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  • Stephen Finamore

Sent as Messiah Jesus is Sent

Sent as Messiah Jesus is Sent



Towards the end of the Gospel according to John, when the risen Messiah Jesus commissions his friends for the next stage of their service, he says to them, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’ (John 20.21). These words were spoken centuries ago but we believe they are also addressed to us and that we too are caught up in God’s own sending. More than that, we are sent as Jesus was sent, suggesting that our calling as communities of his followers, is a reflection of his and even a continuation of his. This leaves us with the question of how best to talk about this calling, this mission, this purpose that we share with our king.

Christians have chosen to express our calling in lots of different ways. In this series of blogs, I will try, without any claims to having got this wholly right or to being original, set out one way of understanding the missional activity of Jesus. But before I say anything else I should clarify that Jesus’ achievements in accomplishing atonement are not ones in which any of us can share. We can enjoy them and proclaim them, but we recognize that he is the Saviour, and we are not. That said, we are called to follow him and, as the Holy Spirit empowers us, to model our activities on his.


I find it helpful to think of Jesus’ activities as three overlapping concentric circles. At the point where the three overlap we find the Kingdom of God, the reality that inspires all three. The first is evangelism, the second is social action and the third is prophecy. As individuals we may not be gifted in all three of these areas, but as churches and communities we may want to consider how we can be sure we are engaging effectively in each of them. The divisions between them are not hard and fast but I’ve distinguished then to allow us to reflect on each in turn. This month we’ll think about evangelism, next month will be about social action, and finally we’ll look at our call to be prophetic.


At the beginning of his public ministry, we are told that Jesus proclaims, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe the gospel.’ (Mark 1.14). It seems clear that Jesus sees the gospel and the kingdom as closely connected. The announcement of God’s impending reign should lead us to repentance and faith. The key word is euangelion from which we get our word evangelism.


The word we translate ‘gospel’ had some significant uses in the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus. And related words appeared in some sections of the Hebrew Scriptures that conveyed important promises. We’ll look at each in turn.


Gospel in Roman Contexts

In Jesus’ time the imperial court might use the term gospel for an especially significant announcement. For example, that a new king had established his authority and had been crowned. And if there was a new king then he expected that everyone would pledge their loyalty to him. No one should acknowledge the authority of any other contender for the throne or any other purported king. All other loyalties should be renounced, and the rule of the new king should be embraced.


If this was in people’s minds when they heard Jesus’ announcement, then they would understand that the promised time had come when God would become king. In the light of the impending kingship of God, everyone should repent of their loyalty and commitment to any other king or rule, and should put their trust in God.


Gospel in the Hebrew Bible

But this was not necessarily the only understanding of the word gospel that would have been recalled. The words in Isaiah 52 that lead up to the remarkable song about the atoning death of the Servant of YHWH at the end of the chapter and flowing into the next, ia an announcement to a people who feel oppressed, neglected and forgotten, and that their God has turned away, turned out the lights, and gone to sleep. Now, breaking into their despair comes a messenger from the far side of the mountain announcing news of salvation, the one who says God reigns, God is king. And the messenger with the lovely feet is, in the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew that was well-known to our Gospel writers, is an evangelizer, a proclaimer of the good news that God is becoming king.


A Gospel for Israel and for the Nations

So, whether your background is in the Greek world or in the world of the Hebrew Bible, it was hard to miss the message Jesus proclaimed. Right here and right now, God is keeping his ancient promises to Israel and to the nations: God is becoming king. And Messiah Jesus knows that this is a message that demands a response. He doesn’t say, God is about to become king, nothing to worry about, as you were everyone, keep calm and carry on. No. A new king means that everything is different. And now is the moment to give your loyalty, your trust, your obedience to the new king. You must stop living as though the old king remains in charge. You can trust the one who brings this message. He was so committed to this gospel and to taking it to the very centre of power, that he brought it knowing it would mean his death, trusting that God would overturn the human verdict and ensure he was vindicated.


And So…

The church continues Jesus’ announcement that God is the true king and expects the allegiance of his creation. Thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection, this gospel is a reality for the whole world. And the church is called to tell the world that God is king, that in his mercy he will forgive past false allegiances and disobedience to all those who now respond in repentance and trust. This is evangelism and no understanding of mission that wants to take seriously Jesus’ message of the kingdom can conceivably be complete without it.


Next time we will think about the way that Jesus not only – through his parables and other teaching – teaches about the kingdom of God, but that he also, through his deeds, shows us what it is like. And we will explore how our social action might function as a sign of the kingdom that we announce in our teaching and preaching.

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