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
When Christians are asked to quote "The Great Commission," our minds typically take us to the close of Matthew's Gospel. Mark and Luke also include a great commission, and Luke adds another one in the book of Acts. John wrote after the aforementioned biblical authors, so his is the fifth commission for Christians to share the gospel with the world.
Before you can take the good news of Jesus to a family member, friend, or neighbor, you must make sure you are planted on a firm foundation. That foundation, in the words of the Apostle Paul, is "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (ref. Romans 5:1). This is a peace only Christians can know, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
The first followers of Jesus lacked the assurance of peace in this moment. The text tells us they suffered from "fear of the Jews," a quite rational fear of what the perpetrators of the crucifixion of Christ might do to His followers. And, though it is not explicit in the text, I think they were afraid of Jesus, too, after what transpired during the terror of the arrest and crucifixion.
Some Christians fear they cannot be an effective witness for Christ because of some failure or inadequacy on their part. Jesus says, "Peace be with you." God is your Father and Friend. Jesus is your Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit is inside you to empower you. If you have faith in Christ, it is a gift from God, a gift that keeps on giving when you pass it to others.
While all Christians enjoy peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ, some Christians are better at passing the peace, at sharing the faith, than others. The secret John reveals is sometimes called spiritual formation, which is forged with a double-edged sword: Christ-likeness and Spirit-fullness.
Both verbs "sent," which pertains to Christ, and "sending," which pertains to Christians, speak grammatically of persistent, ongoing activity, not some isolated incident. In other words, effective evangelism begins not with learning a few verses or a slick sales pitch to spring on people, but with carefully examining the holistic life of Christ and following Him fully.
What did the Father send the Son to do? Jesus was first a faithful son, a dutiful brother, a faithful friend. He gave Himself persistently to prayer, to a special relationship with God's word, to regular public worship. Jesus had no sales pitch, no cookie-cutter methods, but simply lived His life as God incarnate, offered His life as a ransom for many, took it up again, then told His followers "As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you."
God chooses Christians, Christ redeems Christians, but it is the Holy Spirit who calls, convicts, regenerates, and empowers a Christian. The Holy Spirit is God's gift of Himself, living inside of you. As a Christian, you make choices constantly, to flow with the Spirit of God in you or gratify your flesh with sinful desires. This is what separates good Christians, those full of the Holy Spirit, from those who are full of something else.
People need forgiveness, peace with God, and purpose in life. There is no greater purpose than the one revealed in this fifth commission, but we Christians must embrace it so that others around us will come to Christ. Preaching the gospel is not just for preachers. It is for every child of God. Besides, people listen to ordinary Christians a lot faster than they do ordained preachers. So hear and heed the word of God in the fifth commission. Stand on your foundation. Walk with God. Invite others to follow the crucified and resurrected Christ, all the way to Heaven.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]