Brothers and Sisters in Christ I wish to thank Pastor Lee, the pastors and deacons of the Calvary Bible Church for the opportunity to share in this way in this service today. Also I wish to thank the Calvary Bible Church for the spiritual care and support that you have given to my wife, Sharon, and daughter, Catherine, over the last three and a half years.
We are Jamaicans. Sharon is in developing banking. The bank has the policy of re-assigning their staff to different countries. I live and work in Jamaica and visit the family as often as I can. We are born again believers in our Lord Jesus Christ and members of the Bethel Baptist Church in Half Way Tree, Jamaica. It has taken a bit of explanation to the folks back home as to why we are not worshipping at a Baptist church here in Nassau. However, as soon as we point out that the Calvary Bible Church has a strong evangelical witness, an outstanding Bible teacher as its senior pastor and a great group of young people with whom our daughter feels very comfortable, the difference in denominational designation pales into insignificance.
COMMISSIONING OF THE CHURCH: THE GRADUATION OF THE DISCIPLES
Our meditation this morning centres on John Chapter 20: 19 to 23 and the words of our Lord “As the Father has sent me, even so send I you. There are at least two ways that we could caption this passage. We could see it as Jesus setting the mission of the Church following His resurrection. At the Last Supper, prior to his crucifixion, Jesus could be said to have launched the church. Indeed, the observance of the Lord’s Supper is the most unifying sacrament among Christians. In this passage, Jesus could be said to be setting out what the church should do by the instructions given to His disciples.
As a teacher, it is hard not to see this passage as the graduation ceremony of the disciples. Jesus the Master is conducting the graduation. The disciples have gone through a three-year course which coincided with the three years of His public ministry. He taught them through lectures and lecture demonstration; following some of these He held tutorials when the disciples did not fully understand what was taught. In some instants, Jesus taught them through projects. For example, he sent them in twos to preach and to heal the sick. Most significantly Jesus taught His disciples by example as he lived out what He taught and preached. As the Risen Lord, he now returns to his disciples to give them final instruction as to what they should be doing with their lives now that their training is over.
These two perspectives are not conflicting. They just have different foci. The interpretation of the passage as the commissioning of the church focuses on one of final acts of Jesus on earth in the process of establishing His church. The interpretation of the passage as the graduation of the disciples focuses on the obligations of the disciples as followers of Jesus the Christ.
It is critically important for all of us believers to understand in establishing the Church Jesus wrote no manuscript. He wrote no manual of procedures or dos and don’ts. Jesus did not rely on written text. Jesus relied on people who had been transformed by His message. He taught and empowered the people who answered the call to follow Him. He then sent them into the world to live the transformed life.
Jesus’s text was the life He lived. He was the Living Word of God. The Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. His life revealed the nature of God to man. The point that every Christian must understand is that it is the life that is lived that counts. We sing the chorus: He Lives, He Lives Christ Jesus Lives today. The fact is that the world will know that Jesus lives as they see Jesus in the lives we live. Our God is a living God and it is the living that counts.
Jesus’s methodology is clearly demonstrated in John Chapter 20 verses 19 to 23. Let us examine that methodology in terms of both its explicit and implicit elements.
FOLLOWING THE PATTERN OF THE FATHER
“As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Jesus the Son is faithfully following the pattern set by the Father. God has a pattern and plan for reconciling lost humankind to Himself. Jesus the obedient Son is not seeking to be different from His Father. Jesus is not setting out to create his own distinctive path and pattern. No, Jesus is being obedient to his Father and therefore following the pattern set by the Father. It is disobedience to the Father that led humankind astray. It is obedience to the Father that is the route to reconciliation and redemption. The pattern and the plan of the Father is to send Jesus into the world, to reveal His nature to the world and to pay the price of humankind disobedience in rejecting His way. By sacrifice made by His Son, the world through Him may be redeemed. God’s pattern and plan for the redemption of the world is to send people into the world to join Him in reconciling and redeeming the world.
God is not content to be separate from the world and to condemn its evil. He created the world and gave humankind the capacity to choose between good and evil, to accept his way and to reject it. But God by His Grace maintains goodwill towards those that reject His way and therefore always leaves the door of repentance open. God’s pattern and plan is to enter into the world, not remain apart from it.
The Father had sent Jesus on the mission that was His purpose from the creation of the world. Jesus had completed that mission. He had trained the disciples and their course was now ended. He was now about to send them on their mission following the accomplishment of His mission and the completion of their training.
SENDING PERSONS WHO CHOOSE TO BELIEVE
Let us look for a moment at this graduating class that was being commissioned and sent into the world. The graduating class was not comprised of all the persons who heard Jesus preach, or all who were healed or all who made up the many crowds that followed Him at different times during his ministry. The graduating class was comprised of those who chose to answer to the call of Jesus: “Come, follow me.” They had left all and followed him. They were not perfect persons. Each one of them had some serious flaw or failing. They came from different backgrounds. They often quarreled with each other. To say that they did not understand everything that Jesus taught them is an understatement. Judas failed the course completely. Thomas still had doubts and graduated in absentia.
Jesus was sending into the world those who had firmly and fully committed to follow Him. When Jesus preached a tough sermon about what it meant to follow Him, many turned away. Jesus then turned asked the disciples, will you also go away? Peter, the impetuous, answered for the group. To whom shall we go? You have the word of eternal life. The disciples saw no alternative to Jesus. He was the Messiah. He was their Messiah. He was the one sent from God. He was God. They were convinced of His Divinity. Their relationship with Jesus was personal and deep. Their hearts were with Him. Jesus confirms this in His prayer recorded in John 17: 8 “For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that
I came from you and they believe that you sent me.” And in verse 20 “My prayer is not for them alone, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”
On this evening of the first day of the week, Jesus was commissioning the church. He was conducting the graduation exercise following which the disciples would become the apostles carrying the message of His Life and Resurrection to the world.
Listen therefore to the words of the graduation address as Living Lord commissioned His church. “Peace be with you. As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Peace be with you were among the last words spoken to Jesus by Judas, Mathew 26: 49, before he was arrested and taken away by the soldiers of the Chief Priest to be charged, tried and crucified. The words “Peace be unto you” could have sounded to the disciples as the benediction of betrayal. Now these words are spoken to them by Jesus as words of victory, triumph and comfort. The disciples were gathered behind closed doors out of fear. Only Thomas was missing. Probably there was some confusion. The women had reported their experience of the resurrected Lord that morning. John and Peter had reported the empty tomb. It was all happening so fast and furious that it could have been hard to get a full grasp of the situation. Then there were the Jews that had crucified their Teacher and Lord.
In the midst of these fears and uncertainty, Jesus appeared in person to commission the church. Excited, they jumped up to examine his wounded hands and side as physical evidence that it was the same Jesus who was crucified. Jesus allowed them. Assured that it was Jesus, joy may have been quickly replaced by embarrassment and shame, considering their behavior over the previous three days. Notice, however, Jesus did not chide or chastise them. For example, He did not ask them, why you all run away when I was arrested? He did not ask Peter, how could you have denied me three times, just as I had predicted? His mission was not to highlight their weaknesses or remind them of their failures. Rather, it was to commission then to the great post-resurrection task. So Jesus repeated the salutation of Peace, in order to bring them to the reason for His appearing.
In a nutshell, these words of Jesus, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you” were not addressed generally. Rather these words are addressed specifically to those who were convicted and convinced that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. This commission is directed specifically to believers in the finished work of Jesus the Christ. It is addressed to those who notwithstanding the numerous religions of the world, the deities that are worshipped in different places, the atheistic philosophers that expounded that man is the measure of all things, the agnostics who cannot make up their minds, men who claim to be divine, declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The persons that Jesus sends into the world are those who have come to the conclusion and conviction that He is Messiah, Son of God, Saviour of the World, Lord and Master, Alpha and Omega, the Way, the Truth, the Life and coming King. It is accurate to call us narrow minded for we have chosen the narrow way, expounded by Jesus.
FULFILLING THE PURPOSE OF THE FATHER
The Father had sent Jesus into the world with the purpose to redeem humankind through his sacrificial death on the Cross and His triumphant resurrection. That was His purpose. Jesus’s purpose was totally consistent with the Father’s plan for Him. In fulfilling the Father’s purpose for Him, Jesus not only found total fulfillment of himself as a man, but has been given a name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
In a similar manner Jesus was sending the apostles to fulfill their purpose within the Father’s plan. That purpose was to declare to the world the Good News that Jesus had paid the price of human sin and that salvation was open to all who believe in Him. He commissioned them as a collective, the church, but sent them individually not to pursue their ambitions but rather the purpose for which they were created and called to be apostles.
Margaret Carlson captures the reason for which was believers are sent into the world in the second stanza of her Hymn, So Send I You. It says:
So send I you to leave your life’s ambition
To die to dear desire self-will resign
To labour long and love where men revile you
So send I you to lose your life in Mine.
One of the hardest things for us to grasp and accept is that believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and seeking to find and live out the purpose for which we are born to serve Him, is the only true and sound basis for a meaningful, satisfying, fruitful and fulfilling life.
SENDING THEM WITH THE PRESENCE AND POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Father and the Son, as shown in John Chapter 17, are fully aware that the world does not welcome His plan and is therefore hostile to His purpose. The Father therefore sent the Son with His presence. Jesus therefore in establishing His church, and in sending the apostles into the world, imbued them with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Verse 22 records that Jesus breathed on them, and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Just as the Father was present with the Son, so Jesus was sending the disciples with the Presence of the Holy Spirit. They would accomplish the purpose for which he was sending them, with His abiding and empowering Presence.
They would not be alone. Neither were they being required to accomplish the purpose of the Father with their own strength and might. I am not equipped to deal with verse 23. That verse requires persons who have had theological training. However, I can say with absolute certainty that whoever the Lord sends to accomplish His purpose at any place, at any time and among any people can be assured of His Presence and His power no matter what the circumstances.
Philippians 2:13 states: “It is God who worketh in you to will and do His good pleasure.” The Good News Bible translates it thus “because God is always at work in you to make you willing and able to obey his own purpose.
Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, 13 and 14, Ephesians chapter 4 and Romans chapter 8 explains the gifts given to the community of believers in any place by the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel, to edify the saints and to perform the ministries needed at that place. In other words, we are sent into the world by the Son, with the presence of the Holy Spirit who equips us with the talents, abilities and capacities to fulfill the purpose of the Father in reconciling the world unto Himself.
Let us do a brief recap here. Jesus in establishing His church and in sending the apostles into the world explicitly and carefully follows the pattern set by the Father in sending Him into the world. He explicitly sends them to fulfill the Father’s purpose. He explicitly endows the apostles
with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Against the background of these three explicit actions by Jesus there are at least three important matters that are not addressed explicitly. It is important to take a brief look at these.
PROSPERITY IS NEITHER PROMISED NOR PROHIBITED
Notice that this commissioning of the apostles by Jesus said nothing about personal or collective prosperity. He does not promise neither does He prohibit material prosperity. It seems fair to conclude that material prosperity is not a primary purpose for which the Lord sends His followers into the world. Neither is the church established principally for material benefits. The Lords sends us into the world for the Father’s purpose to reconcile the world unto himself. The mission is to community, to the world, for the purpose of making Jesus known, not to make us personally wealthy.
On the other hand, there is the view that Christians should not seek material reward and should embrace genteel poverty. The first verse of Margaret Carlson’s Hymn seems to hint at this:
So send I you to labour unrewarded,
To service unpaid, unloved, unsought unknown
To bear rebuke to suffer scorn and scoffing
So send I you to toil for me alone.
In this age of individualism and materialism many preach a message of personal material prosperity as a direct result of serving the Lord. I cannot find, in this commissioning of the church by Jesus, any basis for asserting that material prosperity is a primary outcome of carrying out the Father’s purpose in the world. At the same time believers are not prohibited from gaining wealth. What must not be forgotten is that we are stewards of any wealth obtained. That wealth must use to spread of the Gospel, to edify the saints, to do the work of ministry and for the glory of God.
NO PROTECTION AGAINST PERSECUTION
Jesus did not guarantee the apostles any protection against persecution. Jesus in sending the apostles into a hostile world did not offer them any word of assurance that they would be spared persecution or suffering. This is the scariest thing. Then, when you examine the historical record most of the apostles suffered great persecution and died horrible deaths for no other reason than declaring the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Margaret Clarkson seems to capture this reality perfectly.
So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred
To eyes made blind because they will not see
To spend through it be blood, and spare not
So send I you to taste of Calvary.
The point that must not be missed is that the pain of persecution is not the end of the matter. Yes, all of the apostles were persecuted and most were killed for their witness and testimony concerning Jesus the Christ. Some died very horrible deaths. However, this graduating class addressed by Jesus in this small room in Jerusalem on the evening of His resurrection must be the most effective and successful graduating class in history. Throughout the centuries where ever Christianity is preached across the world the names of the apostles are recognized, remembered and revered. Through their faithfulness to the mission on which they were sent, Christianity has become the most known religion in the world. Hundreds of millions have come to accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord. We stand today to believe in the Lord Jesus because of their faithfulness to the mission on which they were sent by our Lord into the world. These were ordinary men of little social significance who changed the course of history by carrying out the commission of Jesus as he sent them into the world with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Father’s purpose of declaring the Gospel of Jesus the Christ.
The fact is that the Lord sends us into the world that has rebelled against God and has rejected His way. The Gospel offers the opportunity to any and all who would repent, to be reconciled to God. But many choose not to so do. God’s way is that of order, justice, right living, mercy, and protection of the weak and marginalized. The world’s way is that of chaos where it maintains the status quo; injustice where it benefits the powerful; personal and national advancement by any means necessary; hatred where it divides people and allows some to rule, and survival of the fittest. So rest assure if you are engaged in the mission of restoring order, of correcting injustices, of insisting on ethical and moral means of advancement, of showing mercy and love, and of defending the weak and marginalized, and promoting the common humanity of all humankind, you will make enemies and you will come under attack and suffer for the sake of Christ.
THE PROMISE OF TRIUMPH
Persecution and suffering is never the end for the believer. Just as the crucifixion was not the end of Jesus. In Mathew Chapter 16:18 Jesus says that He will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
My Pastor the Reverend Dr. Burchell Taylor has written a great book on Psalm 23 titled “In God’s Presence”. In this set of bible studies he makes the point in commenting on the verses “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for Thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of my enemies” that the Lord himself will cause your enemies anguish from the blessings that will flow from persecution. Personally, I have learned to give God thanks for bad-minded people because of the unintended blessings that flow from their actions. My grandmother used to say “Man a write but God a wipeout.” God is no man’s debtor. Don’t for one moment think that any of us will suffer anything because of service to our Lord and Saviour that goes without being repaid by the Father Himself, in ways that we can only give Him the glory.
Again hear the words of Margaret Clarkson springing from her life experience of serving the Master and hearing his words as they applied to her:
So Send I you by Grace made strong to triumph
O’er hosts of hell, o’er darkness, death and sin
My name to bear, and in that name to conquer
So send I you, my victory to win
So send I you to know my strength in weakness
My joy in grief, my perfect peace in pain
To prove My Grace, My power, My promised presence
So Send I you, eternal fruit to gain.
So Send I you to bear My cross with Patience
And then one day with joy to lay in down
To hear my voice, well done my faithful servant
Come, share my Throne, my Kingdom, and my Crown
In this congregation of the Calvary Bible Church this morning there may only be a few persons who have not answered the call of Jesus, “Come, Follow me”. To such persons I say there is no better person to follow, no better way to live by, no better life to live than that offered through belief in our Lord Jesus Christ and surrender to His will. If today you hear His voice harden not your heart. Repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved.
The vast majority of us here today have answered the call. We are followers of Jesus the Christ. He has founded this church and commissioned you to fulfill the Father’s purpose. He given us the Holy Spirit who has equipped us with all the abilities and capacities to perform the ministries needed in your world. We are at different stages in our journey with the Lord. The Spirit will interpret and apply this passage from His Word and this mediation to each of our situations.
God’s pattern and plan for redeeming and reclaiming His creation is to send believers into the world. Not to be of the world but to transform the world by His presence and power. The world comes to know Father, by His people living the life of Son through the enabling of the Spirit.
Remember the Christian life is an in and out process. It is in for fellowship out for followship; in for worship out for work; in for succor out for service; in for renewal out for reengagement.
As we gather in worship this morning lest us hear the word of our Lord and Master. “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you”.