The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
 
"I am with you always to the close of the age"

Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
Meditation: Why did Jesus leave his beloved apostles forty days after his resurrection? Forty is a significant number in the scriptures.  Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting.  The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the promised land.  Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God. For forty days after his resurrection Jesus appeared numerous times to his disciples to assure them that he had risen indeed and to prepare them for the task of carrying on the work which he began during his earthy ministry.

Jesus' departure and ascension into heaven was both an end and a beginning for his disciples.  While it was the end of Jesus' physical presence with his beloved disciples, it marked the beginning of Jesus' presence with them in a new way.  Jesus promised that he would be with them always to the end of time.  He assured them of his power -- a power which overcame sin and death.  Now as the glorified and risen Lord and Savior, ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus promised to give them the power of his Holy Spirit, which we see fulfilled ten days later on the Feast of Pentecost (Luke 24:49 and Acts 2:1-4). When the Lord Jesus departed physically from the apostles, they were not left alone or powerless.  Jesus assured them of his presence and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus' last words to his apostles point to his saving mission and to their mission to be witnesses of his saving death and his glorious resurrection and to proclaim the good news of salvation to all the world. Their task is to proclaim the good news of salvation, not only to the people of Israel, but to all the nations. God's love and gift of salvation is not just for a few, or for a nation, but it is for the whole world -- for all who will accept it.  The gospel is the power of God, the power to forgive sins, to heal, to deliver from evil and oppression, and to restore life.  Do you believe in the power of the gospel?

This is the great commission which the risen Christ gives to the whole church. All believers have been given a share in this task -- to be heralds of the good news and ambassadors for Jesus Christ, the only savior of the world. We have not been left alone in this task, for the risen Lord works in and through us by the power of his Holy Spirit.  Today we witness a new Pentecost as the Lord pours out his Holy Spirit upon his people to renew and strengthen the body of Christ and to equip it for effective ministry and mission world-wide.  Do you witness to others the joy of the gospel and the hope of the resurrection?

“Lord Jesus, through the gift of your Holy Spirit, you fill us with an indomitable spirit of praise and joy which no earthly trial can subdue.  Fill me with your resurrection joy and help me to live a life of praise and thanksgiving for your glory.  May I witness to those around me the joy of the gospel and the reality of your resurrection.”


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(c) 2002 Don Schwager