For other posts see our Collection of Posts Responding to Bible Contradictions.
Today’s post will tackle another question that the Skeptic Annotated Bible asked: “Did Jesus say he would always be with his disciples?”
Here are the two answers which the skeptic believes shows a Bible contradiction:
teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. (Matthew 26:11)
For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. (Mark 14:7)
For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me. (John 12:8)
(All Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible)
Here’s a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:
- When dealing with skeptics’ claim of Bible contradictions it seems one can never be reminded enough of what exactly is a contradiction. A contradiction occurs when two or more claims conflict with one another so that they cannot simultaneously be true in the same sense and at the same time.
- We need to see if the verses cited by the skeptic support the stated premises since we have seen in our series that sometimes the skeptics improperly interpreted the verses and does not justify the premises.
- Matthew 28:20 definitely teaches Christ will be with His disciples. Christ is quoted here. He even emphasizes that with the the word “always.” In case that’s not clear Jesus’ last phrase was “even to the end of the age.”
- All three verses cited to support the premise “No, Jesus did not say he would always be with his disciples” are synoptic parallel of the same event in which Mary sister of Martha anointed Jesus and the disciples sneered at what she was doing. Jesus’ response to His disciples in defense of Mary is what is quoted from three of the Gospels. These verses definitely do document Jesus saying “you do not always have Me.“
- Thus the verses cited support our skeptic’s premises.
- We do not necessarily have a contradiction here if we realize that there are different sense in which Jesus can be present.
- The Bible teaches that the Person of the Son of God has two natures: He is God and He is fully man. For a defense on the Divinity of Jesus I recommend this Seventeen Sessions on the Trinity! Audios and Notes. For an excellent resource on Christ’s humanity I highly recommend and have reviewed The Man Christ Jesus by Bruce A. Ware.
- Christ is God the Son who became fully man. He can manifest His presence either as God or man. For instance, in the virgin birth Christ manifests His presence to Joseph and Mary in His humanity as their infant child. But that does not negate the fact that Christ will one day manifest His presence also as God on Judgement Day, etc.
- The presence of Christ as man is different than the presence of Christ as God. Christ’s presence in His human nature is limited since Human nature itself is limited. Christ in His Divine nature is omnipresent.
- It is not enough to note the Divine and Human nature of Christ and the different sense of Christ’s presence. We must also ask in what sense is being meant in the verses cited by the skeptic to show that there is not a contradiction.
- The three verses used by the skeptic to demonstrate the claim “No, Jesus did not say he would always be with his disciples” is referring to Christ’s presence in His human nature.
- When Christ said that the poor the disciples will always have of course he meant that their presence is physical and human. Without skipping a beat Jesus said the disciples will not always have Him so the verses itself strongly suggests Christ’s human presence is meant and understood.
- Let’s look at the context before the verses. Christ was physically anointed by the woman. Mary was anointing Jesus’ physical human body. Note Matthew 26:7 which states “a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table” (cf. Mark 14:3). It was not just the head as John 12:3 also noted how she anointed Jesus’ feet. Heads and feet are components of a human body not the Divine nature.
- Right after the verses cited by the skeptic the narratives features Jesus continuing the discussion of his physical body which demonstrates that His human presence is what He was talking abot. Matthew 26:12 states “ For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial.” Again physical body is described which is that of Christ’s human nature and not His divine nature since God does not have a physical body since God is Spirit. The burial Christ talks about is His own burial of His human body.
- The one verse used by the skeptic to demonstrate the claim “Yes, Jesus did say he would always be with his disciples” is referring to Christ’s presence in His Divine nature.
- When Jesus said “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” He was speaking to His disciples. These disciples were called to share the Gospel to all the ends of the earth which meant they were likely scattered away from each other. Yet it is not Christ’s human presence that was there with all His disciples in different places since His human nature is limited. Therefore from Matthew 28:20 itself it suggests the presence of Christ’s Divine nature is in view.
- Don’t forget the Ascension of Christ (see Acts 1). After the crucifixion Christ in His physical resurrected body was present with the disciples for forty days (Acts 1:3). But then He ascended. So when Christ spoke about being present with His disciples to the end of the age it can’t be talking about His physical presence. But since Christ is God and God is omnipresent, we should be surprised to learn that Christ says He will be with His disciples after His Ascension.
- The last verse with Christ saying “I am with you always,” is a fitting end to the book of Matthew concerning Christ being with His followers in terms of Him being the presence of God. Don’t forget the book of Matthew opens up with the announcement of Jesus being Emmanuel, that is, God with us. Here we see the crescendo climax of Christ proclaiming that He is indeed God who is omnipresent with His followers. He is with them since He is God; that is, His divine nature is in view when He’s talking about His presence Here.
- There is not a contradiction at all. Christ after His resurrection would eventually ascend to heaven. We should not be surprised He would talk about His human presence departing from them. But Christ is also God. We also should not be surprised to find passages where Christ also affirm He will always be with His disciples.