Today was hard.
But “hard” (difficult/challenging/whatever word choice fits) is completely relative right now, isn’t it?
Everyone in our home is healthy (thank God) and we are together. We have this home, this gift of a home, and it is holding all of our experience right now: all of the hours of the day and every bit of emotion squeezed out from all five of us. I feel the muscles in my neck and shoulders tense as little voices escalate in a petty argument over a toy and then I feel them relax again as the delicious scent of dinner wafts upstairs to my office. For now, the door is closed and I am thankful for so much– for my generous husband who manages the dinner chore most nights and for the three little boys who call my name a thousand times a day. Earlier, I was not so gracious; earlier, I wanted to hide under this desk and cry.
All of this is normal, I am told. The pressure from drastically altered schedules and new responsibilities and limited external resources, all squeezed within these four walls, is bound to build up. The feeling of helplessness toward other’s experience is there, too. I know some of you have a very quiet, empty home right now and I am sad for that. I wish I could reach through and offer a warm hand to hold. We need so much as humans.
My experience is real, but it is not the truth. This is a hard lesson and I feel the testing of it nearly every moment. Do you feel it right now too?
When Jesus was leaving his disciples to return to the Father, he looked them in the eyes and told them three things.
The gospel of Matthew recorded the moment like this (28:18-20),
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
You have to remember that these guys were totally shaken to the core. The last month and a half had wrecked any idea of what they thought being a Jesus-follower meant. There was exhaustion that ached, there was fear and hiding in the wee hours of the morning, mobs, violence, and so much blood. There was death. And more hiding.
Then, there was hope. An empty tomb. The words from a trusted sister that yes, he is alive!
All of this had happened so recently, the stress of it all still clung to their muscles. But as Jesus gave this final bit of living word in the flesh, like the last morsel from a fresh loaf of bread, the disciples savored it.
Here is what he said.
First, in what is commonly refereed to as “the Great Commission,” Jesus assures the disciples of his authority— he did, in fact, rightly rule over every single bit of what is heaven and what is earth. The authority was not limited or temporary, but complete and infinite. Jesus Christ is God, triune in being. He is over all and through all and in all (Eph. 4:6); he is before all and in him all things hold together (Col. 1:17). If there is any question in the minds of the disciples of the power or pervasiveness of the Spirit of Christ, Jesus is now making his point clear. Nothing was outside of his reality.
Second, Jesus gives them a mission. Simply put, he told them to go and make more disciples -to baptize them in the perfectly unified love of the Father, Son, and Spirit- and to teach them the ways of living according to Christ’s kingdom. There is a wild quality about his directive that is without clear detail, more of a prophetic edict of what is to come (rather than a detailed manual of instruction). Because he held all authority, even that of time itself, Jesus chose to use that moment to speak words of promise over his friends and followers.
And finally, Jesus says something so wonderful and so generous, it could only come from God himself.
The Emmanuel, God-with-us, said,
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
This is the truth. He is with us! Til the very end!
In our fear of the unknown future, in our pressing weariness, in the mundane of the daily quarantine life, Christ is with us.
When we can’t understand what is happening in the world, we can trust that he is the ultimate authority (and one day all things will bow to him.) When we feel without purpose, lost in the haze of this wierd time, we can remember our charge to make disciples of all nations (even the “nations” within our own home.) When we are afraid, we can get still and listen and seek with the deepest part of our soul– and we can trust that he is with us, even now, during a pandemic.
We can even be sure of it.