“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). These are the last words of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus has completed his mission of salvation and is returning to the Father. These last words are some of the most comforting words we can hear in our faith lives. What a comfort it is to know that Jesus is with us always in his holy Spirit. These words from the mouth of Jesus are the eternal truth. He has promised us here that his love, his friendship, and his mercy will remain with us always, until the end of the age. What more reasonable response is there for us than our prayers of grateful praise?
Just before Jesus says these words, he has given us our marching orders as well. He has given us our mission as his disciples in every age, until the end of time. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19). We can look at the life of Jesus in the gospel accounts and see in it all that is good, all that is true for us as God’s children. We can see the wisdom of teaching and following his way in this world. But we can also see in Jesus’ suffering and death how the world so often responds to this message of love and mercy.
Jesus, in his life among us, revealed the errors of our ways and made the ways of God visible to us in his words and his deeds. We also see that the people of his own home town rejected him. He endured the anger, and the denials of the religious leaders. He even knew the pain of abandonment by those he loved at his arrest, even that of Peter’s threefold denial. And still, in the midst of his suffering and death, he showed us that the core of God’s love (and of our love for one another), is always the healing and the liberating power of forgiveness.
Who could know better than Jesus, the trials that his disciples would encounter on their mission roads? He knew them then, and he knows us now, intimately. He knows our weaknesses. He knows that we are often riven with doubt and with fears. But he knows our hearts too. He knows that we desire to be his good and faithful disciples in this world. He knows what we need. He knows that our mission is not, nor will it ever be, easy. This is why he made this promise to be with us “to the end of the age,” at the end of Matthew’s gospel. We can believe and take hope in the promise of Christ. When we willingly follow in the way of Jesus, he is with us. When we stumble or fall, he does not abandon us, but waits faithfully for our hearts to turn back to him and then he enfolds us instantly in his graceful and loving embrace. To believe this is to know the peace that surpasses all understanding that can come from him alone. Blessed be God in all of his designs.
Jesus, In our most trying hours, help us to know that you are there with us. Strengthen us with this faith. In our hours of contentment and joy, help us to know that all is gift from you and let our grateful prayers be our simple praise to you. We pray these things in your name, dear Jesus. Amen.
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