There have been some unusual gifts sent over the years: the Greek Trojan horse sent to the city of Troy, the white elephant sent by the king of Portugal to a Pope, and Cleopatra rolled in a carpet sent as a gift to gain an audience with Caesar. Anything sent carries with it the intentions of the sender—an idea that takes on flesh in order to convey some particular meaning.
As Jesus addresses His antagonists in a verbal parlay recorded in the Gospel of John, He adds yet another claim to His list of self-descriptions. He describes Himself as sent from God. It’s another facet of the recurring theme Jesus claims about Himself; He self-identifies as uniquely connected with God with a distinctive task to be accomplished. He is up front and unmistakably apparent with His listeners, but He knows they don’t really hear Him.
“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say’” (John 8:42,43).
This is not the first time Jesus has described Himself as sent by God the Father. In a conversation held one late night between Jesus and a cautious seeker—a member of the Jewish ruling council who needed to find out from Jesus some answers to important questions—Jesus reveals a similar claim. Again He refers to Himself as sent by God. To this seeker Jesus voices a claim that has become the most well-known verse in Scripture: “For God so loved the world,” He explains, “that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In the next verse Jesus continues, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Did you hear the actions Jesus applies to His Father: loved, gave, send, not condemn, and save?
In claiming to be the Sent One of God, Jesus is explaining that God’s idea of loving people is not an existential notion limited to the vast domains of God’s psyche. It’s not just a thought or even a fleeting emotion. Jesus is saying that as God loves His world perfectly—every person ever conceived—He has determined to express that love by sending the perfect gift: Jesus. Jesus is uniquely able to communicate the love of God to us because He knows what it is like to be both God and human. He is saying, I am the love of God here in human form to bring you back into relationship with God, to save you from perishing if you’ll have me. But there’s the rub: ‘If we’ll have Him.’
Sadly, Jesus’ antagonists could not hear what He was offering them because they refused to listen. Rather than hearing love, they heard offense. He wasn’t the gift they wanted. They dismissed this claim as they had His others with slurs and denouncements: “You are demon-possessed!” they sneered. “Who do you think you are?” they spat. They had their own agenda and it didn’t include a God-man sent from beyond earth to do anything for them let alone be a gift to them. So He could not rescue them from their perishing, much as He would have loved to. The hand He reached out to them as they tottered on the brink of disaster was despised. The gift was rejected. The choice was theirs.
The choice is ours too. With each of Jesus’ claims, we have asked how we ought best to respond. Here Jesus tells us that our search for love ends in Him. He is the one sent from God—God in the flesh, love in action—who meets our deepest needs. There is nothing we can do to merit this gift. It’s harder than that. We must receive it with open hands and heart.
Each of us knows the areas in our life we have held Jesus’ love at a distance. He continues to offer His love to you and me, giving us every opportunity to open our ears and hearts to His offer. And how are we to express acceptance of His offer? He tells us. He says, love me in return; that’s why I was sent. So let’s begin each day by saying, “I love you, Jesus,” and follow that up by exploring His Word for more ideas on how to demonstrate that love.”