So I have sent them

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John 17:18

18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

His Fourth prayer

Many of us are old enough to remember when our churches had a mission week every year. These were special events when guest missionaries on furlough were invited to share with our congregations on their experiences in the mission field. As I recall there was almost always a call for those young people present to respond if they felt that God was calling them to the mission field. Sadly, those days seem to have passed, as it has been a long time since I have experienced a true mission week or weekend.

In our text, Jesus acknowledges that it was Father who sent Him into the world. He lived in eternity since before creation, but for this brief period in history, Jesus was born, fully human as well as fully divine. The word that he uses in this prayer first, with respect to the Father sending him, is from the family of words ‘apostello’ where we get the word apostle, meaning one who is sent. Secondly, in the same sentence, he uses the same word to describe how He is sending the disciples into the world. D.A. Carson explains the flow like this, “That Jesus’ prayer for his disciples has as its end their mission to the world demonstrates that this Gospel is not introducing an absolute cleavage between Jesus’ followers and the world. Not only were they drawn from the world (John 15:19), but the prayer that they may be kept safe in the world and sanctified by the truth so as to engage in mission to the world is ample evidence that they are the continuing locus of John 3:16: ‘God so loved the world that he sent …’ (cf. 1 Jn. 4:12). [1]

Leon Morris also draws a similar picture for us, “The mission of Christ forms the pattern for the mission of the apostles. Earlier we have read that the Father sanctified him and sent him into the world (John 10:36). He has just prayed that the Father would sanctify the apostles and now he sends them into the world. The parallel is impressive. Their lives are not to be aimless. They are given a definite commission by their Lord. Their task is to discharge it, even as he discharged his.”[2]

The next question is then, does this prayer apply only to the original apostles that were chosen by Jesus, or does it apply to believers down through history to our present time? Jesus answered this question for us, a couple of verses later:-

John 17:20 (ESV)

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,.

It is pretty clear then that Jesus had all future believers in mind as He faced His coming death. A little later on after the resurrection, we read about the great commission. This is where Jesus outlines the mission task, not only for the disciples but for all those who believe in Jesus as a result of their ministry. This, of course, includes us. In the very last verse of Matthew’s gospel, we read:-

Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV)

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

These may have been the last words that Matthew records, but they are not the last words that Jesus spoke before His ascension. You see at that point the disciples had the instructions to make disciples of all nations, but they did not yet have the power or the equipping from Jesus to accomplish their mission. While He was ministering on earth, they were able to perform miracles, healings and deliverances, using His delegated authority. Now He was about to leave them and a new source of enabling power had to be provided to equip them to achieve the objectives that Jesus had set them. In Acts 1, Luke records for us Jesus last words before He ascended to heaven.

Acts 1:4–5 (ESV)

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”


Acts 1:8 (ESV)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

I hope you can see then that far from being a scary thing, Jesus commanded the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit for themselves. When Jesus was praying in the garden, He knew exactly what His followers would need to evangelise the world. This is how Father planned for the glory to be manifest in people from the moment of creation. If we take a look at Psalm 8, we see an interesting group of verses from verses 3-8:-

Psalm 8:3–8 (ESV)

              When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

              what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

              Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

              You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under his feet,

              all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field,

              the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

There is an interesting strand of rabbinic teaching that describes this passage as a conversation between an angel and God about the nature of humans. Let’s face it, until creation there had never been any humans in existence. The interesting part is that the writer notes that man was originally crowned with glory and honour. My idea is that at the fall, Adam and Eve lost the glory and honour that had been theirs at creation. The whole story of the bible from that point on is the story of redemption, God putting in place His plan to restore the glory and that personal relationship with His people. That story came to a dramatic fulfillment on the cross and then the plan was completed at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers in that upper room.

Paul has given us a brief explanation of this mystery:-

Colossians 1:26–28 (ESV)

26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

How are we to fulfill our part in the prayer of Jesus in the garden and the great commission? According to Paul, it is Jesus Christ living in you by the power of the Holy Spirit, that will equip you and empower you to follow your individual call, whatever that may be.

We have a job to do, and you have a part in it. Ask God to help you find it, and do it today![3]

[1] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 566–567.

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 647.

[3] Bob Gass, A Fresh Word For Today : 365 Insights For Daily Living (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 260.

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