ESV Matt 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…
In the western world much is made of being present when someone issues their last words. We want to know what the final words were from politicians, authors, great military men and preachers.
The first time my father was hospitalized with a heart attack, he pulled me close to his hospital bed and said, “I want you to know, I have always been very proud of you.” You have no idea how much I needed to hear that. My father worked in the world of finance, dealing with budgets, financial forecasting and investments. I have only once in my life — a very brief time working with InterVarsity — had anything resembling a regular, normal salary. I’ve always felt like that by the standard he would measure achievement, there wouldn’t be much to be proud of.
But he said he was, and although it was twelve years later when he finally passed away, I have always regarded that sentence as his ‘official’ last words to me; his blessing.
So what were Jesus’ last words to his disciples? Ask most people, and they will say, “The Great Commission;” the command to, as The Message bible puts it, “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.”
But another phrase follows that,
(ESV)20 … And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
It’s a promise of his ongoing presence and comfort. You have no idea how much you and I need to hear that. We live in a world where it is so easy to lapse into the mindset that, as a song once said, “God is watching us, from a distance.” But the scriptures teach that God is very close, very present, very much at hand.
While Luke doesn’t reiterate the exact words, he mentions this blessing.
(NIV) Luke 24:50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
This was Jesus’ benediction to us.
Matthew Henry writes:
Two solemn farewells we find our Lord Jesus giving to his church, and his parting word at both of them is very encouraging; one was here, when he closed up his personal converse with them, and then his parting word was, “Lo, I am with you always; I leave you, and yet still I am with you;” the other was, when he closed up the canon of the scripture by the pen of his beloved disciple, and then his parting word was, “Surely, I come quickly. I leave you for awhile, but I will be with you again shortly,” Rev. 22:20. By this it appears that he did not part in anger, but in love, and that it is his will we should keep up both our communion with him and our expectation of him.
Many of you will find this verse echoing in your minds as you’ve thought about this:
Hebrews 13:5b God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.” (NIV)
The writer of Hebrews is recollecting several passages including Deut 31:6, Deu 31:8, Joshua 1:5 and 1Kings 8:57 Again, Peterson renders this: God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,”
You have no idea how much the world needs to hear this. Maybe that’s why it’s paired with the command to go out into the world…