We began the year with a series on discipleship entitled “Follow me.” The series was based on Jesus’ calling to the first disciples. But the calling did not stop with “Come, follow me.” Jesus continued with the ultimate purpose of the call: “and I will make you fishers of men & women.” (Matthew 4.19)
My question when I look at Jesus’ words of sending in John 20 is how is he is sending us? As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. How did the Father send Jesus; how is he sending us? At first two words came to my mind in summing up Jesus life: love and sacrifice. But then I thought it would not be complete without adding a third: life. I realized all three of these words appear in a key verse, the verse that probably most of us have memorized, especially we who grew up in the church. John 3.16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
God loved the world
didn’t love sin, but loved sinners
loved you and I
continues to love those who do not love him
loves his creation
loves his fallen creation
loves those who are unlovable
Jesus loved sinners so much that
he ate with them
he drank with them
he went to their homes
he let them wash his feet
he called them
he talked with them
he spent time with them
he defended them
he saved them from stonings
he forgave them
God now sends us into the world to love. We are to love as he loves.
We are to love the world. That may sound a little foreign to some of our ears. I think somewhere along the line we, as Christians, have gotten this wrong. I did a word search in the Bible for the two words "hate" and "world." No where are we told to hate the world. We are told that the world will hate us. But we are to love the world as God loved the world. We are to love the sinner – we don’t love sin, but love the sinner.
We know John 3.16, but do we know John 3.17?
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Christians sometimes are quick to condemn. We cannot condemn someone’s lifestyle and then expect them to listen to a message of love. The church has been too quick to condemn, be it out of pride or arrogance, and the world will not listen to us anymore. I read an article in the local paper shortly after I moved here of a young woman who was a homosexual and she voiced disdain for the church. She felt hated by the church. The church had condemned her, instead of reaching out to her in love.
Above I stated that Jesus defended sinners, saved them from stonings, and he forgave them. I had a specific story in mind. When Jesus came across the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned by the religious. He defended her. He saved her from being stoned. He said that the one who was without sin should cast the first stone. And when all had walked away, he offered her the gift of forgiveness.
2. Gave – Sacrifice
God the Father gave his only begotten Son.
God the Son gave up the heavenlies to become human, to become a servant. He humbled himself and became obedient to death.
We are called to a life of self-sacrifice. We are sent into the world to give and give and give.
To give of our time to love others.
To give of our energy to serve others.
To give of our love to the most undeserving.
To offer the gift of life to the world; the gift of forgiveness.
If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.
14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
We are sent to tell others of the new life, the everlasting life, that is made available through Christ Jesus. We are sent to offer the forgiveness that comes in Christ Jesus.
And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
Breathe is the same word used in the Greek Old Testament to describe God’s action when he formed the man from the dust of the ground and "breathed into his face the breath of life" and the man became a living being. Gen 2:7
It is the same used in Ezekiel 37:
‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD ! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD .’
This is not Pentecost (Acts 2), because at this point the disciples are not fulfilling their call. They are still behind locked doors. They are not yet out being witnesses of the Christ.
There is progressive giving of the Spirit. It is a process.
Just as Jesus was completely dependent upon the Father, we are completely dependent upon God. We need breathed on; we need the Holy Spirit in our lives in order to love as God has called us to love and in order to give as God has called us give. We cannot love without the love of God in us. We have nothing to give without the Spirit of God with us. God loves us and we give his love away.
Jesus was sent by the Father; we are sent by Jesus. Jesus is the presence of God; if the Spirit of God lives in us, we take the presence of God with us wherever we go. We are called to be the presence of God to the world.
Sent in love to love.
Sent to Give.
Sent to give Life that comes through the forgiveness offered in Christ.
Sent to be the presence of God in the world as the Spirit lives in us.