Jesus’ last words to his disciples before he ascended into heaven were: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Interesting! Jesus physically departs from his disciples, yet he says to them,
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20)
Jesus’ last words and divine promise to be present "to the very end of the age" include us. He is telling you and me that I will not be physically present, but I will be with you. How are we to understand what appears to be a contradictory statement?
Part of the explanation can be found in the Gospel of John. Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus was preparing his disciples for the transition ahead. In John, Jesus says, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth." (John 14:15)
Pentecost Sunday is the day the church celebrates the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to his disciples and all who are followers of Jesus. With the coming of the Spirit, the disciples would no longer be left alone. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, would be present with them and with us.
On Pentecost Sunday, the coming of the Holy Spirit created quite a disturbance and attracted a crowd. Some, trying to make sense of what they were seeing, imagined the disciples were drunk. Peter stands up and begins to explain to the observers what is happening. He says: this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams, Evan on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy (Acts 2:16–18).
One of the results of the coming of the Spirit as predicted in Joel is seen in verse 21. "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." At the end of Peter’s explanation and his preaching of the gospel, we read in verse 41: "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day."
The coming of the Holy Spirit, who is one with the Father and with the Son, is how Jesus was able to physically leave his disciples yet say, "I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt 28:20).
On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ promise to be with us to the very end of the age.
Father, we thank you that you did not leave us alone. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to live in us and guide us. We give thanks in Jesus’ name. Amen.