Many of us are reading through the Bible this year using Robert M’Cheyne’s reading plan. Someone mentioned to me yesterday that it’s amazing how sometimes you find that the reading you’re doing in one place in Scripture fills out what you’re reading somewhere else.
It makes sense that it should be this way, since “the Word of God is living and active,” as the author to the Hebrews says. In any case, though, when we do spot the connections, or start to notice a theme emerging, it can be a great moment for the Holy Spirit to teach us or deepen our understanding.
Today, as I was reading the final chapters of both Matthew and Acts, I was struck by something in the two books.
First, in Acts we read that after Paul and co. were shipwrecked on Malta, the people watched him very closely. They didn’t know what to make of him. Sitting around the campfire that night, a snake approached and bit Paul. The people were sure this must be divine judgment of some sort. They assumed that Paul must be evil in some way, because even after his seemingly miraculous survival of the shipwreck, the gods were going to make sure he came to a terrible end, and sent a snake to carry out the judgment.
Then something amazing happened. Paul shook the snake off his arm, and suffered no effects from the bite. This was a miracle. So the same people who only a moment before were about to consider Paul a demon “changed their minds and said that he was a god” (Acts 28:6).
We might shrug this off and attribute it to the superstitions of people from long ago. But isn’t there something painfully recognizable in the people’s reaction? In our culture, people who are adored by the press one day are vilified a week later by the same reporters and the same public. In our culture, we’re on one bandwagon this year (whether it’s a diet or a music group or a reality TV show) and a year later we’ve moved on to something else, and the things and people we used to love are “yesterday’s news.” We are a terribly fickle people. Without carefully guarding against it, we are all prone to this problem.
By contrast, in Matthew 28 we are reminded of the wonderful stability of our Lord. As he commissioned his disciples (which means “followers” or “learners”) to go and make more disciples, those disciples heard great promises. The angel told them, “he is going before you…” (Matthew 28:7) and Jesus himself made a promise that still holds true for us: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (28:20).
Our world—and our lives—can be so fickle, so untrustworthy. But Jesus is our stable and dependable Lord who is “with us always.” We are never alone.