"Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." Matthew 28:20
In their first and primary sense, those words are addressed to the ministers of Christ, the ones (and the only ones) He has called, commissioned, and qualified to preach His Gospel, make disciples, baptize the same, and instruct them in the Faith. The fact that their Master declares He will be with such "unto the end of the world" is a clear intimation that He will provide and maintain a succession of Gospel ministers unto the end, that the forces of evil will never succeed in banishing the Gospel from the earth!
"Lo, I am with you always": it is of incalculable benefit for the servant of Christ to appropriate those words, bear them constantly in mind and mix faith with them. There are many occasions when he needs their bracing influence, as there will be seasons when they should have a sobering effect upon him. Let him ever seek to conduct himself, both in public and private, as in the immediate presence of his Master. Let him draw strength and comfort from Exodus 3:12; Acts 18:9-10; 2 Timothy 4:16-17.
Yet let it be pointed out that it would be quite wrong to restrict those precious words of Christ to preachers. When comparing Scripture with Scripture, we find that they certainly have a wider application, that they belong equally unto all the members of the household of faith; Hebrews 13:5-6 makes that sufficiently clear. There the apostle quotes that wondrous promise which God gave originally unto Moses (Deu 31:8) and then to Joshua (Jos 1:5): "I will never leave you, nor forsake you"; and then informs us that it is the privilege of faith for all Christians to take that promise unto themselves: "So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper."
Christ is present with each of His own people. Those words of Matthew 28:20 express one of the marvels of His theanthropic Person: though His humanity is now localized in heaven, yet His divine presence fills heaven and earth. It is His favorable presence which is with His people. It is one of the grand blessings of redemption that the Redeemer is never absent from the redeemed. This is one of the "exceeding great and precious promises" of our Lord (2 Peter 1:4), which is our privilege and advantage to live upon.
This inexpressibly blessed fact of the Lord's abiding presence with His own people, is far too little apprehended by any of them. O to enter this new year with the realization that the one who loved me and gave Himself for me, accompanies me into it! Then why should I fear what may lay ahead of me in 1948? Whatever may be my circumstances, whatever changes I may pass through, whatever I may be called upon to bear—Christ Himself will be my constant companion! But only faith—not imagination or feelings—will be able to realize and appreciate His presence.
Literally the Greek reads, "Lo! I am with you all the days," which, personally, we much prefer to "always." No fair-weather friend is Christ. He is with us in cloudy days equally as in sunny ones. What comfort, peace, strength, and joy that fact must bring to the one whose faith lays hold of it! It can never be ill with the one with whom Christ is, no, not in the worst condition of outward trouble. Rather must it be well with him, for the Lord is "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
That opening, "Lo!" is designed to arrest attention and evoke wonderment. It is usually translated, "Behold," but seven times over in Matthew's Gospel, it is rendered, "Lo": the references are Matthew 2:9; 3:16-17; 24:23; 26:47; 28:7, 20; and all of them are connected more or less directly with our blessed Lord. "Lo!"—mark it well, carefully consider, joyously contemplate. "Lo!"—be astonished, be awed, bow in worship at this amazing fact!
"I"—the eternal Lover of your souls, the One who bore your sins in My own body on the tree, the risen Redeemer who now lives to make intercession for you. "I"—the Maker of heaven and earth, the Lord of angels, the Beloved of the Father, "am with you": not only at God's right hand—but by your side too.
"Am with you": not only have I commissioned My servants to edify you, My angels to serve you—but Myself in person am present with you.
"All the days": not merely an occasional visitor—but an abiding friend!
"Even unto the end" of our earthly pilgrimage.
No wonder that such a statement is prefaced with "Lo!" "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end" (Mat 28:20). That includes everything. That is saying all that can be said. That is a promise which comprehends all other promises. It is far more than though He said, "Your sins are forgiven," or "Peace be unto you," or "Be of good cheer." In those, there is but a single good—but in Christ Himself, we have all good!
"Lo! I am with you": therefore, protection, sustenance, strength, comfort, and everything you can desire is available. Whatever real good you covet—is contained in that word! O what a difference it will make in our experience if we journey through all the days of 1948 realizing that Christ is ever by our side! What can there be to fear?
"The one who formed you says: Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" (Isaiah 43:1-3).
He is indeed Emmanuel, "God with us." "The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge" (Psalm 46:11).
Is not our failure to realize the favorable presence of our divine Redeemer the main cause of our slackness in communion and carelessness in our walk? Does not that failure explain our weakness, irresolution, timidity? Christ is present to counsel, to direct our way, to shelter, to energize, to comfort. Then make use of Him: draw from Him, lean upon Him. Does He not say, "Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand!" (Isaiah 41:10) Then conduct yourself accordingly, Christian reader.
Memorize that wondrous statement: meditate upon it until its sweetness fills your soul. Recall it every time a fresh difficulty, trial, or emergency is presented. Look away from the threatening storm and your own weakness, unto that all-sufficient Savior who is by your side. And as the final crisis approaches, exclaim, "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).
Faith's consciousness of Christ's presence will have:
First, a restraining and deterring effect. If I realize that Christ is with me, shall I go to the movies or the dance hall?
Second, a cheering effect, counteracting the depressing state the world is now in. Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth—but you be occupied with the perfections of that blessed One who is at your right hand.
Third, a strengthening influence. Here is a Refuge into which we may flee at all times, an almighty Friend to turn unto for all we need.
Fourth, a comforting power. A reader may recently have suffered a sore bereavement, the removal of a loved and lifelong partner. What solid consolation is there here: he or she has gone—but "God remains!" (Hebrews 1:11)!
Fifth, how this should endear Christ unto us: "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (John 13:1), and He evidences His love unto them thus. He thinks so much of them, He will not leave them. Surely such divine love—must beget love.