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For an assignment at work I’ve been re-reading all the Gospels, which has been great! And just the other day I read the Gospel of John all in one setting and I noticed something striking: there is a ton of “sent” language in John!
Everywhere you look in John someone is being sent. Usually it’s Jesus who is saying that he was sent by the Father. But there are times when Jesus says that he will send the Holy Spirit and there are a few important instances of Jesus saying that he will send his disciples in the same manner in which he was sent.
As you [Father] sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (John 17.18).
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20.21).
From a missional perspective, these are two of the most important verses in the entire Gospel of John. Why? What makes them so special?
5 Ways of Looking at Being Sent in the Gospel of John
We are all sent. Another way of saying this is that we’re all missional. Jesus sent the disciples, whom he prayed for in John 17. Then Jesus prayed for those who would follow in the footsteps of the disciples, those who would believe in their message. Those people are us, followers of Jesus who came after the disciples. Thus, we are sent like they were sent. Honestly though, not all of us live into our sentness. We all have some work to do!
We are sent by Jesus. This one is huge. Jesus sends us out and we go with his blessing and authority. In fact, in one of the craziest passages in all of the Bible, Jesus tells his disciples that they will do greater things than he did while he was on earth (John 14.12). But Jesus did some amazing things! He stood up to religious authorities, turned water into wine, and raised a dead guy from the grave! But his following didn’t expand very far. It was the first followers of Jesus that expanded Jesus’ influence and we continue to do that today! And, if I do say so myself, that’s pretty great!
We are sent into the world. John 17.18 is clear, followers of Jesus are sent into the world. Why is this important to point out? Isn’t this a no-brainer? Well, you’d think so. But if you examine the behavior of Christians these days, then you’d probably deduce that they think they’re sent to church campuses, christian schools, christian stores, etc., etc. But we aren’t! We’re sent into the world! Do church campuses and explicitly christian things have a place in the life of a follower of Jesus? Of course — as places to be trained up and be equipped in order to live out our sentness in the world! Derwin Gray says it best, “Sunday is the huddle to equip us to play the game of life!” So the world isn’t something to be avoided; it’s something to be sent into!
We are sent with a purpose. All throughout John Jesus makes his basic message clear: he has a new command for his followers: love people (John 13.34, 13.35, 15.12, etc.). And what is love? Love is putting the interests of others first no matter the cost (Phil 2.3-4). Love is doing for others what you’d have them do for you (Matthew 7.12). Love is laying down your life for others (John 15.13). So that’s our purpose! If you’ve ever wondered about what you should be doing as a follower of Jesus…well, here are our standing orders: Love the heck out of people!
We are sent as Jesus was sent. John 17.18 and 20.21 say this very thing explicitly. But what does this idea mean? How was Jesus sent? He was sent in humility — born in a stable, placed in a feeding trough, part of a poor family, became a homeless preacher, and constantly put the interests of others before his own. He was sent incarnationally — Jesus put on flesh and became one of us. He poured himself into our stinky, difficult, and sometimes sad world. Jesus didn’t do love at a distance (get in, get out, and no one notices you were there). In community — Jesus was born into a family, lived in a community, and formed a band of disciples. He generally never went at it alone, so neither should we! In power — Jesus had power and authority in his earthly ministry and he has made the same power and authority available to those who follow him through the Spirit. Followers of Jesus have nothing to fear!
What do you think about the idea of being sent? Are we all sent?