It is interesting to see how Matthew’s gospel opens as it closes. There are so many things that parallel between the birth of Christ and his death and resurrection. God’s fingerprints are all over this story in a way that I doubt very seriously a common tax collector had the art to put together on his own.
For example, angels show up both at the time of Jesus’ birth (chapter 1) and again just after his resurrection (chapter 28). Just after Jesus’ birth, a wicked king schemes to kill him (chapter 2). Of course, in chapter 27, Jesus is put to death by command of a Roman official. At the garden of Gethsemane, the disciples run just before his death (chapter 26). Just before Jesus’ public ministry, he calls the disciples to himself (chapter 4). The devil tries to tempt Jesus with “If you are the Son of God” (chapter 4) while the crowds at the cross do the same thing (chapter 27).
It is as if God is showing us that Jesus’ story is a glorious and complete accounting of the life of the Son of God. Putting those bookends, those parallels in the first and last chapters show us that God has been carrying out a clear plan all along.
The one that caught my attention today was in one of the clearest parallels that we can find in chapters 1 and 28.
Matthew 1 :20-23 – 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
Matthew 28:20b – And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Jesus will be called Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus said he will be with us to the very end of the age. We see promise and fulfillment. We see prediction and completion. We see the Lord Jesus take upon himself the mantle that was promised by an angel and which we must have as truth if we are to live in this world.
Jesus is God with us. Because he lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and rose from the grave in victory, he can be with us. We have hope and life because of the presence of Jesus. We can face the world because of the presence of Jesus. We can obey the commands of God because of the presence of Jesus. We can seek forgiveness for our sins and restoration to fellowship with God because of the presence and the intercession of Jesus.
Let those beautiful bookends give you courage today. God is showing you that part of his purpose in the Gospel According to Matthew is to let you know that Jesus is God and that he lives present with his people forever. We are not alone if we are in Christ. We are not defeated, regardless of what this world throws at us. We have hope for eternity because of the actual presence of the Savior right now.