He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. John 12:35-50
I would like us to consider the words of Christ which we have heard in the Gospel this morning. It seems to me that we are being taught a variety of lessons by them. Of course, everything our Lord says is filled with inexhaustible meaning, and cannot be reduced to a single explanation. Perhaps if we review the words of our Lord again we will find a true and useful meaning for our own lives in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. He begins his address by saying,
He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.
There are two things which immediately spring to mind on reading this sentence. In the first place we understand that Christ is of the Father, and is not a mere prophet. He defines his relationship with the Father as being the one who is sent by the Father. More than that, those who place their trust in Christ are placing their trust in the Father. I would like us to consider how this relationship should perhaps apply to our own lives as Christians. What would it mean for us to be able to say that we are also sent by the Father? And of course in a secondary sense we are indeed sent into the world to do the will of the Father. But what does it mean, how does it change our attitudes to other people and to the situations we find ourselves in if we view ourselves as those who have been sent with a mission?
We can recall the passage in Hebrews which reminds us that it was ‘for the joy set before him’ that Christ endured the cross and the shame. Indeed our Lord continues and says,
He who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.
Not only is Jesus Christ sent into the world by the Father, and not only is there an identity between Christ and the Father, so that to believe in Christ is to believe in the
Father. But to see Christ is in some sense to see the Father. This does not mean that Jesus Christ IS the Father, as some ancient heretics taught, but that Jesus Christ is the true image or true icon of the Father, as representing him completely and perfectly in the world. When we see Christ, we see the Word of the Father made flesh, and the Word eternally expresses the Father as his own Word.
What does this all mean for us? Of course as Christians ourselves we have believed in Christ, we have seen him with the eyes of our spirit, and we have been illuminated by the divine light of his glory so that we no longer walk in darkness. And our faith in Christ reveals the Father to us, whom we know as we abide in Christ. To know Christ is to know the Father.
But what does this mean for us as we live our lives as those who bear the image of Christ in the world. It seems to me that to have a sense that we are sent, to have a sense that others see the God when they see us, and to have a sense that we are to be light in the world – all of these reflecting the life and ministry of the Word of God in the world – must make a difference.
In the first place, we must surely consider that we are not in the world for ourselves, or for our own aims and ambitions, but we are people who are on a mission to do God’s will. We have been sent into the world and are to be engaged in God’s mission. This must affect the way we deal with people, the way we cope with difficult circumstances, and the way we conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion. We are men and women on a mission, on God’s mission.
Not only must we seek to act as God would wish us, but we must be aware as far as we are able that others will see God in us as far as we live a life of obedience and faithfulness. There is a true sense in which God reveals himself to the world through our lives. This is a risky business. We know how weak and sinful we are. But it is a tremendous privilege and responsibility to be God’s ambassadors to those around us. It is a privilege because to share in God’s work is to be sharing in the life of God. But it is also a responsibility because our every sinful action and hasty word serves to obscure the light of God in the world.
Our Lord continues,
And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world
We may be eternally grateful that Christ, the Word of God, has come into the world as Saviour and not as Judge, because we know that we deserve judgement and yet have received mercy. But surely this is another standard by which we must live our lives as Christians, as icons of Christ in the world. We may hope to live as those who reflect the life of God and bring life to others by the way we live. Yet there will always be those who have rejected God, and will reject us. How do we respond to others in such circumstances? Surely it must not be with thoughts or words of judgement. How much more did our Lord have the right to judge others when they rejected him, and when they rejected the salvation he had come into the world to offer to men. Yet he was silent before his accusers. He never raised his voice. He never defended himself.
This passage teaches us how we should live the Christian life. Christ himself is our example. He was sent on a mission from the Father, and he revealed the Father to the
world. He did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. All of these characteristics apply to us, because we are ‘in Christ’ if we are Christians. Such characteristics, when given force by the Holy Spirit, will transform the way we live. We can never think ourselves worthless, because God has chosen us, to use us to reveal himself in the world.
We can never consider any moment of our lives to be pointless, because in each moment we are to be light in the world. We can never fear what others say of us or to us, because we are not judges of the world, but are to share the salvation of Christ with the world.
Each moment matters, and our lives matter, because we are sent by God to bring the presence of God to those around us. Let us consider how best to be light to those we meet at work this week, to our families, our friends, the people we meet in the shops or even on the road. How we live our lives matters, it really matters, because it is through our lives that God chooses to make himself known.
Of course the Holy Spirit acts wherever God chooses, and is not limited by our weakness. But we have a divine calling to share in the ministry of Christ in the world, and this ministry is not something optional or extra to the Christian life, it is of the very essence of our life in Christ.
May the Lord grant us an appreciation of this ministry. May we understand that we have been sent into the world as ministers of the Gospel. May we seek the grace of God so that our lives are a light to those around us. Who will we meet this week, how will we live, what will we ask for grace to change in our hearts, so that our lives are in a true and mystical sense one with Christ and one with the Father? Christ is our example, but he is also the source of the grace we need to live as he did. May we turn to him asking earnestly for all that we need to reflect Christ in the world.
To the glory of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.