“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
These are the last two verses of the gospel according to Matthew. These are the final instructions that Jesus gave his disciples before ascending to heaven. It is better known as “The Great Commission.” Jesus has wrapped up His earthly teaching to His disciples with one last command. Go and make disciples. Take all your life experiences and everything I have taught you in the past three years. Please bring it to other people in your life. Follow my example and find those to follow Me through your example. And Jesus’ last statement is, “no matter what happens; I will be with you!”
When I am studying a passage of scripture, and I want to understand what it means, I take the passage and refer to it in its original language. Here this passage was written in Greek. So, Matthew 28:20 is
διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ’ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος.
And a direct translation from Greek of this passage reads, “And behold, I with you am all the days, until the completion of the age.” Next, I look at the meaning of keywords in Greek.
Behold – to see, perceive, attend to, experience, discern
I – the first-person pronoun (Jesus was speaking)
With – among, in company with
All – every, the whole, every kind of
Until – as far as up to
Completion – a joint payment, consummation, end
Age – a cycle of time, one of a series of ages stretching to infinity
So, in straining to understand this passage, I reword the selection using the definitions provided. I could say I am to perceive that Jesus is with me in total every day until this series in time passes to the next series in time in the grand scheme that stretches to infinity.
What do I see
What does this mean for you and me? Do I perceive that Jesus is totally and completely with me daily in my relationship with Christ? The definition of perceiving is to become aware of something directly through your senses, primarily through sight and hearing. Do I see or hear Christ every day in my life? I want to go with a churchy answer and say, “of course I do!” But to be honest my everyday life, I would say I struggle with seeing tangible evidence of Jesus being with me. What evidence do I even look for?
Should I notice that a parking space opened up when I pleaded with God not to walk a mile into the store? Is that evidence of Jesus in my daily life? That seems like a Santa Clauseish view of God and Jesus. Does he care for me? Absolutely! Does getting a closer parking space advance the kingdom of God and give me evidence of Jesus for the day? I offer pause on answering yes. On the flip side, does a terminally ill child not being healed through prayer prove the absence of God or Jesus in everyday life? I’m not sure that it does.
Maybe perceiving Jesus daily takes more than what is happening around me. Could it be that I can still have peace and joy in good or bad circumstances? Should I still notice the happening and embrace the blessing or trial? And in the happening, have the knowledge Jesus is with me and use the experience to help someone else? My perception should be based on my ability to know God and how he works in others. To see a need in someone else and to fulfill that need spiritually, emotionally, or physically.
I guess I am trying to say that if we are the actual church body, then we should be representing Jesus. Our daily pursuit of Christ should be the thing that everyone sees, and that would be enough for everyone to say, “Oh, there go those Christian people. They just overflow with love for everyone.” But I’m afraid we have fallen far into selfishness from secular culture. We live in denial of our pain and the pain of those around us. Our self-medication in every indulgence to numb our emotional hurts and become highly ineffective in our ministry. We can’t see or display Jesus because we can’t get past ourselves.
Some of us desperately need an “Aha!” moment. A moment of clarity with Christ changes their trajectory from one of self-medication to one of others’ motivation. What if the only perception of Jesus for others was you? Yes, the heavens declare Your glory, but we should be in the world and not of it. Would others see any glimpse of who Jesus is in your life? Could they see an eternity future from what you display? Is that eternity with Christ? What keeps you from being a whole-hearted committed Christ-follower who picks up their cross daily? What are you going to do about it?
Father, we are desperate people in need of You. I pray that Your church will turn and focus on You. That we would wholeheartedly pursue what it means to be Christ-like. That we would lay down anything that separates us from You. And in doing so, we are effective in the Kingdom of God. Nothing of our strength or even victories by human standards. But to be who you called to be. How could the community I live in be different, from the city to parish, to state, and the country? If we would surrender to You? Move among your people and teach us what it means to be a light in a dark place. Amen.