Reflections on John 20:21

As the Father sent me, I am sending you.

I picked this verse because I heard an excellent sermon on this text and I wanted to think about it more. The most basic thing I can pull out of this verse is that it says that Christians are sent. We are messengers.

I hear this point mentioned often in the Church, that every Christian is a missionary, that there is no division between missionaries and ordinary Christians, that to deny that you have been sent is to deny that you are a Christian, because it is fundamental to the identity of a Christian.

I have to agree. I can't consider a verse like this and not agree. It makes me think of another verse that said we are not our own. Our lives are part of a purpose that is larger than us, and that is not a truth to be suffered either, as if having our own trivial purpose and being disconnected from the grand purpose of God would be good for us. Rather, being part of this larger purpose should give us deep fulfillment and joy.

A deeper understanding of this verse requires us to know something of how the Father sent Jesus, as Jesus is saying that he is sending us in that way. 

How did the Father send Jesus?

One thing we could say is that the Father sent Jesus to save people. His mission was to reconcile us to God.

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:17

It seems reasonable that this would be our same mission, not that we would be able to save, but that we would be able to point people to Jesus, who can save. 

Another point is that this reconciliation comes at a price. Jesus suffered that we might be at rest. It's reasonable to expect that we also will suffer that others might find rest.

Perhaps that's a tricky subject, because we don't need to and we shouldn't try to add to the work of the cross, yet at the same time I don't think it's untrue to say that suffering is part of the way of the cross, sacrifice for the sake of others, or for the sake of Christ, or both. 

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs––heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.

Romans 8:17-18

One last point––though there are many more that could be made––is that Jesus, and therefore we, are sent seemingly but not actually alone. 

Jesus seems to be sent alone, but he is not alone. He has the Holy Spirit of God with him, and on this Spirit he depended fully and did many wonderful and powerful things. We too have this Spirit, as he mentions specifically in the very next verse.

And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

John 20:22

We are not sent alone. And the Spirit with us reminds us also that we are sent in love. Christ, who is sending us, has a great love for us, as does the Father. That is certainly worth more reflection.