New Year’s Eve Sermon on Matthew 28:20
Text: Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
When someone makes a promise to you, how do you feel? What reactions run through your mind? Unfortunately, many of us, when we hear a promise, begin to have our doubts. We wonder if they are really going to carry through on their promise. We wonder if this is just being said to pacify us and the person really has no intention of to actually do it. It is sad that we have become so jaded when someone makes a promise to us. We have all had so many promises made to us that have been broken. This evening, we want to look at this promise that Jesus gives to us in Matthew 28:20. We look at JESUS’ PROMISE TO US IN THIS NEW YEAR. We want to see 1. Why We Can Trust This Promise, 2. What Exactly He Is Promising Us, and 3. How Long Is This Promise Good For?
How do we know that Jesus will keep this promise to us? For the answer to this question, we need to go back to the end of the previous chapter and the beginning of this chapter of Matthew. Those two sections deal with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. To appreciate what is written there, let us take an overview of the year that is coming to its close. That is a common thing to do at the end of a year. You look back over the past year and you point out the best of the year and the worst of the year. Unfortunately, the overview of the past year, would have its fair share of low lights. There would be these many low lights because of our sins. Take a few moments and think about the times when you have talked badly about other people, hurting their reputations. What about the times when we had the opportunity to help someone and we decided not to because we did not want to be bothered or to take the time. Did we always gladly hear and learn God’s Word? Did we make the most of every opportunity we had to hear God’s Word? What about those times when we knew that we should forgive others, but we found it more satisfying to hold onto our anger or our hurt? The list of the low lights of the past year would be great, for we have all sinned and deserve nothing but God’s wrath, not only for this life, but also in the one to come.
Once we have done this soul-searching, then we can truly appreciate the crucifixion and resurrection of our Savior. When I realize that I was lost forever on my own, then I see more clearly what Jesus has done for me. Then, when I look at the cross, I do not just see some pathetic figure, being unjustly put to death. I see my Savior, who willingly stepped into the path of God’s punishment, that I should have faced. I see the one who loved me so much that he suffered the torments of hell in my place. Then, when I look at the empty tomb, I do not just see something that is beyond my comprehension, that someone could rise from the dead. I see the evidence that the Father accepted the Son’s payment for my sins. I see the fact that, once I leave this earth, I will live eternally with my Savior. How do I know that Jesus will keep his promise to me in this new year? I need only to look at the end of chapter 27 and the beginning of chapter 28 of Matthew. There I see that he did everything necessary for my salvation. Surely, he will be with me during this life time, as well. In addition, because Jesus is the Son of God, he does not lie. When he promises, he will do it.
Now, what is it exactly that Jesus has promised to me? He said, “I will be with you.” Please note, that he did not promise you that you would be traveling down paths of sunshine and roses. I wish that I could promise that to you. I wish that I could promise you that every day in the upcoming year was going to be wonderful. However, I cannot, and you would not believe me even if I did promise it to you. Jesus, the creator of all things, does not promise you that either. We live in a world that is full of sin, and the effects of sin touch so many aspects of our lives. There will be misfortune in the days that lie ahead of you, whether great or small, I cannot say. Yet, you have your Savior’s promise that he will be with you. For example in Hebrews 13:5, we read this promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Whatever you may face in the new year, you will not face alone. We also have the assurance that everything that we might face will be for our benefit. The Lord promises in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Paul reminds us of this in Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” What exactly is Jesus promising us in this verse? He is promising that he will always be with you. He will be beside, rejoicing when things are going wonderfully. He will also be there beside you when the road is bumpy and full of twists and turns. He will be with you to strengthen you and hold you up with his righteous right hand. The new year is full of many unknowns. How wonderful it is that we do not have to face them alone.
This brings us to the final part of Jesus’ promise. How long will he hold true to this promise? There are so many promises that we receive that are only good for so long. The one making the promise will keep their promise, but only up to a certain point. Jesus says that he will be with us “until the end of the age.” What is meant by the “end of the age?” It means that Jesus will keep his promises to his believers until the end of the world. There are no time restrictions to this promise that Jesus has made. He will be with us until the end of the world. He will be with us individually, either to the end of the world or until the end of our life here on this earth, whichever comes first. You do not have to worry that Jesus will just be with you during this or that time of your life. He will be with you always. He makes so many wonderful assurances of his constant care and concern. There are places where he describes his loving care for us, as a mother cares for her children. He speaks of us being engraved on the palms of his hands, so that he is continually reminded of us. Jesus promises that he will be with us “to the end of the age.”
What then? What happens after the end of this age? We will go from Jesus being with us to our being with him in heaven. There we will be free from all that makes life so difficult on this earth. We will never have to face one day of uncertainty. We will never have to face one day of pain or suffering. We will never have to struggle with anything again. We will be able to serve our Lord the way that he deserves to be served. Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “We will be with the Lord forever.” So, you see, the year that lies in front of us is a win-win situation. Either the Lord will be with us every step of the way, or we will be with the Lord forever. It certainly does not get any better than that.
When someone makes a promise to us, we are often skeptical. Deserved or not, there are certain professions who are associated with promises made, but not kept. We have found that, if you want to be 100 percent sure of what you are getting, you have to read the fine print. You check to see what is all included in the deal that is being offered to you. Are there some sort of hidden loopholes? Are there certain time restrictions? How thankful we are that we do not have to wonder about the promises that God makes to us. There are many that can be found in his Word. We have his promise that he will care for all of our needs. We have his promise that, as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, day and night will not cease. We also have his promise that, in spite of the devil’s opposition, his Word will continue to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. We have his promise that his Word will continue to be present in our world. This evening, we have had the privilege of being reminded of another of our Savior’s promises. He says to us, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what you will all face this year. However, I can send you forth into it, because of our Savior’s promise to you, not only in this next year, but all the days of your life. Go forward, confidently holding to your Savior’s promise. Amen.
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