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God Meets Us

This is the sermon I preached last Sunday at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The scripture was John 1:29-42.
What we have before us in today’s gospel is an action-packed account of the first disciples. John the Baptist proclaims and declares Jesus’ identity as the Lamb of God. Two of John’s disciples leave him for Jesus in response to the message.

Jesus invites John’s disciples to “Come and see” (v. 39). They become followers and evangelists themselves as Andrew brings his brother Simon, to Jesus, who calls him Peter.

Without this witness of John’s, others would not know the one who was coming and standing among them. Even John needed the divine witness to know who Jesus was. Twice he says that he did not know him. I find this to be curious. After all, Jesus was his cousin, so he knew him in one respect. But he did not know who Jesus was as far as his mission and identity as Messiah, the Son of God. He was so much more than merely John’s cousin.

The Spirit remained on Jesus. This was unlike the experiences of the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, who encountered the Spirit intermittently.  The Holy Spirit had staying power with Jesus. When we are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit, who remains with us as well. In those dark, difficult days, when we wonder where God is, the Holy Spirit remains with us.

John loses disciples and that doesn’t bother him because he knows his role. These followers of John follow Jesus. Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?” Seems like an odd question. You would think he would ask, “What do you want?”Jesus wants the disciples to identify themselves, to say something like, “We are two people looking for meaning and purpose in our lives and we think you may be it” (John Petty, progressiveinvolvement.com).

The disciples’ response can be understood a couple of different ways. One way is they were so stunned that they just blurted out what first came into their minds, “where are you staying?” (v. 38). They had answered a question with a question that seems completely unrelated to Jesus’ question. After all, how would we respond?

But another way to understand this is they want to know how committed Jesus is. Does he have skin in the game, so to speak. Jesus tells the wondering disciples, “Come and see.” So Jesus shows them where he is staying and they stay with him.

The essence of witnessing is to state what has been seen and believed and then to invite others to “come and see.” It is the essence of our witness as well. Generally, a witness is needed to help others “see” Jesus. In fact, these two events in the gospel may indicate that one cannot adequately follow Jesus without extending the invitation to others (Brian Stoffregen, crossmarks.com).

These new disciples came, saw and remained. In remaining with Jesus, they show that they too have staying power.

John wrote, “[Andrew] first found his brother Simon” suggesting that the first thing Andrew did after his time with Jesus was to share the good news with Simon and to bring him to Jesus. There’s something interesting about Andrew. He is mentioned three times in John’s gospel and each time he is bringing someone to Jesus. First, his brother, Simon (v. 40), then a boy with five barley loaves and two fish (6:8) and finally “some Greeks” (12:20-22), which signals the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified.

It seems Andrew tends to be overshadowed by his more flamboyant brother, Peter. We don’t hear about Andrew very often in scripture. Peter is mentioned eight times more in John than Andrew. Our churches likely have more Andrews than Peters. But one doesn’t need to be a Peter to be an effective follower and witness to Jesus.
What is Simon’s response to his brother’s news about Jesus? He goes with Andrew to see Jesus, who changes Simon’s name to Peter and forever changed his life.

What will people “come and see” in our congregation? Will they see that we are Jesus’ disciples by the way we love one another? Will they see that we have heard Jesus’ word so that his joy is in us and our joy is complete? Will they see us pointing to ourselves, our own achievement and hard work or will they see us being symbols and witnesses, pointing to Christ? Will they see us as sinners who confess our imperfections and unholiness, and receive new life from Christ? (Stoffregen).

We may respond,”that was then—this is now” when it comes to New Testament times and people. Face it. I’m no John the Baptist or Simon Peter or Andrew and I live in a different world. What does all of this have to do with discovering who I am today?

The strong message in today’s gospel transcends time and place. We can discover ourselves in the presence of Christ. What are the first three things that come to mind when I ask the question, “Who are you?” Right off the the top of your head—“Who are you?”

Did you think of your name? Your occupation? Did you maybe answer, “I am a child of God!” Just like John, Andrew and Peter, we will discover most fully who we are in relationship with the God who made us. When we see ourselves in light of our relationship of love with the One who made the universe, we gain courage to set aside any other identity people want to give us (John Jewell).

It is God who does the work in us to make us the kind of Christians he wants us to be. God is at work in this place. I see God’s love here. I see God getting the credit for the work we do. And yes, we are sinners who need to confess our imperfections and receive new life from Christ as well.

God comes down to us and meets us where we are at. It was Jesus who turned and first spoke to the two disciples of John (v. 38). It is Jesus who speaks first to Simon (v. 42). And later in this gospel, we find Jesus making the first move with Nathanael. Do you see the pattern? God always makes the first move.

True followers of Jesus are eager to “come” to him, to “see” him, to “listen” to him, to be with him. Those who follow Jesus are eager to “come and see” this One upon whom the Spirit remains. They too remain with him (v. 39). As they do so, they listen to him, say that he is the One they have been seeking, longing, yearning to find. In communion with Jesus, they begin to understand the mystery of the word of God.

John the Baptist has introduced us to Jesus as the Lamb of God. John the gospel writer manages to convey that this Lamb of God has existed from time immemorial (vv. 30-31), the one upon whom the Spirit descends and rests (vv. 32-35) and the chosen one (v. 34). I’m thinking that since my identity is bound to be shaped by somebody and something in 2020, I want it to be shaped by the One who is walking by us right now, the Son of God, God’s unique instrument, the Messiah and the Servant of the Lord (Alyce McKenzie, Edgy Exegesis, patheos.com). How about you?
“Look! Here is the Lamb of God!” Amen.
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