Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so send I you.
No words have so inspired the imaginations, stirred the passions, and encapsulated the mission of His followers like these words from Christ. Whereas the Great Commission passages of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts, more clearly layout the specific steps of Christ’s followers to fulfill their mission, these brief words recorded by John, like no other words in the Gospels, succinctly describe the nature of the life of the Christian witness. We are sent out into this world like Jesus was sent from heaven.
These words do not and cannot only apply to the apostles – they apply to every Christian – nor do they just apply to pastors, missionaries, and called teachers – for the nature of the Christian life and the truths surrounding mission, purpose, witness, service are given to the believing community as a whole. We would do better to say that only those called to special service have the peace of Christ, than to say that some are called and sent out and others are only expected to be receivers of God’s grace-life and not sharers. The business of witness and service and even martyrdom if it comes is the concern of each and every Christian and not just a few elites.
Yet to those who, like me, serve God from a sense of inner calling, these words are especially meaningful and dear. Like so often in God’s word, we find that they will go as deep in meaning to the heart of the servant as the servant will go in service to the Lord. As we press on in service, so they deepen in meaning and significance in our hearts and in our thoughts.
Canadian school teacher Margaret Clarkson was so moved by them that she penned the powerful missionary hymn, “So Send I You.” She did so when in the 1930-40’s she was serving as a teacher in a north Ontario gold-mining camp, virtually void of Christian fellowship. A physical disability prevented her from going to the mission field, but God gave her the peace that that place was her mission field. In a time of evening meditation she wrote the words that have encouraged believers through the years. The depth of spiritual insight and biblical knowledge so interwoven in the words are so obvious, that we have only to mention them. This week we will examine these five stanzas against a biblical landscape.
The first stanza emphasizes the exclusiveness of the work within the calling:
So send I you to labor unrewarded,
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown,
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing-
So send I you to toil for Me alone.
The pattern she establishes in her hymn is to describe the circumstances in which the calling of God is lived out, as Jesus’ calling was lived out, and in the final line to reveal the benefit of this aspect of the calling.
As Christ was sent out to labor in the harvest field unrewarded by men, so are we sent out by the Lord of the harvest to serve. Whether we plant or harvest, water or maintain, or prepare the fields for a future harvest, the world into which we are sent does not understand what we are doing, nor can they value the meaning of it. Not all of God’s servants live in poverty – though some do – yet we each should have the attitude of Paul that we are willing to spend and be spent (2 Cor. 12:15) for the sake of the work of Christ.
In the name of Christ we love those who do not love us, we seek those who feel no need for what we offer, we pray by name for those who do not know us or care about us at all. Often we are at best misunderstood or at worst we are scoffed at, ridiculed, even scorned and persecuted. We do what the world cannot understand, and even among the flock of God there is some erosion of the values of the Kingdom. Even some of God’s people have very little personal use for those called to serve.
But this helps to purify our motive – we serve God alone. We toil not for rewards of this world, or even for the approval of the church, but to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” As Paul wrote, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). In stripping us of any hope of respect from this world, God deepens our identity with Him and clarifies our motivation. We are called to serve God not mostly, not even primarily, but exclusively. As the intense passion for God’s will consumed the heart and mind and will of Christ, so He sends us out in the same way.
Professor Albert Barnes wrote of this passage:
As God sent me to preach, to be persecuted, and to suffer; to make known his will, and to offer pardon to men, so I send you. This is the design and the extent of the commission of the ministers of the Lord Jesus. He is their model; and they will be successful only as they study HIS character and imitate his example.
But we must not ignore the first words that He spoke in the John 20 passage; “Peace be with you!” For every second we spend in a sense of isolation, rejection, being misunderstood by others, scoffed at and perhaps worse, we should expect to receive a rich supply of God’s peace. The word “abandonment” seems appropriate here, for He calls us to abandon ourselves in Him and in Him alone.
There is a measureless supply of God’s peace for the soul who understands that He toils for God and for God alone. This is no excuse for rudeness or arrogance – just the opposite, that the work of Christ should be done in a spirit of love and compassion, even gentleness. If you feel lonely as a believer, remember that our Lord was often alone, abandoned even at His death by His followers, but that as He found hope and peace in God, so will we.