As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word. (John 17:18-20)
Earlier this year, our team in Haiti spent a several weeks studying Jesus’ farewell discourse in the gospel of John from chapters 14 to 17. Jesus was in the upper room with this disciples. He washed their feet, they ate dinner together, and he spent a lot of time reminding them of their training. I could spend a lifetime studying those chapters and never discover all of its treasure. In chapter 17, Jesus begins praying for his disciples. There are a lot of things I’d like to unpack in the verses above, but for now I’ll to point out three.
First, notice that Jesus is sending his disciples out. The word “sent” is used over 650 times throughout scripture and most of the time its used as God doing the sending. The Father sent the Son. Now the Son is sending his disciples. He said in Matthew 28, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples.” Jesus has all authority. So when he says go, it’s not up for discussion or debate. It’s not optional. These are our marching orders as followers of Jesus. What gives us the right to enter our neighborhoods, our schools, our workplaces, or another country to share the gospel? Jesus! The One who has all authority told us to go.
Secondly, we need to notice that it’s us that he is sending. The greek word used here for sent is apostellō, where we get our word apostle, and it literally means to be set apart and sent out. And the word carries with it the idea of being equipped or prepared and then sent out. However, it’s not professionally trained and ordained ministers that he is sending here. Remember Acts 4:13? “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” We could also take for example the demoniac in Mark 5 or the Samaritan woman in John 4. These were ordinary people whom Jesus saved and sent. In John 17, Jesus is not only praying about his eleven disciples. In verse 20, Jesus prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” That’s us right? Jesus is sending us!
Lastly, notice that we are sent in the same way Jesus was sent. In verse 18, Jesus prayed, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” It literally means “in the same way” or “to the degree that” God sent his Son, so we are sent. In order for us to know what our mission looks like, we have to see what Jesus’ mission looked like. What was Jesus doing during his 3-year mission that would lead him to pray in verse 4, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do”? He prayed this prior to his work on the cross. So what was “the work” he had accomplished? If we follow the life and ministry of Jesus, we will see him doing five things over and over again. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus:
- Entered new areas
- Proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom
- Discipled those who responded
- Gathered them into community
- And trained new leaders to repeat the process.
As we celebrate the coming of our King, we find here the central purpose for our existence. Every day, Jesus sends us into the world he loves, to proclaim the atoning work of Christ on the cross, to train others how to obey him too, and to do this in Christ-centered community. His church is a family on mission. We have been sent in the same way Jesus was sent!