Jesus said, (Mt 28:19) “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
If we read Matthew 28:16-20, we see that Jesus has arranged to meet the eleven remaining Disciples far away from everyone else; to a place of peace and quiet; to a mountain in Galilee.
For Jesus, this was the end of his public ministry on earth. For the Disciples, it would be the start of a whole new life.
He took those people, just as they were and, despite their hesitation and the doubting of some, he made the ringing declaration, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”.(28:18)
And what authority was that? If we remember at Jesus’s baptism three years earlier, there was the voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love” (Matthew 3:17) and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. These are his credentials.
He has received the universal authority as a gift from his Father; and with that, sends the Disciples out to the World and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
But more than giving his authority, He also gives his reassurance, promising them that He would be with them for all time. “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.(28:20)
Then, taking Jesus at His word, they went out to the World and the infant Church grew and flourished. As we might say in today’s terminology, the Church, ‘went global’.
From that mountain top in Galilee, and starting with only those first Disciples, the Word spread throughout the World. It radiated outwards, spread by ordinary men and women, demonstrated in their lives and by their living.
They were sent out, as we are, on the greatest task in history, but, at the same time, with the greatest presence and power imaginable.
Jesus didn't commission perfect Disciples but people who, as Matthew tells us when they met him again, (28:27)“they worshiped him; but some doubted”. Despite all they had seen, heard and experienced, those people were far from perfect.
And can’t we identify with that? In our lives, sometimes faith is strong and unwavering; at other times we can change from rock solid to as weak as water.
When we waken at two or three in the morning, our minds racing with all sorts of worries and doubts, perhaps thinking, “Have I bitten of more than I can chew? How am I going to cope”? We must remind ourselves, “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. It is far more that ‘I will be with you’, his promise reminds us that He is with us; that’s what keeps us going.
What Christ promised to the disciples on the mountain top nearly 2,000 years ago is promised to us. Isn’t that wonderful?
It is a promise that has sustained Disciples throughout the centuries, and it can sustain us. “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.
David Livingston, on a visit home after 16 years in Africa, was invited to address students at Glasgow University.
As he stood before those young men and woman, the tremendous physical toll on his health as a result of his work and service was all too evident.
At the heart of his message to those young people was, “Shall I tell you what sustained me amidst the toil, hardship and loneliness of my exile”? It was Christ's promise. Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end”.
So, with that assurance from Christ in mind, let us continue with His work to “make disciples of all nations, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
Always remembering that, in all we do and everywhere we go, Christ promised he is with us. “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.
Let us pray.
Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we thank you for the many ways in which you make yourself known. We see your creative power in the wonderful world around us. We discover your loving purpose in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We experience your transforming presence in the power of the Spirit.
God of all, yours is a love that endures throughout eternity. It is a love and power that sustains us amidst the troubling times in which we are living.
Help us remember that when life is difficult and we become fearful, that You are with us always, not just today or tomorrow but every day and “to the very end of the age”.
It is in that reassurance, we pray with confidence that you will uplift the weary and strengthen the weak, bring comfort to those who feel alone and forgotten and that you will bring consolation to all who struggle and grieve at these times.
And may we all, blessed, loved and strengthened by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit go on this day and always as a people of faith, hope and love. Amen