John’s Sending Christology

Consider John’s sending Christology and missiological implications for us today:

“In John’s sending christology, the sent one is to know the sender intimately (7:29; cf. 15:21; 17:8, 25); live in a close relationship with the sender (8:16, 18, 29; 16:32); bring glory and honour to the sender (5:23; 7:18); do the sender’s will (4:34; 5:30, 38; 6:38-39) and works (5:36; 9:4); speak the sender’s words (3:34; 7:16; 12:49; 14:10b, 24); follow the sender’s example (13:16); be accountable to the sender (passim; cf. esp. ch. 17); bear witness to the sender (12:44-45; 13:20; 15:18-25); and exercise delegated authority (5:21-22, 27; 13:3; 17:2; 20:23).  John goes to great lengths to show that Jesus fulfilled all the functions of a sent one perfectly.  He does so in part for the purpose of presenting Jesus as a model for his disciples to follow.  When Jesus commissions his followers (20:21), he functions, for the first time in the Fourth Gospel, not as the sent one, but as the one who sends others.  Like Jesus, his disciples are to fulfill the manifold functions of one sent as outlined above.”

– Andreas J. Kostenberger and Peter T. O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001), 209.

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One Comment on “John’s Sending Christology”

  1. Todd B. Says:


    Thanks for posting this. I was struck by this “sending” passage while preparing my dissertation and came across the Kostenberger/O’Brien exceprt at that time. Their extensive treatment of the sending theme in John cause be to do some further study in the nature of this particular commission statement. In my dissertation, I argued that this text applies particularly to the redemptive ministry of Jesus and its continuation in the ministry of his disciples. If you’ll indulge me, I’ll share an except of my own:

    “Here, Jesus compares his own ministry to that of the disciples. Jesus sends his disciples “just as” the Father has sent him. In the same manner, Jesus states, “I also send you” (John 20:21, cf. 17:18). A transition in tense occurs here from the perfect to the present. The Father “has sent” Jesus. The perfect tense indicates that the sending of Jesus by the Father has a continued significance in the present. Jesus then shifts to the present tense as he sends his disciples. The combined effect thus suggests that the ministry of the disciples will be a continuation of the ongoing ministry of Jesus (Beasley-Murray, John, 379-80). This continuation becomes significant as one views the sending theme in the Gospel of John….
    In this gospel, the Father sends the Son to speak the words of the Father (7:16; 8:26, 28; 12:49-50; 14:24; 17:8; cf. 3:34), to accomplish his works (5:36; 9:4), to do the Father’s will (4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 8:28-29) to follow his commands (10:18; 14:31) and, ultimately, to seek his glory (7:18). Because Jesus sends his disciples just as the Father sent him, his disciples must follow this same pattern. Jesus does not merely send his disciples on a mission. He sends them to carry on his mission and that mission concerns the salvation of people….
    The role of the disciples in the Johannine commission thus centers on bringing people to faith in Christ. The sending of Jesus by the Father is for a specific purpose—the redemption of people. The disciples must follow that purpose in their mission as well. When the disciples speak the words of Jesus, like him, they speak words that lead to eternal life (5:24; 6:63; 12:50). When the disciples are sent out by Jesus, they are sent to reap a harvest for eternal life (4:36, 39a; cf. 6:39-40) by one whose will is to save (3:17). As Jesus lays down his life (10:18; 3:16), his disciples are sent out with the message of eternal life. Obedience to Jesus is certainly in mind, but it is an obedience of loving discipleship and an obedience that brings others into that discipleship.”

    Thanks for sharing and letting me share some of my own work on the passage.


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