Summary: Before Jesus returned to heaven he gave his disciples the Great Commission, to be his representatives in making known the Gospel, following the pattern of his mission to Earth, the Same Method, the Same Motivation and the Same Means.
SO SEND I YOU
The farewell words of a Christian leader are listened to with special attention. The Bible records the parting speeches of some of it’s great characters as they hand the torch of witness to a new generation, but the farewell speech that I would have most liked to have witnessed was that of Jesus as he addressed his disciples after his resurrection. What a privilege it must have been to be spoken to by the risen Christ. It was a bit too much at the time for the disciples as the meaning of it all didn’t really register until the day of Pentecost, when, as it were, the final pieces of the jigsaw of God’s revelation of himself and Jesus fell into place. The disciples then, perhaps for the first time, saw the whole picture of God’s redemptive plan, the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.
It’s the final message of Jesus to his disciples that we’re going to consider: "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (John 20:21). This has been called "the charter of the church". Jesus is commissioning his little band of disciples to carry out his mission a lost world. He is telling them that, to understand the meaning of the Great Commission they are receiving from him, they must first understand the meaning of God the Father’s mission in sending his Son Jesus into the world: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." The model for the sending out the disciples is none other than the Father’s sending of Jesus. But of course, it isn’t only the first disciples who were being sent out; the commission extends to all who acknowledge him as Lord, right down to you and me.
Jesus says to his disciples, "I am sending you into the world to be my ambassadors, my representatives, so that people who have never seen me may discover what I am really like by observing your lives. In the same way," says Jesus, "in which my Father sent me so that people could get a picture of what he is really like, so you Christians, Christ’s followers, will reveal my nature to the world." “Anyone who has seen me has the Father” (John 14:9). This great missionary mandate is modelled on the Father’s sending of his Son. "So send I you," said Jesus. He used:
THE SAME METHOD
God’s method is people. Someone made the comment, "If God gave the command to angels to evangelise the world, heaven would be empty in five minutes!" But angels haven’t been given the joy of making known the Gospel. They have no experience of the grace of God. They have no personal knowledge of sins forgiven. Yes, God’s method is through people. "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
The Queen of Great Britain has many possessions, including the Island Dependencies, but she can’t possibly be in them all - she visits them perhaps every 10 years - but she has a personal representative there in the person of the Lieut. Governor. It’s not an exact illustration, but the similarity is there in the fact that before the Governor is installed to his office, he has an audience with the Queen and it is from that meeting and his documents of appointment that he derives his authority. What did Jesus say? : "I am sending" and who is he sending: "I am sending you." He was speaking to his disciples and it is to his followers that he has, in Paul’s words, "committed this ministry of reconciliation." He goes on, "we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors." (2 Cor 5:19,20).
Just as Jesus was his Father’s ambassador, so Jesus has appointed his followers to represent him in the world. We are to follow his great example. He could make time to listen to his disciples, to talk to the woman at the well, to weep with Mary and Martha, to attend social functions, to go to different homes for a meal. In a word, his vocation was to minister to people. By the quality of his life, by what he said and did and the way he treated people, he made them see and understand the nature of God and his concern for the individual. He placed the emphasis on relationships. He calls on us to do the same. "Christ has no hands but our hands."
Jesus issues the same call to all, but to different tasks. Someone put it rather quaintly: "to some, Christ calls ’leave boat and bay, and white-haired Zebedee.’" To some, the call is harder - "stay and mend the nets for me." How does the call come? Often it’s in the context of daily work, our responsibilities and opportunities. God’s call to one particular form of ministry shouldn’t be a threat to those called to another form of service. The call may be to full time Christian service, or it may be to serve in a lay capacity. It may be in a platform ministry or in behind-the-scenes activity.