Many a preacher has said, “Are Jesus’ last words your first priority?” Jesus’ last words are very important for all disciples to know and heed, because before Jesus ascended from the earth, there was a ‘passing of the baton’, and Jesus’ mission became the mission of His disciples. The important charge and last words are what is commonly called ‘The Great Commission’ found in Matthew 28:19-20. If we do take Jesus at His word, then we are ‘missionaries’. Some missionaries will venture far and wide, and some missionaries will stay near to the neighbourhood, but all missionaries are ‘SENT’ to join in Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).
Years back, right before I was going to move and live in the United States, I was a volunteer leader with Young Life here in Melbourne, which is a mission group committed to reaching out to non-Christian young people. I remember sitting at a small leaders’ gathering to meet Bob Reverts from Young Life International. He was an elderly man at this point and considered a hero in the world of Young Life missions. Well, I was extremely excited to meet someone from such a strong heritage of ministry to young people. When we met with Bob, he was very humble and without flash, he simply encouraged us in our youth work from the Word of God. He shared about the disciples being with Jesus from John 20:20, for the disciples had been living in a state of fear after the resurrection.
The Apostle John writes about it saying,
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.’”
The words Bob emphasised and prayed for us youth leaders were Jesus’ commissioning: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so also I am sending you”. I can really resonate with the disciples, for sometimes the mission seems so daunting and overwhelming and I can easily become fearful or anxious about going for Jesus. But if I have His peace and His power I have everything I need. When this great Young Life missionary Bob Reverts shared those words of Jesus it powerfully echoed in me and peace reverberated in my soul. I felt like I was being called to be a SENT ONE! Now I do recognise that this experience was a far cry from the original context of Jesus breathing mission and identity into His original disciples, but it did feel like a commissioning of sorts for me; I did feel like the Holy Spirit was stirring in me to be a ‘sent one’ for the incarnational mission Jesus was giving to me.
What do I mean when I say ‘incarnational mission’? Well, I mean that we are joint members functioning as the body of Christ seeking to serve the mission of Christ. We are to be Christ to a sinful and hurting generation! This is what many have called ‘incarnate’, which simply means to embody in flesh. Jesus was incarnate in that He is God taking on flesh in the form of man (John 1:14), all while never ceasing to be divine. This shouldn’t seem to be a surprise or an isolated instance, for God has always been personal with His creation; even in the garden, God sought to walk in the cool of day with Adam (Gen. 3:8). Our God seeks to relate to those who bear His image, and although the fall of man into sin has broken that image and relationship, the ongoing intention of God has not been thwarted. Think about Abraham, Moses, David and the ‘Angel of the Lord’ encounters in the Old Testament. The story of history has shown that God condescends to our level and relates to us in our world so that He can reach us. He is the great Missionary! And the epitome of this mission is, of course, the person and work of Jesus Christ.
So being incarnational should be our life in Christ. I call it being down to earth, literally! God came down to earth to know me, so now I become down to earth for Him and others. The book of Philippians describes it best:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men”
So when Jesus breathed on His disciples, He gave them His incarnational mission! His mission now became their mission, and His power was now to be their power! The Holy Spirit had been breathed into them, and the world would never be the same because of it. They would truly become witnesses for Jesus in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The mission went global because of the sent ones.
Well, how about you? Are you at peace with living a life well SENT? Have you embraced the incarnational mission of Christ? Like Jesus are you obedient in being SENT?
Go and live a life well sent to both the neighbours and the nations!
Dear Jesus, Lead us on in your mission and be with us as we witness for you. Please strengthen and send us out for the advancement of your mission in our neighbourhood, nation and around the globe. Help us to disciple the saved and to continue to reach the lost. We thank you and praise you Lord that we are your witnesses on the earth! In Jesus’ name. Amen.