With Us Now and til the End

by Grace Sutton May 30, 2022

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20

Do you believe Jesus is with you? Or is he standing off in the heavens, waiting to join the glorified you at the end of the age?

I am with you,he said.

This promise comes at the end of the Christian’s high calling. We are to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). But as you and I well know, the going can get tough.

Do you believe that you are called by the Great Commission to reach all people for the love of Christ, but his love will not always reach you where you are?

He is With Us in Our Suffering

Does he recoil from the wounds of disappointment, betrayal, or persecution? Are there gashes too deep for him to stomach? Didn’t he say he came to earth to heal those who need healing—not those who are already well (Matthew 9:12)? The patients, nor the pharisees’ scorn, kept the Great Physician in heaven. He came to them, and he will come to you.

Our pain can paint our sufferings as worse than the Son of God’s disappointment in his inattentive followers (Mark 14:37), betrayal by his his own people (Matthew 26:14-15), and persecution on a cross. Though we can be wounded (and many of us are, in countless different ways), we will not be pierced for the world’s transgressions or crushed by our own iniquities because Christ experienced that pain for us (Isaiah 53:5). Though we will never undergo Christ’s substitutionary suffering, we share in his suffering as we become like him and are rejected as he was rejected (Philippians 3:10; Galatians 6:17; John 15:20).

As we become like him in this way, the Wounded One is not a hypocrite, misunderstanding and distant from the wounded you. The tragic stories of how we are treated are not too ugly for the crucified Savior to handle. He is still with you.

He is With Us in Our Sin

But are our sins too ugly for him to handle? As we fulfill the Great Commission, our mission can be twisted by people-pleasing, fame-seeking. The spotlight of Christian leadership shines on our all-too-well-known inadequacies (no matter how high or low the position). We can falter in false humility, seeking praise for our apologies rather than God’s glory in our weakness; or we hide our failures and shortcomings to put people’s eyes on our greatest selves, rather than the great God working in us; or our hurt can platform our ministry on selfish vendettas more than holy compassion. There is no end to the ways personal sins can subtly or not-so-subtly interlace one’s ministry.

This requires the caveat that disciples and disciple-makers will be judged by their fruit. Jesus taught us that wolves in sheep’s clothing will be “cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:19). Not everyone who serves in the name of Christ will see him (Matthew 7:21). For those who bear bad fruit, Christ will not be with them, but cast them out of his kingdom in the end.

And yet, not everyone who sins will be cast out. Those who recognize their sin identify with the truth. To say, “we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). In Luke’s parable, the pharisee in the temple presented to God a list of reasons why he should be justified, while the tax collector stood “far off” and could only utter: “Lord have mercy!” (Luke 18: 9-14). We are told the latter went away justified, rather than the former (Luke 18:14). The tax collector knew his sin and the Lord gave him mercy.

Repentance is the fruit of faithful ministry, but it inevitably exposes our sin. Nevertheless, we are grafted into the Lord’s righteousness instead of uprooted from it. The roots of his mercy are deep enough to grow us still. As Dane Ortlund explains in his book, Gentle and Lowly:

“Every human friend as a limit. If we offend enough, if a relationship gets damaged enough, if we betray enough times, we are cast out. The walls go up. With Christ, our sins and weaknesses are the very resumé items that qualify us to approach him. Nothing but coming to him is required—first at conversion and a thousand times thereafter until we are with him upon death.”[1]

He is with you.

He is Always with Us

Feeling alone is an occupational hazard that comes with being human, but being alone is something the Christian can never be.

In our own wisdom, it makes sense to recoil at adversity. When things get hard and life looks miserable, we expect some to step back and take a break from us. And when we realize our actions and motives are less than pristine, we think no one will approach us until we present ourselves clean. As Bavinck recognizes:

“It is human beings who have pronounced the harshest and most severe judgment on themselves. It is always better to fall into the hands of the Lord than into those of people, for his mercy is great. For when God condemns us, he at the same time offers his forgiving love in Christ, but when people condemn people, they frequently cast them out and make them the object of scorn.”[2]

It is not so with the Lord. Others may cast us out, but he will draw near (John 6:37). Though we judge ourselves as too far gone, he himself chooses what is weak to shame the strong, so no one may boast (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Wherever we go for the Great Commission, toward mistreatment or mistakes or sorrow, we will never be alone. It is promised: he is with us now and til the end.

 

[1] Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 64.

[2] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Abridged in One Volume, ed. James Bolt (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 368.