To whom are you being sent?
You may well have read or heard the story in John’s gospel about the resurrected Jesus and his disciple called Thomas? In it, Jesus appeared to his disciples when Thomas was not present, and afterwards Thomas said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later Jesus appeared again and this time Thomas was present and Jesus said to him, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas believed! It bugs me that Thomas got dubbed ‘Doubting Thomas’ when, in fact, he should be called ‘Believing Thomas’!
Now, we often focus on Thomas in the story, and I have heard many a sermon on the topic of faith and doubt that draws on this text, but the true purpose of the story becomes apparent when we appreciate that it is framed by two related statements made by Jesus. The story opens with Jesus showing his scars to the disciples and saying, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” and it ends with Jesus showing his scars, specifically to Thomas, and saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” In other words, the whole story is about the disciples, having seen Jesus, being sent to those who have not.
We have a phrase in English and it goes like this, “seeing is believing,” and it too is drawn from this passage in the Bible. The disciples saw and believed, and it is because the disciples observed the risen Jesus that they were sent, for they could not have been sent if they had not witnessed the sender!
It is fascinating and humbling to think that every believer in Christ today does so because of those first disciples who, in obedience, followed the command to be sent to those who had not seen. And more than that, if those to whom they were sent had not believed and themselves been sent, and so on through many generations, then I would not be doing the job I do today, would not have written this message, and you would not be engaging with it!
The community of God being called to be sent into the world is not something that started with Christianity but started with Abraham, who was consecrated and ordained by God — separated, if you will, from the rest of humanity — to be God’s representative to the world — that the world may know that God is God. He was, in effect, the first priest and the nation of Israel was called to be a nation of priests — God’s ambassadors or representatives to the rest of humanity.
In the same way you are all priests. You are all consecrated and set apart, to let the world know that God is God. Yes, within the nation of Israel some were called be priests to the priests in the same way that I am called to be a priest to the priests, but this idea that the people of God are set apart was summed up by the apostle Peter who wrote, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
There is no such thing as a Christian who is not also sent, and we are all sent by the great high priest himself, Jesus Christ, to those that have not seen. Your ordination, marked by baptism, was on the day you gave your life to him, put your trust in him, believed, and found your life in Him.
It may come as a surprise but you are not being sent to each other. The church community to which you belong is not the focus of your ministry or your mission. Oh, how churches suck in members then sponge up all their time through asking them to serve the church or raise money for the church! You are not being sent, by our Lord Jesus Christ, to the church! Yes, of course, we are a community who love and support one another with roles to play, but with the express purpose of being sent into the world. You are being sent to those that have not yet seen. So the question is, to whom are you being sent? Because, although I am ordained and sent specifically to you, we are all being sent to others for the purpose that they may also believe and have life in Jesus’ name.
The good news is that through Jesus Christ we can receive life in all its fullness, and if it is good news for us, then it is also good news for others. To whom are you being sent? If you are able, think about that just for a moment. Ask the Lord to burden your heart for those whom he seeks to bring into his kingdom, for becoming a Christian is not a way of life, it is to find life. It is to know a divine love, peace, and joy, and it is a free gift, and as Jesus breathed on his disciples and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” so I pray that you too might be filled with the Holy Spirit, and be equipped for the task that God has set before you.
Remember, the church is the only organisation that exists for its non-members. Therefore, go into the world and make disciples, bring them for baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey the commands of Jesus, that they may know Christ’s life-giving presence with them, now and to the very end of the age.