The Holy Gospel according to John. Glory to you, O Lord.
[John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength & our redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
Have you ever been so excited that you can’t wait to tell someone else about a new thing you’ve discovered? Maybe it is a new restaurant, or a dish at this restaurant, hearing a new band, a song by this band, perhaps a particular city you visited. It could be any of those things or something else.
Whatever it is, you’ve been excited by it. Now everyone you meet, from family to friends, has to hear about your trip to this restaurant, how good this one particular dish was, how the chef combined flavors in a unique way that created a virtual nuclear explosion of taste on your pallet, the dish was plated like a Salvador Dali painting, and before this person does anything else, they have to make a reservation and go with you to this restaurant at their next available moment. You want to be there with them to see the look on their face when they are served an appetizer. Then you want to say, “See, I told you, wasn’t this the best thing you’ve ever eaten!”
We get that way about a lot of things in life…have we ever been that way with another person about Jesus? Hang on to that one for a moment and let’s look at our Gospel text for this week.
“Behold the Lamb of God!” This familiar description of Jesus, which rings in our ears with the stirring chorus from Handel’s Messiah, is found only in this gospel and only in this text. We had to leave the gospel of Matthew to experience it, to hear the introduction of Jesus and the gathering and testimony of the first disciples in a whole new light.
Imagine it. John’s disciples standing in the valley near the edge of the winding River Jordan, shading their eyes against the afternoon sun. Out in the water they can see their leader, waving his arms as his voice rises and falls with his message. He’s preaching to those who have gathered and he’s baptizing them in the water.
As the disciples rest a minute and watch the Jordan run by, they’re reminded of all that has happened on the banks of this river —Abraham and Lot, Jacob, the Israelites, Elijah and Elisha—and now they too, are disciples, followers of John the Baptist, in this same river, preaching the coming of the Messiah and his kingdom, and offering baptisms of repentance.
Maybe one asks, “So what do you think about what John said yesterday? Could it be true? That he saw the Lamb of God? What kind of lamb would that be? Do you think he means lamb like the Passover Lamb, the symbol of our Israeli deliverance? Or maybe lamb like the source, the source of our milk, food, wool, cloth, and skins for clothes and tents? Or lamb like sacrificial lamb, all gentle and innocent, and offering to God?”
What if the other says, “Look, he just said he saw the Lamb of God. It would’ve been nice if we’d have been here with the others instead of out on the road preaching, but we weren’t.”
Maybe the first one continues, “Incredible! All this time John’s been saying that one was coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit? How do you figure that? What if the kingdom of God is coming right here, right now?”
While they’re trying to sort all this out, John finishes for a bit and comes up to stand with them. The crowd is mingling around, talking, drying their clothes in the sun, preparing to return home. Suddenly John sees Jesus and cries out, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Both disciples, without a word, turn and follow Jesus. All that discussion, all that wondering, all the years serving as John’s disciples—they leave without a second thought and follow Jesus.
Thousands of years of history and tradition, sinfulness and faithfulness, and in the blink of an eye, Jesus appears at the river Jordan, is recognized and testified to by John, and immediately disciples follow. Immediately they recognize the Messiah —not after the resurrection, not after he walks on water, not after he heals.
It’s as if John’s disciples have fully grasped who Jesus is and can comprehend and believe in the mission to which God is sending God’s Son. And it’s all here, right in the first chapter, an immediacy, a passion to tell us everything about Jesus right away, to describe him fully, to surround him with disciples testifying and evangelizing.
Should we read ourselves into the story and be concerned that we don’t follow as quickly or completely? No. Let’s be excited with the gospel writer and bow in grateful worship to God who is fulfilling the ancient promises in the Word made flesh, at the river Jordan then, and in our world today. Behold, the Lamb of God!
That’s what this passage is about, that kind of encounter. Instead of some innovative recipe, or vacation destination, etc., etc., the one thing you’ve become so incredibly excited to share with the world is a person whose name is Jesus of Nazareth. We’ve all been that excited about something in our lives. It may have been the last time you bought a new truck or car. Perhaps it was the place you stayed on your previous fishing trip. You’ve felt the energy and enthusiasm of an event or an encounter. You know what it is like to be unable to keep good news bottled up and to yourself.
Here’s my first question this morning. Have you ever felt that way about Jesus?
In your entire life, have you ever been so excited about your relationship with Jesus that you couldn’t shut up about Jesus and had to say, “I’ve got to tell someone else about Jesus?”
- We tell people about the new bigger engine in our trucks or how we got a new roof on our church.
- We tell people about where we went on vacation, how we had a great time, and how they ought to go there and enjoy it in the same way we did.
Think of all the heartfelt and exciting recommendations you give day after day. When was the last time you said to someone, “Oh my God, you have got to meet this guy Jesus; he changed my life! Let’s go now; I’ve got to see your face when you talk to him.”
People used to put bumper stickers or license plates on cars saying, “Follow me to church,” but those are not the same. I can’t tell you the last time that a bumper sticker changed my life. I’ve never voted for anyone or changed my opinion about anything because of a bumper sticker. I can, however, respond to conversations. Come and see; we hear the disciples saying. Come and see; I know what it means. When was the last time we spoke to someone, “Come and see?”
- When was the last time you wanted to see Jesus?
- Do you want to have a face-to-face encounter with Jesus?
- Are we afraid of how the conversation might go? Some of us might be worried about what he wants to talk about.
We’re comfortable talking to him in prayer. Come and see opens the door to the possibility of him talking back. That’s where our Christianity and our faith start to get exciting.
When the disciples found Jesus, what did they see? What did they see in him? That’s the question that has fascinated me most about this passage. They heed the call to “come and see” Jesus.
I wonder about their first impressions of the man who was destined to save the world, this humble rabbi, identified by John as a “teacher” in their eyes; what did Jesus look like physically, and who did he seem to be spiritually? These are meaningful questions because whatever they saw was substantial enough to cause them to drop everything, become his students, follow him, and start telling more people to come and see the carpenter-turned-teacher from Nazareth. So how did he appear? I picture him exuding kindness, approachability, and love. You know those people. Whether by genetics or life experience, some people carry a presence that disarms critics, invites conversation, and welcomes questions. Regardless of whatever charisma their words or spirit may convey, their body language and gestures include others in their world. I believe the gospels offer this image of Jesus.
A man who readily held children and brought lepers into his life was open to everyone in a world all too willing to reject anyone who defied religious norms and traditions. Here was God in the world, something these people had yet to fully comprehend, not existing above or beyond creation but entirely within the world. This wasn’t smoke and mirrors. Jesus was flesh and blood. Simon, Andrew, and John weren’t following a ghost, a spirit, or the appearance of a man. Something about this man was different, they might not have been able to put their finger on it at that particular moment, but they knew it when they saw it, so they went. They came, they saw, and they believed. It’s worked the same way ever since. Jesus, hopefully, spurs something in us that makes us want to be better than we are at the current moment and tell others about this experience of kindles, love, and acceptance. We’ve never known something that could only come from God because God knows people don’t treat each other this way.
The other question this passage raises is this: “What does Jesus see in us?” I hope he sees potential. We’re a motley crew, we modern-day Galilean fishermen. Just look at us. Despite our differences in age, genetics, skills, diversity of opinions, and taste in basketball teams and music Jesus looks at us and still sees possibilities. Jesus looks at us unlike anyone else, except maybe your parents look (or looked) at you. You are worth being loved no matter what. Nothing you can do or say would drive me away, separate me from you, or make me turn my back on you. He looks so hard at you that he almost says, “I’d die for you.” Paul put it this way; there’s nothing that can separate us from the love of God. In Romans, Paul writes, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I believe Jesus sees love in us.
The gospel writers make a big deal of Jesus knowing peoples names.
- Jesus is not a “hey you, worship me” kind of God.
- We’re not just numbers on a divine spreadsheet of followers.
When we use the phrase “personal relationship,” we mean a personal relationship and all it entails. He walks with me, talks with me, and chucks me on the chin while the car is still defrosting in the morning. Yet so often, that person is one-sided; we know him. We phrase it this way: we know Jesus. We’ve met him. We’ve let him into our lives. That’s how we talk. Our language places us as the ones choosing to allow us entrance or access to the most vital areas of our existence, our souls. We don’t need to let him in; he’s been here the whole time. There was never a time Jesus wasn’t in our lives; we just weren’t aware that he was there. So when Jesus sees us, he sees people already on his team; we don’t know we’re on the bench and about to be put into the game.
You may pick up a nickname when someone really gets to know you. Sometimes we get nicknames during childhood that stick our entire lives. I’m sure you all know a Bubba in their 50s or 60’s that’s been Bubba since they were in the third grade. Here I’m talking about real nicknames that friends give each other because they reflect a person’s personality. People who don’t know each other well don’t give each other nicknames. Generic nicknames like hoss, chief, sport, and big guy don’t count. I’m talking about real nicknames. This is what Jesus does to the disciples, specifically Peter, in this passage. Jesus says, “I’m going to call you Cephas.” Guess what, Jesus says, I’m going to call you Rocky, Rocky Johnson. Cephas/Peter means Rock, and he was the son of John. That’s Peter’s name, Rock Johnson. Not only did Jesus know his name, but he felt so comfortable and familiar with him to give him a nickname immediately. What do you think your nickname from Jesus might be?
We need to get excited about Jesus! Someone brought you here to come and see. Could you tell someone else to come and see? Because that’s our new mission as we move into becoming an Inviting Congregation. Jesus is already out there at work in the lives of people waiting to hear about this next big thing that we can’t keep to ourselves any longer, this Jesus, this carpenter, the teacher from Nazareth. He sees us and knows in ways no one else ever will. Who will you tell? Who will go to because you can’t hold it in anymore and say “Come & See?”