God as Sender, Jesus as Sent by John Painter

The motif of God as sender and Jesus as sent reaches its climax in John 17 (and is echoed again in John 20:21). In this chapter, Jesus reports the successful completion of his mission (John 17:1-5) before reporting the successful preparation of the disciples to continue his mission (John 17:18), which forms the bridge between Jesus and successive generations (John 17:6-19).

The Johannine community itself faced the struggle of being a religious minority, and its constituents would have been concerned about the future of the Jesus movement. Their focus on God as loving sender and Jesus as the “sent one” gave succeeding generations of early Christians a way to imagine their mission in communion with God, sent to transform the world through love.

The relationship between Jesus and God is a prominent concern of the Gospel of John, and many readers have noted that this theme is accompanied by a “sending” motif. In the Hebrew Bible, prophets are characteristically sent by God to speak and act for God. Likewise, John the Baptist, who is featured in the Gospel of John but is not its namesake—is described as sent by God (John 1:6). The author of John’s Gospel builds on this, depicting Jesus as sent by God in a unique way: he is the Son, and God is the Father. Jesus’ mission is described as a unique expression of the Father’s love for the world.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus uses the Greek verb pempein to refer to “the Father who sent me” no fewer than 24 times. These references put the focus on the Father, who through this action of sending authorizes and empowers the Son in his mission. In another seventeen passages, however, some form of the verb apostellein is used to focus instead on Jesus, as the one who is sent. This verb invests Jesus’ acts with the full authority of the Father because he seems to do only what the Father wills. Indeed, for John, the Father is present, speaking and acting in Jesus (John 5:17, John 5:19-20). This emphasis on the interrelationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son lays the groundwork for later Trinitarian theology.

In John 3:16-17, the “sending” relationship between the Father and Son frames Jesus as God’s gift for the world. For John, this embodies the nature of God’s love for the world (see also John 3:16; 1John 4:10). The purpose of this giving or sending is to save the world, not to condemn it.

John 3:34-35 further describes the relationship between God and “he whom God has sent” as an expression of the reality that “the Father loves the Son” (John 5:20). The Father’s love for the Son continuously endows and empowers the Son to speak the Father’s words and do the Father’s works (John 3:34-35, John 5:17, John 5:19-20, John 5:30).

John Painter, "God as Sender, Jesus as Sent", n.p. [cited 23 Sep 2017]. Online: http://bibleodyssey.com/en/passages/related-articles/god-as-sender-jesus-as-sent

Contributors

John Painter

John Painter
Professor, Charles Sturt University

John Painter is Foundation Professor of Theology at St. Mark’s National Theological Centre, School of Theology, Charles Sturt University, Canberra Campus, Australia. His publications include John Witness and Theologian (SPCK, 1975) and The Quest for the Messiah: The History, Literature and Theology of the Johannine Community (T&T Clark and Abingdon, 1993).

The Christian practice of consecrating bread and wine and sharing it in a worship service.

A gospel is an account that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

A West Semitic language, in which most of the Hebrew Bible is written except for parts of Daniel and Ezra. Hebrew is regarded as the spoken language of ancient Israel but is largely replaced by Aramaic in the Persian period.

A program of good works—or the calling to such a program—performed by a person or organization.

Writing, speech, or thought about the nature and behavior of God.

Relating to the doctrine of the Trinity (God being the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).

John 17

Jesus Prays for His Disciples
1After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son ... View more

John 20:21

21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

John 17:1-5

Jesus Prays for His Disciples
1After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son ... View more

John 17:18

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

John 17:6-19

6“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.7Now they know th ... View more

John 1:6

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

John 5:17

17But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.”

John 5:19-20

The Authority of the Son
19Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever ... View more

John 3:16-17

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.17“Indeed, God did not se ... View more

John 3:16

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

1John 4:10

10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

John 3:34-35

34He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.35The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands.

John 5:20

20The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.

John 3:34-35

34He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.35The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands.

John 5:17

17But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.”

John 5:19-20

The Authority of the Son
19Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever ... View more

John 5:30

Witnesses to Jesus
30“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent ... View more

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