I have been stunned as I read through the book of John to notice how often Jesus tells his listeners that He was sent by the Father. It seems that He concludes almost every statement with the qualifier “because The Father has sent me,” and that He consistently deflects attention from Himself and towards “the One who sent me.”
Curious, I did a little study on the word “sent” in the book of John and found 41 times that it is used by Jesus in this way.
4:34 My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
5:30 I seek not to please myself, but him who sent me
7:16 My teaching is not my own, it comes from the one who sent me
8:42 I have not come on my own, God sent me
12:45 The one who looks at me, is seeing the one who sent me
…And many more, especially in chapters 12-17, leading up to these ones I’ve been especially pondering:
John 17:18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world (Jesus’ prayer for his disciples)
John 20:21 As the father has sent me, so I am sending you (the Great Commission statement in John)
So, why was it so important that Jesus’ disciples knew He was sent by the Father? And if He was sending His disciples in the same way then, what does that mean for us, his disciples today? Is there a difference between going and being sent?
The word Apostle can literally be translated as “the sent ones” and was often used in political or business language to mean “one who acted on the full authority of the sender to the extent that he accurately represented the sender’s mission.” Today, we would probably use the term “ambassador” for someone in that role.
Ambassadors can’t send themselves. They don’t go of their own free will, they are only appointed, commissioned, and dispatched by someone else. They are sent to a specific place to do a specific task. They serve the agenda of the sender, not their own. They are the audible voice and physical presence of the one they represent.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Corinthians 5:20
If we are to understand what it means to be sent by Christ into the world, then we need to understand how Christ was sent into the world by the Father.
1. Jesus was sent in person: God didn’t yell to us from heaven, “come back to me!” He first came to us. Jesus not only delivered the Father’s message in person, He was the message… as a Person. “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John1:14).
We, also, are to be sent out in the flesh to the ends of the earth, as the physical embodiment of Christ’s message and presence. May we not expect people to come to us and to our church buildings, but for us to go to them.
2. Jesus was sent as a Son: He called God His Father. Jesus did not come as an employee, but as a Son, in the exact image and likeness of God. His mission on earth was born out of His relationship to the Father. “I do only what I see the Father doing” (John 5:19).
We too have been sent, not as hired hands with only a distant connection to the vision or a vague sense of purpose, but as sons and daughters. We share His mission because we share His DNA. May it be said of us, “like Father, like son” and “like Father, like daughter.”
3. Jesus was sent as a Servant: God did not wrap His greatest gift to humanity in a fancy package, rather, He sent Jesus to a small town, to live among poor people, to lead a simple life, and to disciple 12 men for only 3 years. Jesus didn’t need to be a hero, so He washed feet, worked as a carpenter, hung out with misfits and then died as a criminal. Not very glamorous or noteworthy. “I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me” (John 5:30).
Are we also content to be sent simply, quietly, and without a lot of fanfare? Christ gives us to the world as servants with towels, not as heroes with capes, because He is building His Kingdom, one changed life at a time. May we not assume that we have anything special to offer except Christ in us.
4. Jesus was sent with power and authority: Jesus knew He had a mission—to bring glory to the Father by redeeming people from every tongue, tribe and nation. He also knew this mission would absolutely be accomplished because God gave His Spirit of power to carry it to completion. Jesus said He did only what He saw the Father doing, trusting that He was anointed with all the power and authority of heaven.
And Christ told His disciples that we would do even greater works because we have the same power of the Holy Spirit within us! God doesn’t call us into His mission without fully equipping us for the task and anointing us with His authority. How can we be anything but willing, bold and fearless?
“As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
We don’t go on our own initiative; we didn’t dream this mission up. We only do what the Father is doing and go where the Father is working. And how do we know what to do and where to go? Because, before Jesus ever sent His disciples out, He sent the Holy Spirit to reign in each one of His followers.
So, may we confidently go to the ends of the earth (or the end of the street), as the Sent Ones.
Sarah Bourns serves in the realm of staff care for Envision, providing support, resources, and equipping for our 40+ long-term workers in the U.S. and around the world. Sarah is originally from California, and enjoys cooking for friends, teaching English, spending time outdoors, and getting auntie time with her nieces and nephew.