One of my favorite verses is found in Matthew’s Gospel: “Lo, I am with you always!” I’ve clung to that promise from my childhood onward.
I bought the small plaque (pictured above) with the verse in German when living in Nebraska nearly 20 years ago. It now hangs in my sewing studio often reminding me to count my blessings.
DEPORTATION AND EXILE
Matthew’s gospel records the genealogy of Jesus. He makes a point of referencing the tragic deportation and exile of the Jews into Babylonian captivity (Mt 1:11, 12, 17).
Why? Why remind the audience of that tragic time in their history? How could they ever forget?
The nation on its knees in utter humiliation!
When Matthew describes the birth of Jesus – the hoped-for-deliverer – we are reminded that Mary, the virgin, would name him Immanuel, God with Us! (Matt 1: 23).
Finally! God heard the cries of a waiting people. It had been too long!!
Dare we dream again?
Would the nation rise to stand in victory?
Would humiliation give way to grandeur?
The bulk of Matthew records the life and ministry of the Messiah (Mt 2-25). But two closing chapters are devoted to telling about another devastation (ch. 26-27).
Once again, dreams are dashed.
Jesus is arrested.
The Messiah is crucified.
Again they fall to their knees in humiliation!
But wait! Matthew saves the best for last!
Resurrection is around the corner!
Mary, Mary Magdalene, and other women hear the Good News first! He is alive!! The Messiah is alive. The angel from heaven let them know (28:1; 5-12).
THE DONNING OF A NEW AGE
Women become the first evangelizers! Women were the first to preach the Good News (Matt 28:5-10). Remarkably, Matthew, unlike many today, seemed fine with that!
But Matthew’s remarkable account appears to end too abruptly. Jesus is on a mountain. He speaks to the disciples. The story ends.
Matthew does not record an ascension into the heavens as do Mark (Mk 16:19) and Luke (Lk 24:50-51). I’ve often wondered why?
Could it be God is yet with us?
Jesus’s last words in Matthew are not simply, “Go. Disciple. Baptize. Teach.” By focusing upon the Great Commission we easily miss his very last words, as recorded by Matthew:
“And lo, I am with you always, to the very end of the age!”
Jesus, as if in expectation of yet another dispersion, another exile, of persecution on the horizon for those who choose to follow him, in anticipation of a time when
Dreams would surely be shattered.
Families would be divided.
Loved ones would desert us.
Doubts would be sure to come.
Many would be humiliated, and persecuted.
We hear Jesus say,
“I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS!”
Those very words, first given to the first-century believers at the foot of that mountain, echo over and over, throughout the ages and are carried onward to comfort each one of us at the dawn of this new year of 2021.
Dreams were shattered in 2020.
They will be again in 2021.
Loved ones were lost in 2020.
There will be losses in 2021.
Families have been separated.
Division seems to be the by-word of the season.
When doubts plague your heart and mind in 2021, let the words of Jesus comfort you:
“I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS!! TO THE VERY END OF THE AGE!”