and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
see him who is thus "with us always." What, then, is seeing the living Christ?
I. THE WORLD'S WAY OF SEEING CHRIST. The "world" is our Lord's term for men who are outside his special renewal, who are left to the guidance of the senses and the mind in their "feeling after God, if haply they might find him." The man in Christ is the man to whom God is the inspiration and the life. The man of the world is the man who is satisfied to be his own inspiration and his own life. The "world" represents such a seeing of Christ as is possible to the senses; and even to the senses God "manifest in the flesh" has been shown. The "world," on its own terms, and in its own ways, has seen the Christ. He has been looked upon, handled, and listened to. He has made his impressions on lawyer and Pharisee, Sadducee and scribe, priest and princely governor, as well as on the common people. The senses could see Christ, but they could not see much. And so to the "world," Christ is really lost, gone away. "He is not," says the world; "for I cannot see him." And with this it thinks to settle the question. But exactly what we have to contend with is the world's incapacity to see the unseen. It is not best to have our Lord in the sphere of our senses. Once having had, for a while, the sense manifestation of Christ, it is better, every way better, that the sense limits should be removed. Want we want now, and what we have, is an "unlocalized, invisible, spiritually present, everywhere-present Saviour."
II. THE DISCIPLES' WAY OF SEEING CHRIST. For their good, their Master often puzzled those disciples. As they sat at table with him in the upper room, they were in a most bewildered state of mind. They could not get at their Lord's meaning. He was going away. He was coming again. He was going away in order that he might come again. Others would not be able to see him, but they would be able. Perhaps they lighted on this explanation. He means that the memory of his life and character, and the influence of his wise teachings, will abide with us, and that will be, in some sense, like having him present with us. And that would be a wonderful advance on the "world's" way of seeing Christ. And yet even that way is too limited. For those first disciples it put Christ into the limits of their personal knowledge and experience of him, and that could not have been his meaning when he said, "But ye see me." For us it limits the apprehension of Christ to the Gospel records. He would have us reach something altogether higher than that. He himself is "with us all the days."
III. CHRIST'S WAY OF SHOWING HIMSELF TO US. Jesus, in the upper room, talked much to his disciples about the Spirit. They could not at first think of their Lord as Spirit, because they had him with them in the flesh. But he tried to make them feel that this Spirit would do for them permanently just what he had done for them temporarily. He would comfort them, watch over them, teach them, sanctify them. And at last he ventured to say, "When your eyes are fully opened, you will see that the Comforter, who 'abides with you alway,' will really be me come back to you again." "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." It is as if he had said," I pass from the region of bodily senses. I shall not be only a mental memory. To the opened, trusting, loving heart I shall come, to be the spirit and life of his spirit; to be a new and nobler self in him." In their measure the great apostles seem to have caught their Lord's meaning. St. Peter, standing beside the sick AEneas, spoke as if he actually saw the Lord there present, and said, "AEneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." St. John seems to be always with Christ. You never see him but you seem to see also his Master. You never listen to a word from his lips, or read a word from his pen, but you feel that, behind the words, is the inspiration of the Master himself. St. Paul seems to gain a twofold sight of the ever-present Christ. Sometimes he sees himself, as it were, ensphered in Christ: "I knew a man in Christ. Sometimes he realizes Christ as a mysterious other One, Divine One, who dwells within us. He speaks of Christ in us," and says, with the most surprising spiritual insight, "I live: yet not I; Christ liveth in me." Christ is with us all the days, and we may know that he is; we may even see him. - R.T.
And, lo, I am with you alway.I. That the Saviour is speaking of MORE THAN THAT PRESENCE, WHICH IS INSEPARABLE FROM THE NATURE OF HIS OWN ESSENTIAL AND ETERNAL GODHEAD. In the case of our Lord the Godhead is so modified by its alliance with the Humanity — modified not in itself, for there no modification would be possible — but in its action upon the Church, — that what is brought into contact with us, is the human sympathy of the Saviour, glorified by its connection with the Deity of His person.
II. The fact that communion with the Saviour is MADE POSSIBLE BY THE ADVENT OF THE COMFORTER; that the coming of the Spirit is, to all intents and purposes, a coming of the Saviour to the people who love Him. The personality that is in Him whom we address, must vibrate to the touch of the personality that is in us, — or else communion will not have taken place. This has been made possible, though Christ is absent in the body, by the advent of the Holy Ghost. No one will be disposed to question that the personality of God can reveal itself to the personality of man without the intervention of a visible form, and without the employment of articulate language. There are modes of fellowship between spirit and spirit with which we are unacquainted, yet real and efficacious. He is said to dwell in the believer. We speak not of grace but of living communication. And where the Spirit comes Christ comes; and where the Spirit and Christ come the Father comes.
III. This coming of Christ to His people, precious as it is, is SUITED TO A STATE OF IMPERFECTION AND DISCIPLINE. We look forward to something beyond that which we enjoy now. There was the coming of Christ in the flesh. That passed away. It gave way to the coming by the Spirit. That is better, more spiritual, but insufficient. We look forward to the final, exhaustive coming.
(G. Calthrop, M. A.)
1. It is sanctifying.
(J. Hamilton, D. D.)I. THE PROMISE — "I am with you alway." What did Christ mean by this.
1. Can we attach to the words a meaning similar to that conveyed when speaking of the dead. We say that they still live in the hearts of those who knew and loved them. After the lapse of years we can often recall with vividness the features of one departed.
2. Men may live in their works. Is Christ only present as other good men are? We who believe in Christ as a supernatural revelation regard this parting promise as implying infinitely more than this. It meant the indwelling of a Personal energy distinct from any memory of Him. Is it replied that this is incomprehensible; life is incomprehensible. Christ is not a power generated in nature.
II. THE FULFILMENT OF THE PROMISE.
(C. M. Short.)1. That presence is spiritual. Not the consecrated host. The believers in the upper room had nothing to appeal to their senses.
2. This presence of Christ consists in something more than there is in His word. Caesar, Plato are still with us in their words; but there is infinitely more in the presence of Christ. Behind the written word there is the living word, the invisible Saviour who manifests Himself to the heart.
3. This presence is especially promised to the Church, and is the secret of its triumph over infidelity and persecution.
4. But what makes men doubt the presence of Christ in the Church is the sight of the inward state of the Church itself.
5. But what Christ announces to the Church He announces to the individual soul.
6. Affliction may be a proof of the Lord's presence.
7. Is there anything on earth grander than faithful love? "I am with you alway."
(E. Bersier, D. D.)
(E. Bersier, D. D.)I. Christ's presence is exceedingly desirable to the saints.
1. The presence of Christ is an evidence of His love.
2. Christ's presence is attended with the most desirable effects; none can enjoy it without deriving the greatest advantages from it.
3. Present communion with Christ is an earnest of everlasting fruition.
II. A seemingly departing Christ may be constrained, as it were, to abide with His people.
1. By the exercise of a lively faith.
2. By fervent prayer.
3. By a suitable conduct towards him.
(A. L. R. Foote.)1. This is the language of One who had been through the passage of death and known the bitterness of separation.
2. It is difficult to realize this invisible presence; it is more real when realized. It is spiritual, always with us.
3. It conveys the idea' that before the mind of the speaker all the days lay ranged in their order to the last.
4. It is an inner presence.
5. Most minds, whatever they be, do best in fellowship.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)I. What an insight we have here into the essential nature of Christianity itself, and what a guarantee for its permanence and power. It is something more than an outward revelation of facts, more than a community of brethren: it is a life.
II. May we not see in this promise the designed preventative against or remedy for certain evils sure to infest and corrode the life of His kingdom.
III. It is of the guarantee of the permanence and power of Christianity in Christ's constant presence that I would now speak. The higher the principle of life the longer it is in coming to maturity; but also the surer when maturity is reached. This explains the slow progress of Christianity.
(J. T. Stannard.)
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