Tag Archives: Lamb of God

What Are You Looking For? – Sermon on John 1:29-42

January 15, 2017
Epiphany 2A

Today’s gospel lesson picks up the story right where we left off last week, after the baptism of Jesus by his cousin, John the Baptist. John and a few of his disciples are together as Jesus approaches.

The next day he 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). – John 1:29-42

Do you ever get discouraged at your own thick-headedness? I sure do. I’m pretty sure there is a groove in my skull where a 2×4 fits just perfectly, because I seem to constantly need that kind of a wake up call. So I take a small amount of comfort in knowing that John the Baptist’s disciples were just as thick in the head as I often am.

After all, John has to tell them two days in a row, “ Look, there goes the Lamb of God!” They have to hear it at least twice before they get it, and start following Jesus instead of John.

But they follow him at a distance. Maybe they are just curious. Maybe they are uncertain what John’s story about baptizing Jesus really means. Whatever their reasons, these two disciples stay far enough behind Jesus that I’m sure they were surprised when he turned and faced them.

“What are you looking for?” he asks.

These are the first words Jesus speaks in John’s gospel. We heard the opening verse of John on Christmas Eve: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…” But that Word doesn’t actually utter a word until 38 verses later, and when he speaks,
it’s a simple but profound question.

When Jesus asks Andrew and the other disciple, “What are you looking for?” it means a lot more than just, “Can I help you find something? Is there some object you’ve lost?” Jesus is really asking, “What are you searching for in life? What is your soul’s deepest desire? What are you seeking with all of your being?” What are you looking for?

Jesus asks us the same question. What do you seek? What are you hunting for, to satisfy your soul’s deep longing? He’s still asking. He still wants to know, because we are really good at looking for all the wrong things, in all the wrong places.

We can devote ourselves to all kinds of self-help programs, diets, and workout routines, in an effort to improve our physical and emotional lives. We can also devote ourselves to destructive habits that eat up our time and financial resources, and tear down our bodies and our minds. We can waste our lives looking for the next big thrill, expecting to be entertained at ever-increasing levels of stimulation. We are really good at consuming, as if buying material goods will somehow make us feel important, accepted, and loved.

What are you looking for? What will satisfy your deepest need? What will bring you joy?

When Jesus asks them, “what are you looking for?” the disciples of John don’t give him an elevator speech or a thoughtfully prepared mission statement. But they know what they are looking for. They know that the thing they’ve been seeking is this man standing in front of them. They respond with a question of their own. They only want to know, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”

Again, this means more than, “what’s your current address?” They are really asking, “Teacher, what is it like to abide with you? Is there room for us in your life? Can we come live where you live? Will you teach us? Because, what we are looking for something to devote our lives to. We are looking for someone who will teach us the things of God. If you are who John says you are, we want to spend every possible moment in your presence. Where are you abiding, so we can come abide with you?”

And Jesus invites them to “come and see.” He doesn’t give them a business card with an address they can find later. He invites them immediately into his life. He does this with the understanding that they may choose not to follow. Once they’ve seen his accommodations and had a taste of his teaching, they may not want to stay. But his invitation is open anyway. Come, and see.

When Jesus says, “what are you looking for?” he’s asking if we are ready to be disciples. If we are looking for comfort, or security, or some assurance that we are right, we might not be ready to follow Jesus, to abide with him and become his devoted students. If we are looking for acceptance into the “Cool Kids Club” or recognition for belonging to the most popular leader’s inner circle, we might not be ready to ask where Jesus lives.

But if we want to be with him day in and day out from this moment and for all eternity, if we recognize that following Jesus is the only way to know the fullness of God’s love, then it just makes sense for us to want to spend every moment in Christ’s presence.

Asking, “Where are you abiding? Can I stay with you?” puts a different twist on our usual thinking about becoming a Christian. We often talk about making Jesus part of our lives, inviting him into our hearts to live with us. But what if we turn that around, and realize that Jesus is welcoming us into his life? Jesus invites us to come and see where he lives. He offers us the opportunity to become part of what he is doing. Jesus invites us to join him in his life.

His invitation is open, but it’s up to us to follow, up to us to “come and see.” We must decide if we can make that kind of deep commitment, if we can devote ourselves to that kind of close relationship. It means letting go of our own desires and expectations, and surrendering our whole being to God’s desire and plan for us.

What are you seeking with all your being? What is your soul’s deep longing? Are you ready to go be part of Jesus’ life, so you can find what you seek? Once you’ve found Christ, what happens next?

Andrew shows us. Notice that it doesn’t take long for Andrew to go find his brother Simon. And the instant Jesus meets Simon, he gives him a new name: Peter, or “Rock.” In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus waits until later in his ministry to rename Peter, and he goes on to say, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18) But here, Jesus gives him a new name the moment he meets him.

Jesus gives each of us a new name the moment we meet him, too. Last week, we talked about the name given to us at our baptism. We are called “Beloved” and “Child of God.” In 1 John 3:1 we are reminded of this new identity. John writes, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

But Christ gives us another name, a specific one, just as he renamed Simon to indicate what his new mission in life would be. Maybe your name is “servant” or “healer” or prayer warrior” or “teacher.” Maybe you have been named “reconciler” or “leader” or “joy-bringer.” Whatever your new name is, it is an invitation to live into your new identity as a follower of Jesus in a particular way.

It may take a couple of times hearing someone else say, “Look! There goes the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” before you realize that following Jesus wherever he goes, living with him more than allowing him to live with you, is the only way you are ever going to find what you are seeking. Entering into a life-long commitment to live with Jesus, and to be part of his saving work in the world, is the only way you will ever fulfill that deep longing inside you. It’s a longing that you might not even be able to name. But it’s there. And only Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, can fill the God-sized hole in your heart. It isn’t so much a matter of inviting him into your life. It’s a matter of accepting the invitation to become part of Christ’s life.

This season of Epiphany follows a theme called “The Great Invitation.” Over the next few weeks, Jesus will invite each of us to follow him, to sit at his feet and learn from him, to come and see what life in Christ has to offer.

Jesus isn’t sitting around waiting for us to invite him into our lives. Instead, Jesus invites us into his life. With his “come and see” Jesus includes us in his Lamb of God work. It isn’t really about looking for something to fill the God-sized hole in our lives, after all. It’s about filling the us-sized place we can claim in God’s family by accepting Christ’s invitation to grace.

Pastor Mike Lyle writes, “When will we stop being challenged? Never. When does God stop asking difficult questions and expecting extraordinary feats of faith? Never. When do we get to rest on our laurels? Never. When can we become self-satisfied, self-congratulatory and complacent? Never. When will God stop loving us, stop feeding us, stop protecting us, stop nurturing us? Never. When will God give up on us, leave us to our fate, sell us out to that which would destroy us? Never. What are we looking for? Nothing that we thought [was important], but everything that we most want and need. Where do we find it? Where Andrew and Simon, James, John and the others found it, in Christ our Lord.” (Mike Lyle, http://wsumc.com/wp-content/uploads/1.19.14.pdf)

The Great Invitation has been extended to you. Come, and see.

Let’s pray.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
Lamb of God,

you invite us into your life, to be with you, to learn from you,
to abide in your love.

Help us to accept your invitation to grace,
knowing that it requires more of us than we are equipped to offer.

There is nothing we can do to save ourselves;
it is your grace alone that saves us.

Forgive us for trying to rule over our own lives.
Help us completely surrender to your love.

Grant that we may desire you more than anything.
Show us the way to the Father,
that we may claim our place in your Kingdom as beloved children of God.

All glory and praise belong to you, Almighty God,
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, now and forever. Amen.

walking behind the bishop2015-01-10 10.15.09

Come and See – Sermon on John 1:29-42

It’s easy to get John the Evangelist mixed up with John the Baptist, especially when we read a passage from John’s Gospel that describes John the Baptist as an evangelist!  But that is what we have in front of us today. Last week, we heard Matthew’s version of the Baptism of Jesus. This week, our story takes us to the day after Jesus is baptized. John the Baptist notices Jesus walking down the street, and points out the Lamb of God to a handful of his own disciples. John shares his own experiences of the day before, and his disciples take off after Jesus. What happens next reminds me of one of those spy shows, where a professional spy is being tailed by someone, and suddenly turns to confront the follower. In this story, there isn’t a car chase, and we don’t see any hand-to-hand combat. This confrontation turns into an invitation. Three simple actions, expressed in two questions and an answer, show us how to share our faith with others and point them toward Jesus. Hear the Word of the Lord, from the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 29-42:

The next day he 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).

There is a subtle pattern that runs through this passage. It gives us three simple actions that point people to Jesus. First, John the Baptist notices Jesus. Second, he shares his experience with his own disciples. Then, John invites his disciples to follow their new teacher. Andrew and the other disciple notice Jesus, they share time with him, and then Andrew shares his experience with his brother, Simon. Finally, Andrew invites his brother to follow Christ, and Simon is changed. He becomes Simon Peter.

Notice, Share, Invite: Three simple actions. According to Luther Seminary professor David Lose, this is the essence of evangelism. He writes, “At its heart, evangelism is noticing what God is doing in our lives, sharing that with others, and inviting them to come and see for themselves.”[1]  So why do we find it so hard to think of ourselves as evangelists?  Why are we so afraid of spreading the Good News to others?

Maybe part of our fear comes from the fact that we just don’t notice God at work in our lives. Think about it for a moment: how have you experienced Christ?  How have you noticed God working in you, or in the life of the church?  How has your life changed since you met Jesus?  And if you don’t see God at work, why not?

John saw Jesus, and openly declared: “Here comes the Lamb of God, the One who takes away the sin of the entire world!”  That’s quite a proclamation!  But John had experienced something his disciples apparently had not, and he was eager to tell them about that experience. So, John told them what he had seen: the Spirit of God coming down from heaven like a dove, and resting on Jesus. John affirmed the identity of Jesus to these disciples. He said, “I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”  John noticed. He saw with his own eyes, and he recognized what he saw. This was the Son of God, the One he’d been waiting for, the One he’d been preparing for.

In order to notice God at work among us, we have to be looking for it. As John’s disciples went after Jesus, his first words to them were “What are you looking for?”  They had noticed Jesus, thanks to John, but his question must have brought them up short. What were they looking for?  What did they really want to find?  Jesus asks the same question later in his ministry, when John sends messengers to Jesus from his prison cell to ask, “Are you the One?  Or should we look for another?”  After Jesus sends the messengers back to John with the words, “Go tell John what you see and hear. The blind see, the lame walk, and the poor have good news preached to them,” Jesus goes on to ask the crowd, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?  A reed shaken by the wind?  A prophet?”  In other words, what are you looking for?  How do you see God working around you?

If we are to find God, to notice God working around and among us, we need to know what we are looking for. The direction of our gaze is important. We may be looking in all the wrong places, noticing all the wrong things, and miss the Kingdom of God if we do not keep our focus on Jesus himself. I used to tell music students, “Listening is paying attention to what you hear.”  There is sound all around us all the time, so we need to be careful how we filter that sound, how we decide what needs our attention. The same is true as we look for God at work: we need to pay attention to what we see.

Let me give you some examples.
During Advent, some of us went caroling one Sunday afternoon. It was really cold, so our group was small, but we represented people of every age from seven to eighty-seven. As we stopped to sing at several homes, we were met with hugs, tears, smiles, and gratitude. The people who heard us sing were deeply moved, and the people who did the singing saw some folks they hadn’t seen for years, or – in some cases – had never met. This is God at work.

Every third Wednesday, some of us meet up at Ridgeway on 23rd, to sing old familiar hymns with residents of the memory care unit. As we sing, people who can no longer read remember all the words to “Amazing Grace” and “The Old Rugged Cross.”  We say the Lord’s Prayer together, with one voice. This is God at work.

On Wednesday nights, people come here to eat a warm, tasty, nutritious meal together. Children learn Bible stories, Confirmation students dig into what it means to be a Christian, and teenagers talk about their concerns with trusted leaders, while adults meet to study God’s Word together. God is at work.

Once a month, I meet with other pastors over lunch, as we pray for one another and for our churches. Some of these pastors come from denominations that do not recognize the authority of women in the pulpit, yet these men welcome me, pray for me, and pray for you and our ministry together. This is God at work.

We need to notice it, and call attention to it, just as John called attention to the Lamb of God, walking toward him. Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?” of us, just as surely as he asked it of those two disciples who left John and followed him down the road. So, what are you looking for? Take a moment, and write down one way you’ve seen God working in your life, or in the life of this congregation lately. Go ahead. I’ll wait…

God is at work now, just as he was at work when Jesus asked those two disciples, “What are you looking for?” Their answer points to that second action – sharing. “Where are you staying, Teacher?” they wanted to know. The day before, their allegiance had been to John the Baptist, but once he had shared what he had seen when Jesus was revealed to him as the Lamb of God, there was no going back. John told them everything he had experienced, everything he knew about Jesus. Their response was a desire to know where Jesus was staying, where he was living, where they could count on finding him again and again. They wanted to share in that “abiding” with Jesus. The scripture isn’t explicit, but we are given the detail that it was about four in the afternoon when these two disciples met Jesus face to face. This would have been late enough in the day that it’s quite possible the disciples stayed with Jesus overnight, talking, listening, sharing life with their new teacher. Then, Andrew found his brother, and shared the news with Simon that “we have found the Messiah.”  Andrew noticed, then he shared. He told Simon his story, just as John had told Andrew and the other disciple the story of recognizing Jesus as the Son of God.

What is your story? I’m not talking about your church history, but your personal experience of Christ changing you.  John talked about what he had seen with his own eyes, and he didn’t mind repeating himself. Andrew was eager to tell his brother Simon about Jesus.

What’s your ‘elevator speech,’ the one you could tell on the way up to the third floor if someone getting into the elevator with you asked, “Why are you a Christian?”  Maybe you aren’t ready to give an entire speech, but we often have opportunities to share how God is working in our lives. If we don’t practice telling those stories, the opportunities may fly past us. Maybe we’re nervous about sharing our faith stories because we’ve never done it. The only way to learn how to do something is to practice. So, let’s practice for a minute. Turn to someone next to you, and tell each other one reason why you like coming to church here. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

That wasn’t so hard, was it?  When John the Baptist shared his story, he only needed a few sentences. When Andrew shared with his brother, Simon, he only needed one: “We have found the Messiah.”  It doesn’t take very many words to tell someone else about the one thing that excites you, the one reason you like to come to church, or the one way you have noticed God working in your life. And when we share that good news, we want the person listening to us to come be part of it, too.

That brings us to the third simple action: invitation. John the Baptist invited his own disciples to follow their new teacher when he pointed Jesus out to them and said, “Look, here is the Lamb of God I was telling you about yesterday.”  When Jesus caught them following him and asked what they were looking for, Andrew and his friend asked, “Where are you staying?”  Jesus didn’t tell them. He didn’t bring up the map app on his phone and show them how to get there. He just said, “Come and see.”  It was a little invitation, but it changed everything.

Jesus invited them into his life, and they followed him home. Then Andrew invited his brother to come and see the Messiah, whom he had just met, and when Simon went with Andrew to meet Jesus, he was changed. He became “Peter.”  It was a little invitation, but it changed everything.

Christ invites us to invite others. It can be a little invitation. What is it about being part of this church that really gives you joy?  Who do you know that needs some of that?  If you don’t know anyone outside this church, how can you remedy that situation?

You may be surprised to learn this, but seven years ago, I was classified as an introvert. I did not spend time with anyone outside of church or the Christian school where I taught. I would much rather eat lunch at my desk than in a noisy restaurant with a table full of people, all talking at the same time.

And this bothered me. How could I share the Good News, how could I call myself a minister of the Gospel, if I insulated myself from the very people who needed to hear that Gospel?  So I prayed about it. And slowly, I started to notice how God was working on me, putting people in my path that I would have ignored before, but who needed to talk with someone about their questions and their doubts. As I shared this awareness of how God was working in me with others, I discovered that I was not alone. And I realized that, for me, being an evangelist is not buttonholing strangers on the street and asking them if they know where their souls will go when they die. It isn’t demanding that they make a decision on the spot and pray the Sinner’s Prayer after I have eloquently explained the plan of salvation. That isn’t the way Jesus worked, and it isn’t the way most of us are wired to work, though some may find those methods effective.

But I can do this: I can notice God at work in me and around me. I can share those experiences with others, and I can invite them to be part of what God is doing.

Notice, share, invite.

Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?”  Are you looking for grace and forgiveness?  Are you looking for eternal life?  Are you looking for an abiding and deep connection with the God who created you just so he could love you?

The disciples asked, “Where are you staying?”  Finding Jesus means finding the One we can depend on to remain with us, to stay with us, to share life and to change us through that experience.

And, together with Jesus, we can reach out to people who don’t know him yet, people who are looking for Jesus, even if they aren’t sure that God is the one they are seeking, and we can invite them to come and see Jesus at work among us, changing us, loving us, giving us life.

Or maybe that person is you. Maybe you are the one looking for Jesus. Maybe you are the one who needs assurance that he is with you, that your sins are forgiven, that God loves you and invites you to become his own beloved child. If that’s you, let me invite you to know the Word who became flesh. Let me invite you to ask forgiveness of your sins, and to rest assured that Jesus loves you so much, he died for you, so that you could have eternal life, rich and full, beginning now. Let me invite you to come and see Jesus. Amen.


[1] David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, at http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=3002