I’ve been thinking a lot about the last part of the gospel of Matthew these days.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
So, I imagine this scene. Jesus has gathered all His disciples and is about to ascend into heaven. He gives them their marching orders—which sound glamorous, especially when they are freshly enraptured with His Kingship and authority. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is starting to make sense to them and they can’t stop worshipping. This must have been a spiritual high worth writing home about.
But maybe, just maybe, in Jesus’ mind as he looks at his disciples, he sees the way that each one of them will be hated and mocked and eventually die for the sake of the gospel. He sees the long days and the dark nights and the prison cells and the persecution and false teachers. He sees the days where they’ll wonder if its worth everything that they’ve given up. He’ll see the days that they would be under great pressure, far beyond what they could endure, to the point where they would despair of life itself.
Thinking of these things, He doesn’t promise them jewels in their crown, or status, or all their dreams coming true or even success in their mission. He gets real level with them and looks them in the eye and says (my version), “Boys, if you’ve never been sure of anything else, you can be sure of this. I. am. with. you. I will always be with you. Right up until the end of it all.”
1. He will meet you on the way.
There will be times when we don’t have the resources necessary to complete the task in front of us. Go anyways. Give anyways. Speak anyways. He will meet you on the way.
Oh, sure, He is with us if we choose a couch potato life. But when we go and make disciples, we just experience His presence differently.
Maybe something like this. It’s one thing to sit in a Ferrari in a showroom—it’s good and you can honestly tell your friends what the dashboard and seats in a Ferrari look like and feel like. But, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a whole other thing to get that Ferrari out on the autobahn and test the limits of its speed and feel how it handles the road and blows past the rice burners.
The Christian life, powered by the Spirit, was designed to be on mission and that’s where it works the best. That’s where you experience the thrill of the promise, “I am with you.”
2. His presence is all we’ve ever wanted.
And while we’re out there on mission and He’s near enough to touch, you forget that you are doing without some things and your knees are skinned and you’re in the middle of a lot of brokenness. You start to realize that a comfy life isn’t what you wanted. A pain-free life wasn’t the thing to be protected at all costs.
Jesus is all you’ve really wanted all along. Just His presence. Just a deep, steady sureness that He is with you. Oh the joy and strength and satisfaction and delight that we find there. Only Jesus knows our deepest desires, and He speaks right to them in this passage.
3. Love Him more than His provision.
Now, don’t get me wrong, He provides way more than His presence. He provides more than enough of all the emotional/financial/time resources that you’ll need to carry out the mission.
I was reminded of this recently when I heard of a financial need and offered to meet it before I really thought through where I would get the money (I just heard all my brothers roll their eyes from here, and I do not necessarily condone this sort of financial management ;). I went about my day, seeing the people and doing the things. When I got home, I lifted my water bottle and found a $100 bill in my console. I don’t know who put it there, but I immediately knew what it was for. (Sidenote: following Jesus is like going to the store with someone else’s credit card. It. is. so. fun.)
He frees us from building our lives around pursuing that $100, to being content with and pursuing the secret place. The pursuit of provision first is elusive and will never satisfy or be enough. The pursuit of Jesus first will be more than enough, in every way.