“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (verse 20)
This is a powerful word, this little word “with.” It’s part of the last sentence Jesus speaks to his disciples here in Matthew’s Gospel. He’s about to depart to heaven. He’ll shortly be out of view. The sight of him, so familiar to the disciples over these last three years, will soon be a thing of the past. But regardless, Jesus promises that forever, to the very end of the age, he will be “with.”
“I am with you always,” he says.
It’s a powerful word, not least because it’s used in one of the first, significant introductions we have to Jesus in this very Gospel. Matthew, in recounting Jesus’ birth, makes clear to us a prophetic connection that none of the other Gospel writers choose to mention. He quotes the prophecy from Isaiah, highlighting that Jesus will be called “Immanuel,” a name which literally springs out of the Hebrew word “with.” In Hebrew it’s “im.” It gets different endings attached to indicate “with me,” “with you,” “with him," etc. When it comes to “with us,” the word, with attachment, is “immanu.” When you add the name for God, “El,” you get “immanu-el” – literally, “with us God.”
That’s who Matthew has told us Jesus is, right from the start.
How fitting that the very last thing he records Jesus saying is this: “I am with you always.”
The promise comes in the midst of mission (“Go and make disciples”). It comes as the disciples will carry on without physically seeing him any longer. It comes alongside the invitation for others to join the journey of discipleship. It comes as the story continues.
Immanuel says to his disciples, and to us, “I am with you always.”
Lord Jesus, I take this promise to heart. You are here with me right now as I write these words. You are with me when I deal with fear (like the news on the phone in the last hour that troubled my heart; like the empty-tomb encounter that troubled the hearts of the women early in this chapter). You are with me when in the midst of doubt (like when I struggle with faith and prayer and how it all works; like the doubt that plagued some of the disciples even when they encountered you in Galilee, face to face). You are with me in worship, even when I can’t see you (as could those first disciples before your ascension), but you draw near even as I draw my heart near to you.
You are the ever-present Lord. Thank you for being “with.”
Action: Pause several times during this day simply to remember that Jesus is “with.” Open your mind, heart, and spirit to this awareness. Since he is truly present, seek to know his presence more fully.