Great Texts of the Bible
Christ’s Mission and Ours
As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.—John 20:21.
1. It was the evening of the greatest day in history, and the little company of the disciples sat watching anxiously within locked doors. They had waited all day for Jesus, but Jesus had not come. And now it was evening, and their hopes had perhaps dwindled with the setting of the sun, when suddenly, silently—without the sound of footfall or the warning of opened door—He was there. “Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said he shewed unto them his hands and his side.… Jesus therefore said to them again, Peace be unto you; as the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”
2. What an astonishing statement it is! Christ makes Himself co-ordinate with the Father. He associates in indefeasible unity “the Father “and “I.” He tacitly claims the right to do what the Father does. He makes Himself equal with God. He was either incarnate God, or He was incredible blasphemer; there is no escape from the alternative. It is in such implications that we see our Saviour’s Deity. These subtle claims of Christ are irresistible arguments for His absolute divineness.
3. Quite as astonishing are these words from another point of view. Not only does the Lord associate Himself uniquely with God, but in a wonderful way He associates Christians with Himself. What an honourable vocation He assigns to His people! He sends us as He Himself was sent. He classes His disciples with Himself. He who said “the Father—I,” says, “Me—you.” Ours is a task analogous to His. What He thus declares to His disciples He expressly declares to God the Father, in that high-priestly prayer of His: “As thou didst send me into the world, even so sent I them into the world.” This immutable word which puts such honour upon Christians Christ asseverates alike to God and to man. “What a word is this!”
4. What is the real and permanent value of that message? It reveals His conception of the meaning of our mission; it unveils before us the truth concerning the responsibility of the Church of Jesus Christ, the truth concerning the responsibility of all the Churches of Jesus Christ, the truth concerning the responsibility of every individual member thereof.
The Son and the Disciples
1. There is a series of remarkable utterances, found only in St. John, in which our Lord draws a parallel between the relation He bears to the Father and the relation the believer bears to Himself. In these passages our Lord asserts that He is the central and connecting link in a dual relationship the upper and lower sides of which exactly correspond to each other. What the Father is to the Son, that Christ is to him who believes in Him. And thus Jesus Christ stands midway between the Father and us, and the lines of communication between earth and heaven pass through Him. All that the Father has to communicate is first received by Him and then transmitted to us, while on the other hand He receives the love and trust and obedience of His disciples and passes it all on in turn to the Father.
(1) “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me” (John 6:57). The whole series of utterances now under consideration is cast in this parallel form. There is something more than similarity of relationship implied in these words; they also imply that the great principle of life is an identical principle both on the upper and on the lower side of this relationship. Life is the same in us as in God; and wonderful as the thought may be, it is nevertheless true that when we believe in Christ and through Him are made partakers of spiritual life, we enter into communion with the life of God Himself. When one thinks of life in man as one thing and life in God as another, one has lost the key to the science of life. Spiritual life is not a series of isolated springs, but an ocean laving every shore.
(2) “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9). Here again we have the same passing on from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the disciple. The love of the Father to the Son is beyond human comprehension. It is frequently referred to in the Gospel narratives, but always as a sacred and mystical thing which it is almost a sacrilege to unveil to the common gaze. Christ Himself says, “Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” But love, like life, is the same throughout the universe; the same bond that unites God and Christ unites Christ and the disciple, and the disciple and his fellow-disciple, and the heart of the humblest believer thrills with the same love that dwells in the heart of God. “I have declared unto them thy name,” says Christ, “that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them.”
(3) “I know my sheep, and am known of mine, even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father” (John 10:14-15). These two verses belong to one sentence, and must not be separated as in the Authorized Version. They are two sides of a comparison. Christ is speaking of Himself as the Good Shepherd, and of the perfect understanding there is between Him and His sheep. There is an instinctive recognition by which the sheep know the shepherd, and the shepherd knows the sheep. And our Lord declares that this reciprocal knowledge and intimacy is of the same kind as that which exists between Him and His Father.
(4) “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10). That obedience is the true test of love is a commonplace of Christian thought; Christ has taught us this in His familiar admonition, “If ye love me keep my commandments.” But here our Lord shows us how this principle runs up into the higher sphere, and forms the basis of the love which exists between Him and God. It is a law that operates universally, in heaven as well as on earth; it is not peculiar to the sphere of earthly discipleship but rules also in the heavenly places; an ordinance whose sway is felt throughout the whole circle of being. Christ lived in the love of the Father because He always did the Father’s will; His perfect obedience was the soil out of which the flower of love grew; His oneness of will and desire with the Father formed the harmonious environment in which alone love can subsist. “I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” And now our Lord takes that exalted experience of His—the life which He lived toward the Father—and turns it earthward, as the pattern of our relation to Him. Obedience is the royal law that binds the Father, the Son, and the disciple in one fellowship of love.
(5) “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world” (John 17:18). Christ thus links the mission of His disciples to that which He received from the Father, and makes their work the outcome and continuation of His own. The purpose which brought Christ into the world runs through the whole service and ministry of the Church, and the work in which Christian men and women are employed to-day is a continuation of the purpose of the Incarnation. The commission which the Father placed first in the hands of Jesus Christ, Christ has handed on to His disciples, thus raising them to the position of co-workers with Himself, to share in the honour and privilege of carrying out the redeeming purpose of God.
(6) For a final instance of this special form of expression let us turn to Revelation 3:21. Though we go outside the Gospel for this passage, we do not quit the circle of St. John’s writings; nor is there any change in the person of the speaker. And the fact that these words were spoken from heaven, after our Lord’s exaltation to the right hand of God, makes it all the more significant that they should assume the same parallel form as those we have already examined, which were spoken while He was on earth. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Here we see that this twofold relationship runs right through to the end, and is completed in the final triumph and glory of Christ’s people in heaven.1 [Note: J. T. Hamly.]
The beginning of the Gospel is to be found in the thought and love of God. We may cast our lines back as far as we can through the ages of eternity, and we shall never be able to find the point at which God’s concern for the welfare of the universe that was to be first began, and yet the Lamb of God is said to have been slain from before the foundation of the world. The sacrifice of Christ was not an afterthought on the part of the Divine Being; it was, so to speak, part of Himself, an element of His very Godhead and of His very existence. So that, if we are really to go back to what may be termed the beginning of beginnings, we shall have to search the depths of the Divine existence, and follow all the wonderful and infinite course of the Divine thinking and purpose and love. There, of course, we are lost. Our hearts can only point, as it were, towards that great solemn mystery. Explanation we have none. Special indication is entirely beyond our power. We are lost in wonder, and our wonder is lost in speechlessness.
The second beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is found in the Incarnation of God’s Son. We begin the next time at Bethlehem. We were lost when it was a mere question of unuttered and in speech unutterable love. We only begin to think and to feel and to understand in part God’s meaning, when He utters His love not in speech, but in the person, the flesh and blood of God’s dear Son. We can begin there—little children can begin at that point; our love can commence its study at the cradle of our Lord Jesus Christ. Creatures like ourselves need alphabets, beginnings, sharp lines, visibilities. We are not all pure mind; we cannot dwell upon the abstract, the unconditioned, the absolute, the infinite, in matters of this kind. We need some one to look at, to speak to, to go up to quite closely, and to hear speak the language of the love of God. This is what may be termed the second beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Where, then, are we to look for the third beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God? We look for it in the Church. As He was, so are we to be in the world. We are to be “living epistles, known and read of all men.” When men ask, “Where is Christ?” we are to show them Christianity. And when they ask, “What is Christianity?” we are to show them the Church—meanwhile, indeed, an incomplete representation of the truth, yet Jesus Christ Himself claims it, and devolves upon the Church the responsibility not only of bearing His name by exemplifying His life, but of interpreting His doctrine and living upon His love.1 [Note: J. Parker.]
2. “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Mark the deep significance of that resounding “as” and “even so.” The parallel involves disparity. He is God, and we are but men. He came to atone, and we but preach His sovereign atonement. This and much more is implied in the fact that in this text two different Greek verbs are used, which are translated by the common word “send.” The sending of Jesus was a grander sending far than the sending of us. He represents God more intimately and vividly than we can ever represent Him. But if there be this disparity there is in many respects a wonderful identity between His mission in the world and ours. The tenses of the verbs in the original indicate this in a very generative manner. “As the Father hath sent me”—the tense shows that the commission is still in force—“even so send I you.” The idea is that our commission is but a continuation of His in another form. The duty of the Christian is practically equivalent to the mission of the Christ. “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”
The word “send” which He uses concerning Himself is not the same word “send” as that used concerning His disciples. He speaks of Himself as the Apostle of the Father; He says, in effect, “My Father hath delegated authority to Me,” but He never delegated authority to His disciples. The word used concerning them was simpler, and merely indicates that they are His messengers. He dispatches them under authority, but He holds the authority within His own grasp.
Thus the commission of Matthew harmonises with the declaration of John: “All authority is given unto me; go ye, therefore,” and be My messengers and preach My Gospel. Jesus has never delegated His authority either to man or to men, to synods or to conferences, or even to unions; He holds it still Himself.
This is not to degrade the office of the Church; it is to indicate the fact that He brings the Church into such union with Himself that she is to exercise His authority. She is to be the instrument through which He carries out the purposes of God. God delegated all authority to His Son; and His Son calls into living and vital union with Himself all believers, and they become the instruments through which He carries out the work of God.
And I think the same meaning is found in the words He used on another occasion, when He said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work”; and then, presently, He brought into association with Himself all His disciples when He used the plural and said, “We must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day.”
If this be the meaning of the text, then the mission of the Church in the world is the mission of Christ. He is the Sent of the Father, still the living and present Worker; but the Church is His Body—bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” And as the Church of Jesus Christ realizes her actual and vital union with Christ, she becomes the instrument through which He moves to the accomplishment of His work.1 [Note: G. Campbell Morgan.]
But to be a true disciple is to think of the same things as our prophet, and to think of different things in the same order. To be of the same mind with another is to see all things in the same perspective; it is not to agree in a few indifferent matters near at hand and not much debated; it is to follow him in his farthest flights, to see the force of his hyperboles, to stand so exactly in the centre of his vision that, whatever he may express, your eyes will light at once on the original, that whatever he may see to declare, your mind will at once accept.2 [Note: R. L. Stevenson, Lay Morals.]
The Mission of Christ and Our Mission
The Mission of Jesus Christ to the world may be expressed by three great words—Revelation, Redemption, Salvation.
1. It is a mission of Revelation.
He came to declare the love of the Father’s heart. The Father entrusted to the Son the manifestation of His love. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The love of the Father to a guilty and dying world was the substance of the Redeemer’s message. “God so loved the world,” it began. How it would have gladdened that poor prodigal in the parable if he had heard in the midst of his hunger and loneliness that his father tenderly cherished his memory still. He would not then have waited till the pangs of insatiate hunger drove him to his father’s presence, if perchance it might yet be open to him, as the only alternative with death. Had a message from the father found him and called him home again, full joyously would he have trodden the homeward path. And so God loved the world in its rebellion and misery—shameful rebellion, no doubt, and merited misery; but they were His children who were groaning in bondage, and the meaning of their anguish reached and touched His heart. And God gave His only begotten Son, that the world should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Now as the Father required for the expression of His own mind and will and love to the world, and by the very nature of the case, a sufficient and adequate image, organ, hand, word, and mediatorial ambassador; so Christ required—when He was about to return clothed in our humanity to the bosom of the Father, to the midst of the throne—a corresponding agency. We are not the direct representatives of the Invisible God, of Him who fills eternity and space with His glory; but we are sent by Christ to be the image, the messengers, the hands, the mediatorial representatives of His Divine humanity to the world in which we live. Therefore, first of all, in order to realize the grandeur of our calling, let us keep ever in mind that Christ sends us to men, that by our character, by our growing sanctification, by our holy living, by our entire walk, by our habits, our spirit, we may make Him known; He was and is the light of the world, but light itself is invisible unless reflected or refracted by the medium on or through which it vibrates. We may be able to reflect some one ray of the perfect beam of unsullied light.
I am very glad that you asked me your question. May I put it this way? The contents of the Christian revelation is the Person of the Lord Jesus. Scripture is the record of that revelation. The Church is the witness of that revelation.
In early times, amongst a rude and semi-barbarous people, the Church was greatly engaged in considering how she was to discharge her function as a witness. But this process was largely concerned with mechanism. Just as the State was striving at the same time to embody the idea of justice; the method was imperfect, but the idea existed nowhere else. Still, at the present day, the State embodies that idea imperfectly; but we do not doubt about the idea itself. So with the revelation of which the Church is the guardian. That revelation is immediate to each human soul; and the attempts to express it in the forms of outward organisation—their partial success, their conspicuous failure—only make the eternal meaning of the revelation itself clearer and more precious.1 [Note: The Life and Letters of Mandell Creighton, i. 416.]
One of the last acts of Henry Ward Beecher showed the true greatness of that great man. He was leaving Plymouth Church on the last Sabbath evening of his ministry, just as the strains of the organ were dying away, when he saw two little pauper children, who had come inside from the storm to listen to the music, startled with childish fright as he drew near, as though detected in some wrong; but the warm-hearted preacher spoke lovingly to them, and, kissing them, soothed away their fears, as he went out with them into the wintry cold and sleet, with his arms thrown around them to shelter and shield. And, doing this act of lowly love, he went home to die.1 [Note: T. F. Lockyer, The Inspirations of the Christian Life, 121.]
2. It is a mission of Redemption.
(1) Christ came into the world to express God’s absolute hatred of sin, and to extirpate it from the heart of man, by taking upon Himself all its curse and shame, bearing these to the bitter end. He came on a sacrificial and redeeming mission, to do what no angel or man could accomplish. He came to set forth what was eternally present in the Father’s heart, to bring to a climax the expression of perfect holiness and boundless mercy, to bring righteousness and love with infinite travail and peerless joy into absolute unity, to justify by remission of sins past, present, and to come, and to prove that when men realize this awful and glorious fact, when little children can sob themselves to rest in the arms of Jesus, then full reconciliation, repentance, submission to the will of the Father supervene, and there is the beginning of a new and eternal life.
My blood so red
For thee was shed,
Come home again, come home again!
My own sweet heart, come home again!
You’ve gone astray
Out of your way—
Come home again, come home again!
(2) Now if we are sent at all, we are sent to take a share in the very ministry of our Lord Himself. Our service represents and continues His service. Our labour is indissolubly joined to His. We are actually brought into a partnership with Him who “came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” And what a tremendous obligation does that fellowship lay upon us! We remember, with shame for ourselves, how utterly Christ gave Himself. Of Tissot’s 365 drawings of His life, no less than 310 are concerned with the ministry and Passion: and yet even that proportion is inadequate to express the place which service occupied in the life of the Great Pastor. Why, surely His every act, His every word and thought, was service. The whole of His life was one long sacrificing of Himself for others. And when there was nothing further that His life could give, He gave the life itself a willing sacrifice in death. Well might our Lord, looking into the eager faces of His Apostles, ask, “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?” Well may He put to us that question now!
Scarce had she learnt to lisp the name
Of Martyr; yet she thinks it shame
Life should so long play with that breath
Which spent could buy so brave a death.
She never undertook to know
What death with love should have to do;
Nor has she e’er yet understood
Why to shew love, she should shed blood.
Yet though she cannot tell you why,
She can love, and she can die.1 [Note: Richard Crashaw.]
3. It is a mission of Salvation.
(1) In order to save the world He began with loving care showered on little children, with sympathy extending to the outcast and excommunicate, to the publican, the harlot, the devilridden, and the dead. He healed men one by one. He felt the special agony of the widow of Nain and of the family at Bethany. He had saving words for rulers and priests, for Pilate and Caiaphas, for His executioners, and for the dying brigand.
(2) Now in all this He was sent to unveil the righteousness and love of the Father, and He sends faithful souls who have learned His secret to carry out the plan of which He sets the example, the first beginnings of which He wrought alone. When a missionary, with patience, persists in saving one drunkard, one idolater, one cannibal from his otherwise inevitable doom, pursues the proud rebel with the calls of pity, or urgently plies any one despairing soul with the great consolation; when a missionary of the cross knows that his Master’s order is, “Go, preach to every creature, compel the vile and the most ignorant, the most bewildered, to come into the light, and accept the conditions of salvation,” he shares the burden of Jesus, takes His cross upon his shoulders, and hears and accepts His commission as certainly as if it had been thundered to him from the skies, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”
Wherever I see a young man teaching the Gospel to half-a-dozen children, I recognize a living branch of the Church of Christ.1 [Note: The Life and Letters of John Cairns, 588.]
The late Bishop Simpson relates a remarkable instance of the work of a young man in America, who started an institution for the care and improvement of poor imbecile children. Among those brought him was a little boy, five years of age, who had never made an intentional act, had never spoken a word, and had never given any look of recognition to a friend. He lay on the floor, a mass of flesh, without even ability to turn himself over. Such was the student brought to this school. The teacher made effort after effort to get the slightest recognition from his eye, or to produce the slightest voluntary movement; but in vain. Unwilling, however, to yield, he had the boy brought to his room, and he lay down beside him every day for half-an-hour, hoping that some favourable indication might occur. One day, at the end of six months of unavailing effort, he was unusually weary, and did not read. He soon discovered that the child was uneasy, and was trying to move himself a little. The thought flashed across his mind: “He misses the sound of my voice.” He brought his mouth near the child’s hands, and, after repeated efforts, the little one succeeded in placing his fingers on the teacher’s lips, as if to say, “Make that sound again.” The teacher felt that from that moment his success was assured. And, as the narrative goes on to relate, only five years after that time, the child stood on a platform, in the presence of interested spectators, and answered with ready accuracy the questions of a public examination. The patience of love had conquered.2 [Note: T. F. Lockyer, The Inspirations of the Christian Life, 122.]
Yes, the ugly old church!—at first such a failure that Bishop Blomfield was wroth at its appearance,—though it cannot raise its head among the handsome churches of the metropolis, yet it has been the nursery of babes in Christ and the home of thousands who have reached a fuller age in Christian experience. I can say this without incurring the charge of egotism, for I am speaking of what the church had become before I knew it. The material fabric was the ugly, uninteresting building I have described. The church which was built up within it was a church of simple, honest souls, whose outlook on life had been raised to such a level that piety had discarded the temptation to be a sham, and a deep, earnest conviction of the reality of spiritual life had laid hold npon their hearts. They formed a society of true-hearted men and women who loved their Lord, and who strove, severally and unitedly, to do His will. The very atmosphere of the church and parish brought me a message which helped, while it humbled me. They were so much better than I—those devout and simple-minded souls to whom I was sent to minister. Whence had this atmosphere come? Under God, it was owing to the untiring and unique work of one man—the Rev. William Bell Mackenzie—my predecessor, and the first vicar of the church. Fidelity and fixity marked his life. He lived till he was sixty-four years of age. He had been ordained thirty-six years, and in that time he served but one curacy, St. James’, Bristol, and one incumbency, St. James’, Holloway. The thirty-two years at St. James’, Holloway, were devoted to building up his flock in faith and love—a generation’s work for the regeneration of the people. Slowly he gathered round him, not only an attached and appreciative congregation, but a band of trusty and faithful men and women, genuinely interested in the good of the parish and neighbourhood, and keenly alive to missionary responsibility.1 [Note: W. Boyd Carpenter, Some Pages of My Life, 158.]
Christ’s Mission and Ours
Bardsley (J. W.), Illustrative Texts, 29.
Benson (R. M.), The Final Passover, ii. (pt. ii.) 479.
Brown (J. B.), The Divine Life in Man, 309.
Coyle (R. F.), The Church and the Times, 35.
Dudden (F. Homes), Christ and Christ’s Religion, 217.
Gurney (T. A.), The Living Lord, 256.
Henson (H. H.), Preaching to the Times, 174.
Hort (F. J. A.), Village Sermons in Outline, 246.
Knight (G. H.), Divine Upliftings, 73.
Lockyer (T. F.), The Inspirations of the Christian Life, 120.
Macfarlaud (C. S.), The Infinite Affection, 63.
Mackennal (A.), The Life of Christian Consecration, 17.
Maolaren (A.), After the Resurrection, 40.
Marten (C. H.), Plain Bible Addresses, 208.
Rainsford (M.), The Lord’s Prayer for Believers, 343.
Reynolds (H. R.), Lamps of the Temple, 82.
Young (D. T.), The Enthusiasm of God, 62.
Cambridge Review, i. No. 7 (Perowne).
Cliristian World Pulpit, xxxii. 312 (Glover); lxx. 257 (Morgan).
Church of England Pulpit, lxii. 237 (Hitchcock).
Literary Churchman, xvi. 184.
Preacher’s Magazine, xii. (1901) 352 (Hamly).