to comfort us in persecutions and afflictions. Jesus told His disciples they would be flogged, imprisoned, hated by all and many would even be killed (Matthew 10:16-25, 24:9; John 16:2, 21:18-19). Such continual and painful persecutions would certainly tempt them to give up, for one naturally concludes that they incur such sufferings because God does not care for them or is even against them. But Christ foretold their persecutions and sufferings “that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you” (John 16:4). Recalling this ensures we are not surprised by persecutions (1 Peter 4:12) and know that God’s disposition towards us has not changed. It was He who went to the cross for us, who promised that we would suffer for His name. He loves us still and always. Far from meaning God no longer cares for us or dislikes us, our sufferings are part of God’s plan all along and are for His glory (1 Peter 4:13; John 21:19) and our good (2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 5:3-5, 8:28), however crazy that may seem to us. In our sufferings and persecutions, we can rest knowing that the sovereign Lord of the universe cares for us always (Matthew 11:29-31).
Finally, Jesus’ words remind us that nothing can separate us from Him and His love (Romans 8:35-39). The Apostle John lived for another 65-70 years after Matthew 28:20 was spoken, and some of us may live that much longer. How can we rest assured we will finish the race amidst so many snares, so many sufferings, so many trials? One reason: Christ promises to be with us. If we ran the race on our own strength, we would’ve fallen away a long time ago. But we run the race by Christ’s power, looking to Him (Hebrews 12:2) who bought us with His blood, loves us and “will sustain [us] to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8). What great confidence and comfort we have in knowing that Christ goes with us always and will sustain us to the end. We will see Him face to face. Christ is with us always in this life, and then we shall be with Him in glory forevermore! Who can conceive such amazing grace?
Andrew Sveda is a senior at Notre Dame from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, majoring in political science and theology. In his free time, he enjoys writing (obviously), reading and playing the piano. He can be reached at [email protected] or @SvedaAndrew on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.