Have you ever thought about the disciples as they hid in the upper room after Jesus had died? They were in this period of massive uncertainty and fear. Having spent three years in the best ministry school imaginable it all seemed to have fallen apart: their great teacher was gone, killed like a shameful criminal, and here they sat as the remnant supporters of a failed revolutionary whose message was no longer welcome. It’s unsurprising that they had locked themselves away.
I wonder if we sometimes have that same desire to bunker down and play it safe? When it comes to sharing our faith, maybe we have similar thoughts of feeling under pressure, of feeling detached from the prevailing mood of the day? I imagine the locked doors that we shelter behind are more metaphorical than literal, but how often have we adopted that same posture as the disciples?
Yet it is into these situations that Jesus walks straight through the locked doors.
He bypasses our defences, walks into our world of uncertainty and shows us who we really are:
“That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
– John 20.19-23
Not only does Jesus promise his peace for us, but he makes an astounding declaration about our identity. That seemingly simple phrase, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you”, is actually loaded with meaning. In the days before emails, texts and the Royal Mail the only way to send a message to a different place was through a messenger. And as far as the person receiving the messenger was concerned, the messenger was essentially the same person as the sender: they had the same status, the same rights and responsibilities, the same authority.
When Jesus sends us, it’s like he is sending himself.
We are his resident representatives to this earth.
We carry the same authority, the same purpose, the same rights and responsibilities.
Listen to Paul explain it more eloquently than I:
“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
– 2 Corinthians 5:19-20
The same way that the Father sent Jesus, so he is sending us. We are his ambassadors.
What does it mean that I am an ambassador?
It helps me to pick apart the definition we find in a dictionary:
*noun: a diplomatic official of the highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative. (Oxford English Dictionary)
So an ambassador is four things…
OF THE HIGHEST RANK
Before you are an ambassador, you are a son, a daughter. You are a co-heir with Christ. You are beloved, chosen, accepted, washed clean, sanctified, seated with God, a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit – the list could go on! This has to come first. Your being an ambassador has to be an expression of your identity rather than a function or role that you strive to perform.
SENT BY ONE SOVEREIGN OR STATE TO ANOTHER
When you got saved your identity changed; you became something new. You swapped your allegiance to the world and became a “citizen of heaven” (Phil. 3:20).
This means that the sovereign you have been sent from is Jesus and the place that you find yourself now is the state to which you have been sent. You are an ambassador to your your university: to your courses, your houses, your societies. It’s about recognising that the world you see around you isn’t your true home – you’re not of this place, but you are called here and you do have a purpose here.
This is a big one that we often get wrong. An ambassador isn’t just a visitor, they are not on holiday: they are a resident. They are committed to being where they have been sent. They invest, they dwell, they speak the language, they learn the culture. And even though outnumbered by the locals, their level of influence is high.
Think about your university – are you invested there? Do you speak the language? Know the culture?
Or are you just there to visit? To get the degree, have the experience, buy the hoodie, but never really in a position to make a lasting difference?
A worldly ambassador cannot afford to be detached from the reality of where they are sent. The same is true of us as ambassadors of Jesus.
Like the disciples in the upper room, the temptation will always be for us to separate ourselves and focus solely on self-preservation. (How many ministries are focused purely on helping Christians hang on their faith?) But instead we must push through to Pentecost and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, rise from our hiding place and show up in the world around us.
Before we are called to change an environment we are called to be a part of it.
God’s plan to save the world was through incarnation, not by flinging a solution at it from a distance.
So to be ambassadors we have to be present. We might not be citizens of this place any more, but we’re certainly not holidaymakers either.
The essence of representation is purpose – there is a reason why you reside where you do. That purpose is the same as any earthly ambassador: to see the interests of your sending country expressed and extended wherever you have been deployed.
In other words, you want to see the place you are look more like the place you’re from:
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.”
One of the amazing things about God is that he never calls us to anything that he doesn’t also equip us for. Your commission as a representative of heaven comes with authority:
“Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:18-20
How much authority has Jesus given us to be about his work? All authority. In heaven and earth. So there is nothing stopping us from partnering with God and seeing his plans and purposes come to pass.
You have been empowered and equipped with everything you need to see transformation; to see heaven come to earth and to see your environment changed to look how God always intended.
You’re not just here to reside, but to represent.