Christ gathered His disciples to their meeting place in Galilee for a last rendezvous, a most intimate one:
He was leaving them for the final time.
Some weeks prior, He had been violently put to death by crucifixion, and amazed all of them by coming back to life; resurrecting Himself, the power He said He had, He has proven!
He walked among them, appeared before them at any time of day or night. He talked to them, dined with them ~ and they expected Him to be there, as He had always been.
But here we see that He has called them together to say goodbye, again. He was departing Heavenward, to the Father.
Did they not remember that He spoke of these things to all of them?
Yes, but they did not comprehend the deeper meaning. And some of them, who were with Him now, completely understood through faith; yet, some remained doubtful.
He had recited the Scriptures to them, and talked about repentance and forgiveness of sins.
He told them that all power is given to Him in Heaven and in earth.
They were to teach all nations to observe everything He has commanded...
And He promised that He will be with us always, even until the end of the world.
16 But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
18 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:
20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
But some doubted, some of those that were then present. Even among those that worship there are some that doubt. The faith of those that are sincere, may yet be very weak and wavering. They doubted, edistasan—they hung in suspense, as the scales of the balance, when it is hard to say which preponderates. These doubts were afterward removed, and their faith grew up to a full assurance, and it tended much to the honour of Christ, that the disciples doubted before they believed; so that they cannot be said to be credulous, and willing to be imposed upon; for they first questioned, and proved all things, and then held fast that which was true, and which they found to be so.
What Jesus Christ said to them (Matthew 28:18-20); Jesus came, and spoke unto them. Though there were those that doubted, yet, he did not therefore reject them. He did not stand at a distance, but came near, and gave them such convincing proofs of his resurrection, as turned the wavering scale, and made their faith to triumph over their doubts. He came, and spoke familiarly to them, as one friend speaks to another, that they might be fully satisfied in the commission he was about to give them. He that drew near to God, to speak for us to him, draws near to us, to speak from him to us. Christ now delivered to his apostles the great charter of his kingdom in the world, was sending them out as his ambassadors, and here gives them their credentials.
Being about to authorize his apostles, if any ask by what authority he doeth it, and who gave him that authority, here he tells us, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth; a very great word, and which none but he could say. Hereby he asserts his universal dominion as Mediator, which is the great foundation of the Christian religion. He has all power. He did not assume it, or usurp it, but it was given him, he was legally entitled to it, and invested in it...
God set him King, inaugurated and enthroned him, (Luke 1:32) As God, equal with the Father, all power was originally and essentially his; but as Mediator, as God-man, all power was given him; partly in recompence of his work (because he humbled himself, therefore God thus exalted him), and partly in pursuance of his design; he had this power given him over all flesh, that he might give eternal life to as many as were given him (John 17:2), for the more effectual carrying on and completing our salvation. This power he was now more signally invested in, upon his resurrection, (Acts 13:3).
He had power before, power to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6); but now all power is given him. He is now going to receive for himself a kingdom (Luke 19:12), to sit down at the right hand. Having purchased it, nothing remains but to take possession; it is his own for ever. Where he has this power; in heaven and earth, comprehending the universe. Christ is the sole universal Monarch, he is Lord of all.
He has all power in heaven. (Eph 1:20-21). He has power of intercession with his Father, in the virtue of his satisfaction and atonement...Father, I will. He has all power on earth too; having prevailed with God, by the sacrifice of atonement, he prevails with men, and deals with them as one having authority, by the ministry of reconciliation.
This our Lord Jesus tells them, not only to satisfy them of the authority he had to commission them, and to bring them out in the execution of their commission, but to take off the offence of the cross; they had no reason to be ashamed of Christ crucified, when they saw him thus glorified.
The commission he gives to those whom he sent forth; Go ye therefore. This commission is given, to the apostles primarily, the chief ministers of state in Christ's kingdom, the architects that laid the foundation of the church. Go ye. It is not only a word of command, but a word of encouragement, Go, and fear not, have I not sent you? Go, and make a business of this work. They must not take state, and issue out summons to the nations to attend upon them; but they must go, and bring the gospel to their doors, Go ye. They had doted on Christ's bodily presence, and hung upon that, and built all their joys and hopes upon that; but now Christ discharges them from further attendance on his person, and sends them abroad about other work.
As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, to excite them to fly (Deut 32:11), so Christ stirs up his disciples, to disperse themselves over all the world. It is given to their successors, the ministers of the gospel, whose business it is to transmit the gospel from age to age, to the end of the world in time, as it was theirs to transmit it from nation to nation, to the end of the world in place, and no less necessary.
The Old-Testament promise of a gospel ministry is made to a succession (Isaiah 59:21); and this must be so understood, otherwise how could Christ be with them always to the consummation of the world? Christ, at his ascension, gave not only apostles and prophets, but pastors and teachers (Eph 4:11). Now this plainly signifies it to be the will of Christ; that salvation by Christ should be offered to all, and none excluded that did not by their unbelief and impenitence exclude themselves.
I am with you. Not, I will be with you, but I am—ego eimi. As God sent Moses, so Christ sent his apostles, by this name, I am; for he is God, to whom past, present, and to come, are the same. He was now about to leave them; his bodily presence was now to be removed from them, and this grieved them; but he assures them of his spiritual presence, which was more expedient for them than his bodily presence could be; I am with you; that is, "My Spirit is with you, the Comforter shall abide with you, I am with you, and not against you: with you to take your part, to be on your side, and to hold with you...I am with you, and not absent from you, not at a distance; I am a very present help...
Christ was now sending them to set up his kingdom in the world, which was a great undertaking. And then doth he seasonably promise them his presence with them, To carry them on through the difficulties they were likely to meet with. "I am with you, to bear you up, to plead your cause; with you in all your services, in all your sufferings, to bring you through them with comfort and honour. When you go through the fire or water, I will be with you. In the pulpit, in the prison, lo, I am with you."
They shall have his constant presence; Always, pasas tas hemeras—all days, every day. "I will be with you on sabbath days and week days, fair days and foul days, winter days and summer days." There is no day, no hour of the day, in which our Lord Jesus is not present with his ministers...
Since his resurrection he had appeared to them now and then, once a week it may be, and scarcely that. But he assures them that they shall have his spiritual presence continued to them without intermission. Wherever we are the word of Christ is nigh us, even in our mouth, and the Spirit of Christ nigh us, even in our hearts. The God of Israel, the Saviour, is sometimes a God that hideth himself (Isa 45:15) but never a God that absenteth himself; sometimes in the dark, but never at a distance.
I am with you to the end of the world, not with your persons, they died quickly, but, First, With you and your writings. There is a divine power going along with the scripture of the New Testament, not only preserving them in being, but producing strange effects by them, which will continue to the end of time. Secondly, With you and your successors; with you and all the ministers of the gospel in the several ages of the church; with all to whom this commission extends, with all who, being duly called and sent...
When the end of the world is come, and the kingdom delivered up to God, even the Father, there will then be no further need of ministers and their ministration; but till then they shall continue, and the great intentions of the institution shall be answered. This is an encouraging word to all the faithful ministers of Christ, that what was said to the apostles, was said to them all, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
There is one word more remaining, which must not be overlooked, and that is Amen; which is not intended only for a concluding word, like finis at the end of a book, but it has its significance. It bespeaks Christ's confirmation of this promise, Lo, I am with you. It is his Amen, in whom all the promises are Yea and Amen, "Verily I am, and will be, with you; I the Amen, the faithful Witness, do assure you of it." It is the evangelist's Amen—So be it, blessed Lord.
Let us heartily say Amen to it; believe that it shall be so, and pray that it may be so:
Lord, Remember this word unto thy servants, upon which thou hast caused us to hope.
Image: The Four Evangelists ~ Jordaens Louvre