When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream in the very first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel the angel told Joseph that of his son would that “they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us”” (Verse 23).
God is with us.
This is the promise and the strength of Jesus Christ. We find strength and hope in the knowledge that God is with us, that God walks beside us, that God dwells in us. We are never alone because God is with us.
We know what a great promise this is because all of us have, at some point in our life, have felt alone. It happens to all of us. It’s happened when we have separated ourselves from others or have felt separated from others important in our lives. Or we have felt abandoned by or friends or family. That feeling of being alone, can be devastating, debilitating, paralyzing. But the news of the Matthew’s Gospel, from the start to the finish, includes this most important promise, that God is with us. It is found in those first verses in the name if Jesus being Emmanuel and it is repeated in the very last words in Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus says, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Verse 20)
If you are in a place in your life where you are feeling alone, today, then it is most important for you to hear that promise that Jesus makes to all of us who are walking our journey of faith. God is with you. You are not alone.
And also know that when God is with you, nothing is impossible for God. This accomplishing of the impossible is the theme of the second part of Jesus last words with his disciples in Matthew’s Gospel, a passage which is often referred to as the Great Commissioning. And it is called “Great” because it is so very grand in scale. Jesus is calling his disciples to something really big, something bigger than they have ever done before, a task or mission bigger than they probably ever imagined. You see back in chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus commissioned the twelve disciples with a much smaller “big” task. He said to them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” (Matthew 10:5-7) In his earlier commissioning, Jesus is telling the disciples to keep their work to the house of Israel. But now in chapter 28, the last chapter, Jesus has something even bigger in mind for them. Now Jesus is sending them out to make disciples of all nations, not just the house of Israel, but each and every person of every race and nation. This is indeed a “great” task.
God doesn’t only have great tasks in mind for his disciples. God has put a great task into the heart of each and every one of us. Maybe it is a dream to be the best parent that we can be, or to be successful in our job, or to be the best spouse we can be. Perhaps it is to be the person who stands up for God’s creation and our job as good stewards of God’s creation, or to stand up for Justice for the poor and persecuted in our world and society, or to be a comfort for those who suffer. I know that as I list off these great tasks, one of these or some great dream like it will ring true with the dream you have in your heart. I tell you it is God who planted those seeds within you and it is God wants to help you to accomplish those great tasks.
I also know that just as quickly, the doubt and fears that have kept you from accomplishing those great tasks will also rise up. But, when we doubt ourselves and think things like: I am not good enough, our smart enough, or I am not strong enough, or I never get the breaks I need to accomplish what I want, then we keep ourselves from achieving our great tasks. These negative thoughts hold us back.
I know this is true because this is just what happened on that mountain in in that last chapter of Mathew’s gospel. There are some disciples in that passage we are told who when the see the resurrected Jesus on the mountain give thanks for this great miracle and worship him. But, as well, we are told that some doubt.
But how does Jesus react in the face of this doubt? Jesus encourages them step beyond their fears and doubt and dream bigger. Jesus wants them to think bigger, to beyond just the nation of Israel, to extend to all nations. Jesus encourages them to dream bigger, because he knows that if they stay in faith with him they will accomplish great things, things greater than they had imagined before.
As we face the fears, worries, and doubts, that we have when we think about that great task that God has put in our life, let us be reminded of the promise that through Jesus, God has promised to be present with us. May you be reminded that when God is with you, you are never alone to face the challenges you meet and may you be strengthened by the knowledge that when we walk together with God nothing is impossible.