— Matthew 28:20
“I Am With You Always . . .”
Today as the fortieth day after Easter we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord and Savior. In the final verse of the last chapter of Matthew’s account, we hear the parting words of Jesus which ring in our ears and hearts even as this is one of the last of our chapel services here, and it is my final opportunity to stand behind this lectern (See footnote – Editor) and remind you of Jesus words: “Look, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”
During the past week I have been searching for a special Word to share with you today, and as various Scriptures have floated up and swirled around, this one has come back again and again — so precious to His disciples, and to me.
What did Jesus mean as He departed, leaving behind those friends who could not yet go along into heaven with Jesus? What does this mean when as He left the planet, He nonetheless could say: “Look now, I am not going to forsake you, because I am with you always, even through all the years or centuries until I come again to take you with me forever”?
Let us turn our attention to these simple words, one at a time. “Behold,” “Look,” “See here,” no matter that I am floating free of gravity, and I will soon be out of sight. Your eyes are not deceiving you, for I am on My way back home, and you will not see Me again in physical form like this until I return at the end of the age to judge the living and the dead.
But “I am with you,” He said, and He said it strongly and deliberately. Now we remind ourselves who this is that so spoke to them. He was not a mortal such as they. He was not a hologram or figment of their imagination, but the very Jesus who had been with them for three years as they sat at His feet during their Seminary training. This was the Jesus who had turned water into wine at Cana, who had raised the widow’s boy from his casket, who raised Lazarus from his tomb, who had Himself died but rose again on the third day. This was the Lord to whom was now given jurisdiction on earth and in heaven over everything that could ever affect the lives of His friends.
So here Jesus reminds them: I am the lord, the master, the CEO of planet Earth. This is your Jesus speaking, who can keep any and all divine promises, no matter what your eyes see or your heart trembles about. This divine Son of God in the flesh, now glorified, promises to never leave nor forsake His friends. I am Savior, says He; I simply cannot and will not leave you in the lurch. When I came down here I gave up My warm and happy home above for you to get you humans safely reunited with My Father. I put Myself through hell on earth in personal combat with your nemesis for you. I reconstructed everything smashed by Adam and all your ancestors for you. For you I regained your lost acceptability with the Father. You are the reason for my existence as Jesus Christ incarnate. I have loved you with an everlasting love, and I will not turn my back on you now or ever. So, says the Lord Jesus, I hereby promise that I will never stop being with you, and that simply because I hold you close to My heart. And as long as I have My heart and arms and hands, nothing shall take you out of My grip. You have My word on that, and My very life stands behind My word.
Dear friends, we may and should claim this promise for ourselves, for He meant it for all His disciples “until the end of the age/eon.” He means this for each of us by name, Rebekah and James, Ken and Kelly, Jeff and Jonathan — you are precious to Him forever. You are God’s special person, because Jesus is with you. No matter what comes to you this summer or ten years from now, whether today as you are at the point of entering into life’s mainstream, or when you arrive at the point of retiring from a career, you are God’s child by right of Jesus’ claiming you and loving you and caring for you. As you prepare for your career after graduation, or whether you stay on at ILC or go to school elsewhere, Jesus is with you all the way.
That is my comfort also as I leave the ILC faculty. I have Jesus above me and with me. He has told me: “Now look, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” He has supported me in my service career at this school of Christian education now swiftly drawing to a close. If you are graduating, He has not finished with your education, your nurturing, your blessing. Under His eye and with His hand of blessing all of us will continue in our God-chosen and Jesus-supported ways until the end of our days.
We have a good heritage from the hand of our good Father and our good Lord Jesus. Let this be your graduation memory verse, or your morning devotion and comfort as you retire in the evening — my Jesus is with me, one of God’s children, always, even to the end of my days, because He loves me.
— Paul R. Koch
(Since he was retiring from the faculty, this was Prof. Koch’s final chapel message to the ILC student body in May of last year. He has consented to share a number of his chapel addresses with our readers.)