Sent by the Savior

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : John 17:18-19

As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.

John 17:18,19 rsv

Have you ever been sent on a mission? That can be a chore or a great challenge. It can be burdensome or exhilarating. Much depends, of course, on what we’re sent to do. If it’s a task that we regard as significant and if we feel ourselves to be somehow fitted for it, it’s wonderful to receive an assignment. If it’s someone else’s “busy work,” for which we feel no aptitude, we sometimes groan under the weight of it.

But something else determines our reaction even more. It’s who sends us. If it’s an overbearing taskmaster who demands it, we have little heart for what we’re sent to do. If it’s someone we don’t even know, we may feel exploited, put upon. But suppose your countrymen ask you to do something on their behalf. Then you’ll feel differently. Or better yet, suppose the person you love more than anyone else in the world asks you to do something for her or for him. Why then, even though it may be difficult, demanding, or dangerous, you’re ready to go.

I want to think today about a mission offered you that rates A-1 on both counts. It not only has tremendous importance and is suited to you, but it comes from One supremely worthy. Listen to these words of Jesus Christ in a prayer that His disciples overheard on the night before His crucifixion. He’s praying about them: “As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

JESUS’ MISSION

Jesus moved throughout His public ministry with a deep sense of mission. The Father, He said repeatedly, had sent Him into the world. That in itself is a fascinating commentary on who Jesus is. Here is Someone who had lived before He was born. He didn’t begin to exist as the rest of us do, at some moment of conception in a mother’s womb. He came from another realm. He had always lived in communion with His Father, but a moment arose when in obedience He came into this world. He entered into our history to share our life. And the whole adventure was a mission. The Son of God came at Christmas because He had been sent.

What was the mission? Jesus expressed that in several ways. Once when Pontius Pilate asked if He was a king, He replied, “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). Jesus said He was sent to give testimony. He came to bring people the truth about who they are and what they can become, about the meaning and preciousness of their lives. Above all, He came to tell the truth about God, about His character and purpose. In fact, He came to embody all that, to live it out. The apostle said that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” He once said of Himself, “I am the truth.”

Sometimes He described His mission in terms of service. Remember when the disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest, jostling for places of honor in the kingdom? He said to them, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:25-28). Jesus was sent on a mission of lowly service. He didn’t come to be cared for, catered to, fawned over. He came rather to do for others, to meet their needs, to expend Himself on their behalf, even to death.

What to me is the most beautiful expression of His mission was spoken once to Zaccheus, a transformed tax collector. “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus said. “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10). Jesus was the good shepherd out searching for lost sheep. He embodied the love of the father who went running out to meet his returning boy. But He didn’t only seek for lost ones; He spent Himself to save them. He gave His life, He said, “a ransom for many.”

In doing all this, Jesus felt compelling urgency. He saw His mission to be in accord with the Old Testament Scriptures and in fulfillment of His Father’s express command. He sounded again and again the note of necessity, “I must preach to these other cities also, for this purpose I was sent … The Son of man must go to Jerusalem and be delivered to the elders and the chief priests and the scribes … The Son of man must be lifted up.”

And yet along with the necessity came deep desire. “My meat,” Jesus said, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Duty for Him was also delight. He embraced His mission because He loved the One who had sent Him.

OUR MISSION

Now this same Jesus says in prayer, “As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” Later He would echo to His followers those very words. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” Apparently they, too, were to testify to the truth. They were to bear testimony in the world to the Father and His saving plan. They were to be witnesses to Jesus, He said, in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. In this world of the “Big Lie,” the disciples were to speak God’s truth.

And they, in the footsteps of their Savior, were to be a servant people. Those bristling ambitions of theirs for eminence and personal glory were to be transformed. They were to aim at greatness in ministry, at expertise in meeting others’ needs. Their stardom was to be the towel and basin type. They were sent to love people and do them good.

And like their Lord before them, they were sent to seek and save the lost. They were to go not only to the respectable and law abiding but also to the least and lowest, to the most despised and abandoned, even especially to them. They were to toil and pray, labor and suffer, that others might know the joy of salvation. They too were to feel a sense of urgency in all this, an overwhelming constraint. And they too were to welcome their mission and do it out of grateful love for the One who had sent them. As the Father had sent Jesus, so He now was sending them.

OURS DEPENDS ON HIS

But there was a deep sense in which their mission would always depend upon His. Jesus continued His prayer in these words, “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.” What does it mean that Jesus consecrated Himself? That word sometimes meant the “setting apart” of a person for God’s service. At other times, it meant to “dedicate as a sacrifice.” In the case of Jesus, it meant both.

Our Lord consecrated Himself in the sense that He offered His life entirely to God for the fulfillment of His mission. In Him was perfectly expressed that great word of the psalmist, “I delight to do thy will, O my God; thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8). In saying, “My meat is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work,” Jesus was dedicating Himself. When He said, “As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do,” (John 14:31), He was living out that self dedication, making Himself available for God’s design.

He did that, He says, for the sake of His disciples, on behalf of His people. He gave Himself to God for them, and that involved the sacrifice of Himself, the giving up of His life to death. In the Old Testament system of sacrifice, a lamb without blemish was selected from among the flock and then offered up as a sacrifice on behalf of sinful people. The transgressions of the guilty were symbolically transferred to the spotless, innocent lamb. Hands were laid upon the animal and then the lamb was slain. God in His mercy had revealed Himself as willing to accept as a substitute this blameless life for the forfeited lives of sinful people.

But all of this was only symbolic, preparatory. The blood of animals, of course, could never finally take away sin. God used this system to point toward the wonderful provision He Himself would make. Jesus would become the unblemished sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He, the blameless One, offered Himself to bear our sins and die our death. In this total and final way, He consecrated Himself for our sakes.

The result He envisions is “that they also may be consecrated in truth.” Note: they are not doing the same thing. He is the Giver; they are the receivers. He consecrates Himself; they are consecrated. His total self offering, His sacrifice on their behalf is what makes it possible for them to be consecrated. By Jesus’ sin-bearing love, they are cleansed from every stain, freed from every blemish, made perfectly acceptable to God. That’s why the servants of Jesus can fulfill their mission – because He first fulfilled His. He has brought them near. He has purified them and made them fit for God’s service.

So that’s what we overhear our Savior praying about those whom He will send and sanctify. He’s the Lord. He’s the Savior. He’s doing it. Where do we fit in?

WHERE WE FIT IN

I think of someone else who once overheard the Lord. His name was Isaiah and it happened long ago in God’s house. Listen: “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon the throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: `Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts’… And I said: `Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: `Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.’ And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, `Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’” (Isa. 6:1-8). Again, God had been talking about sending His people, and had just brought the fire of cleansing to His servant Isaiah. When the question came, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah spoke up, “Here am I! Send me.”

We have a part to play, don’t we? We don’t do the sending. That’s the sovereign Lord. We don’t do the sanctifying. That’s the suffering Savior. But we can say, “Here I am.”

Remember how in the Lord’s Supper Jesus consecrated Himself to death in the presence of His disciples? He said that the new covenant would be effectively established in His blood. Then He consecrated His disciples to His service by calling them to eat His body and drink His blood. They couldn’t do the saving deed. They couldn’t establish the covenant. But they could partake of Him and what He was doing for them. They could receive by faith His dying, rising life. Then in the power of His Spirit, they could offer themselves entirely to God and “get going.”

In the popular television series “Mission Impossible,” the heroes are told at the outset, by a tape which later self-destructs, about their hazardous task. The description is introduced by these words, “Your mission, if you should choose to accept it….” When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are saying, “Yes, I choose to accept it, Lord. Here am I. Send me.”

After that, there’s plenty of activity, toil, hardship, even risk. We present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. It’s sometimes said of football players that they “give” their bodies. They throw them in reckless abandon into the brutal violence of the game. And in a far deeper sense, Christians stand ready to do the same – because their mission is uniquely worthwhile and the One who sends them altogether worthy.

Can you overhear the Lord saying today, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” He’s whispering that every time the Word is preached. He’s saying it now to you. If you will trust Him today to save you, to cleanse you and set you free, you can know that you have a great mission and that you are sent by the Savior. God bless you.