This coming Sunday is the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. The gospel is taken from John 20:19-31, the scene in the Upper Room on the evening of the Resurrection. In today’s post we consider the phrase, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The Fourth Gospel often speaks of Jesus being sent into the world by the Father: to do his will (6:38–39; 8:29), to speak his words (3:34; 8:28; 12:49; 14:24; 17:8), to perform his works (4:34; 5:36; 9:4) and win salvation for all who believe (3:16–17).
That these same actions would be expected of the disciples, continuing the words and works of Jesus, is foreshadowed at various places in the Gospel. Jesus had urged them to see fields ripe for harvest, and told them he had sent them to reap where others had labored (4:35–38). Jesus told them that those who believed in him would do the works he had done and greater works than these because he was returning to the Father (14:12). The charge to bear fruit was made clear: “I … chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you” (15:16). When Jesus prayed for his disciples he said to the Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world” (17:18). All of this points to a post-Resurrection mission that was larger than simply the confines of historical Israel, but rather a mission to the world.
But it is more than mission, it is sent on mission just as the Father sent the Son, the living Word on mission to the world. In Jewish theology, the memra – Aramaic for “word” (dabar in Hebrew) -had several characteristics. It means more than “spoken word”; it also means “thing”, “affair”, “event”, and “action”. Because it covers both word and deed, in Hebrew thought, dabar had a certain dynamic energy and power of its own. When connected to Yahweh it took on the divine. Its energy and power were from God. The Targuminic reflections on memra (Targum Onkelos) offers some insight into the meaning of the Word in Jewish theological thinking:
- The memra was highly personified (e.g., Isaiah 9:8, 45:23, 55:10; Psalm 147:15)
- When the word of God came to a particular prophet (Hos 1:1; Joel 1:1) it challenged the prophet to accept the word; when he accepted it it impelled him to go forth and give it to others and it became the word that judged men.
- The memra was a means of making a covenant (e.g., Genesis 15:1; Exodus 34:10).
- The word was is described in the OT as a light for men (Ps 154:105, 103)
- The memra was life-giving (e.g., Dt 32:46-47)
- For the Psalmist the memra has the power to heal people (e.g., Ps 107:20)
- Salvation was by means of the memra (e.g., Wis 16:26)
- The revelation of God to his people came through the memra as His agent (e.g., Genesis 15:1; Ezekiel 1:3)
- The memra was an agent of creation (e.g, Psalm 33:6; Is 55:10-11; Ws 9:1). In Is 40:11 God says, “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty. Rather it shall accomplish what I want and prosper in the things for which I sent it.”
- The memra was bearer of the judgment of God (Wis 18:15; Hab 3:5)
- The memra was the agent of the theophany, or visible manifestations of God’s presence (Gen 3:2). John uses this thought (Jn 1:14) in the use of the term “dwelling”, which loses something in the translation. The Greek literally reads “pitched his tent/tabernacle”, describing the place of God’s presence among His chosen people. The Greek word for dwelling uses the same/near equivalent consonance sounds as the Aramaic work, Shekinah, meaning theophany.
That is how/why/what for which Jesus was sent. And we too are sent “As the Father has sent me.”