What does it mean to be sent as Jesus is sent?
Having risen from the dead and walked through walls to be with them, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into his disciples, powerfully re-creating Genesis 2. Just before this profound action, he says to them: “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20v21)
I was recently encouraged to read through John’s gospel asking one question, ‘What does it mean to be sent, as Jesus is sent?’. This simple daily question opened up aspects of this very familiar gospel which I hadn’t seen or linked before, and it gave me a framework to hear God speak, bringing inspiration, understanding and a fresh challenge.
I get nervous when I hear the word ‘Apostolic’.
I know some who get nervous about this word due to past hurts from abusive controlling leaders labelling themselves ‘apostolic’. Others speak or write of how the use of this term ‘makes me nervous’, as an introduction to critical judgement or academic point scoring, ‘nervous’ that other people have got it wrong, thinly veiled as ‘protecting the truth’.
Neither of those two describe my primary nerves about this topic, although I have some experience both with wounds and the desire to ‘be more right than others’.
Allow me a public confession, I get nervous of feeling a bit stupid and behind the learning curve, feeling like I’m joining a class halfway through the year and not yet caught up on the syllabus. If you hang around with church leaders for any time, we’ll start talking about being ‘apostolic’, my nerves are rooted in two things. I’m not sure I know precisely what that means and I’m aware that I’m usually making assumptions about what the person I’m listening to means by the shorthand ‘apostolic’.
‘Apostolic’ is a kingdom word, which carries resonance of hope, renewal, reform and change. It’s a forward looking word which carries tones of pioneering visionary leadership. It’s a biblical word, rooted in the New Testament and the culture and language of it’s time. It’s a word used through church history, in creeds and denominational statements and the breadth of church traditions mean that it is used very differently in different contexts.
There are bold, confident leaders who use it with a definitive certainty to enforce their powerful point. There are reflective academics who use it wrapped in nuanced disclaimers, or seeking to recover traditional uses of the word. There are passionate visionaries who use it to authenticate a particular vision or longing. And there are the rest of us, whose use of this word is shaped by a bit of scripture, some memory of church background, a few role models and a longing to see the church become more like the image we have of how God wants church to be.
One thing I am sure of is that to be ‘apostolic’ is to be ‘sent’. So in my desire to understand this word, I’ve started by looking at how Jesus was sent. In my read through of John, I noticed seven aspects of what it means for Jesus to be sent.
This is the first of a series of blogs in which I’ll seek to explore those themes in John, in the hope to help you engage with the Bible and reflect on how God is sending you to the people you are called to bless, love and influence.
Before we unpack these aspects, consider this question:
Who are you sent to?
To follow Jesus is to be sent by the Father, that applies to all his disciples, wherever we are called. To commute to work, or drive to the gym, (you could run or cycle there? – just saying) or turn up at the school gate, daily knowing that God has sent you, is a simple, essential shift in mindset. When we realise that wherever we go in obedience to God’s call, we have an opportunity to bring hope, share truth, encourage and love.