Sent to train, equip, and send
Reading and studying the "sent" passages in the Gospels has been a special Christmas blessing. In thirty-five years of pastoral ministry I never did a series about these verses. It just goes to remind me that His Word is alive and active, sharper than a two-edged sword. There's something new there every time I read it.
John 17 has been a special source of seasonal truth this year. It is thought to be Jesus' high priestly Garden prayer offered on the night of his betrayal. Usually I would read this as part of our Maundy Thursday worship before Good Friday. I've really never thought of it as Christmas preparation. But, six verses affirm his having been sent by the Father. This chapter further attests the intent and purpose of his being sent, with several specific notations----
1. Jesus accomplished the purpose for his having been sent (verse 4).
2. Jesus trained those given him by the Father (verses 6-8).
3. Jesus prayed for the ones he had trained (verses 9-19).
4. Jesus sent them into the world as he had been sent (verse 18).
5. Jesus promised an abiding presence with them after his death (verse 26).
Two additional Scripture references are significant as these passages reveal this special seasonal truth. Once again, they aren't typically Advent or Christmas verses. In fact, they are both among the final words Jesus spoke to the disciples post-resurrection---
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so
I am sending you.”
John 20:21, ESV
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city
until you are clothed with power from on high.
Luke 24:49, ESV
Jesus was sent to train the ones the Father had given to him, to equip them with the promise of the Holy Spirit, and to send them out into the world with the word of truth.
It's such a powerful Christmas theme, his being sent to equip, prepare and send us. Yes, the bullet list of reasons he was sent is usually over-shadowed by our joy at the birth of a Savior, the most significant reason of them all. Yet, the work that the Father assigned him to accomplish envisioned his church until that day, prepared to announce his kingdom and make disciples of all nations. And, here's the real deal. He was sent to show us how to equip, train, and send his disciples to the corners of the earth making disciples. He did it to model it for us.
And, here we are two thousand years later, holy huddles gathered in our elaborate facilities, bringing home international missionaries because of funding declines, with little influence or voice in the public square, and with hoards of nominal Christians and few disciples. Somewhere in the advances of two millennia his church has become so enmeshed in peripheral distractions that the model he gave us has been discarded.
Christmas should celebrate his being sent for all the reasons mentioned this week. Among them is that the Father sent him to equip, train, and send his disciples into the world. Even more, it is our observance of his taking on human flesh so we could learn his ways and follow his example. Analysis of the modern church today leads to one simple conclusion: we are not following the methods he was sent to demonstrate to us. Christmas is our call back to him, Immanuel, God with us.
In his First Epistle John made a very astute claim. He wrote,
Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he
walked. 1 John 2:6, ESV
It's pretty straightforward. It's the walking the walk and talking the talk thing. If we say we live in Christ, we should live the way he lived. And, Christmas is the prime reminder that God took on flesh and was sent to earth to show us a few things. One of them was how we are to equip, train, and send his disciples.
May it be so. Merry Christmas.