“I am a representative from him, and that One sent me forth.”—John 7:29.
My sister Shari is an amazing woman, and a fellow Believer after whom I’ve modeled much of my adult Christian walk. I’ve never actually told her this so the news will come as some surprise. Every year she takes one or more of my nieces and nephews on missionary trips to Central America to make a difference in the lives of people most of us will never meet. She touches the hearts of everyone around her.
In ways she may never appreciate, Shari missioned Christ to me …and it worked.
The Work of Missionaries
What do you think of when you hear the word “missionary?” Perhaps you see a scrubbed face Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon acolyte ringing your doorbell asking if you have found God. Maybe you think of a group of college students taking the annual trip to Nicaragua to paint houses and serve meals. Or even that couple from your church who suddenly announced they were packing up and moving to China last year.
Regardless, the role of missionary is firmly established in the modern church to serve preaching the gospel “in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations” (Matthew 24:14). Most who are called to the missionary life, while facing adversity, are rewarded with successful missions. Lives are changed, hearts are touched, souls are saved. What they do works.
Although Scripture doesn’t include the word “missionary” in that form, there are numerous stories of those “being sent” (the Latin word is “mitto”) to do God’s work. Moses, Jeremiah, Nathan, Zechariah, Samuel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, the Minor Prophets, the Apostles, Paul – all were sent out by God for various purposes. And their efforts, across history, successfully unfolded the life-changing message of salvation and redemption we know as Christianity.
One True Missionary
And then someone different was sent by God, a missionary whose purpose stood above all others, whose coming had been foretold and awaited, yet whose mission should by any measure have been considered impossible. An impossible mission given to Jesus of Nazareth.
One of the most well-known scriptures in the Bible, especially appropriate for Advent Season, is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Think of his mission: born to save all who believe in him from eternal death. Born to redeem all of mankind. Born to pay the ultimate price for our transgressions. I mean really, what could go wrong with that?
Since that moment in the Garden when man stepped away from God’s perfection by virtue of his right to freely choose, God has tried to invite us home. Jesus, as God’s “Word” prior to his human birth, spoke on his father’s behalf through the centuries, breathing life and inspiration into prophets, martyrs, faithful men and women.
And man’s response remains obstinate. Like the scribes and Pharisees of Matthew 23:23, we too often neglect “the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.”
Yet still Jesus prevailed. For uncounted years while man wanders in wildernesses of his own making, Jesus has persisted in his mission. Through a willing spirit, enduring patience, and an unconditional love of creation, Jesus personifies the perfect character of God. He reflects the forgiveness, grace and salvation of a waiting Creator.
Miracle of Free Will
Advent is a season of waiting, a season of humility. A time for each of us to reflect on the unfathomable humility of Jesus, who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7)
Jesus achieves the fullness of his impossible mission by using the very thing man used in rebellion to God’s purpose: free will. Through his sacrifice and intercession, Jesus asks us to freely choose his invitation. No coercion, no forced conversions. Simply believe, repent, receive, and return home.
My sister taught me the humility of being a Christ follower. Jesus teaches us all that no missions are impossible when God sends us.