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Just Come and See for Yourselves (January 15, 2017)

22 Jan

John 1:29-42

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! 30 This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 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.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 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?” 39 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. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed ). 42 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 ).

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Just gonna say, John’s gospel is a little bit different. For me, I have to pick one small piece of John and then peel off the layers of that one part. To try to cover a whole bunch of verses like this in 10-12 minutes would end up being very shallow and, as far as I’m concerned, not very helpful.

The one small piece that is intriguing is how John the Baptist refers to Jesus in this gospel. “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” In fact, John the Baptist calls Jesus “the Lamb of God” twice—two days in a row. He doesn’t talk to Jesus, he just yells to his own disciples that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

The only other time Jesus is called “the Lamb of God” is in the book of Revelation, which, if you’ve read that book, does anything but clear this up. It’s about as confusing a book as there is in scripture.

Other biblical references to “lambs” include the Israelites using lambs as sin offerings. Sheep were sacrificed to God to atone for the people’s sins. That sounds good. Except these were sheep, not lambs. They were a year old, no longer lambs. And they were female. And they weren’t used for sin sacrifice. So the whole “who takes away the sin of the world” part doesn’t fit well.

How about the Passover when the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt and Moses was trying to get Pharoah to let them go. God kept sending plagues: flies, locusts, boils, Nile turning into blood. Otherwise pretty convincing stuff. But Pharoah won’t budge. The last plague was the death of the firstborn of every animal and every family. But the Israelites were given a secret signal to ward off the angel of death. Find a spotless lamb, kill it, cook it, and eat it. Then smear the blood of this lamb over the door of their houses. The angel of death would “pass over” that house, thus sparing the life of everyone inside.

Sort of makes sense to describe Jesus like that. I’m not comfortable with having to roast Jesus and eating him, smearing his blood on the door in order to remind God to have mercy. That could be what John meant, but it seems like we have to twist it a bit to make it fit.

Isaiah’s suffering servant who is “like  lamb that is led to the slaughter,” and who “bore the sins of many.” That kind of fits in a culture that accepts sacrifice as atonement. But God doesn’t require sacrifice for sin—that’s just barbaric. Is that really who the gospel writer believes God is? A barbaric entity requiring a blood sacrifice before being merciful? Shouldn’t we have a hard time with that kind of imagery regarding a God of unconditional love, compassion, peace, and care for the poor and the suffering?

The story of Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son Isaac is another one. Isaac notes there is a knife and a fire for the sacrifice, but asks about a lamb. Abraham responds, “God will provide a lamb.” Jon could be referring to that, I suppose.

For John to say it twice in two days, right at the beginning of the gospel seems specific and important. “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Apparently, lambs are included in Jewish imagery of God. So “Lamb of God” seems to call to mind all that imagery, all those references, as a general perspective that in Jesus is God’s presence, God’s will, God’s victory, God’s compassion.

I think that’s really the point here. If we look to Jesus, we recognize the presence, love, compassion, and victory of God in our world.

The rest of this text makes a little more sense in that light. John the Baptist calls out Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and a couple of John’s disciples follow after Jesus to find out. They ask where Jesus is staying, where he lives, the implication being that they want to spend time with him, to see and get to know the presence of God, the will of God, the compassion of God present in Jesus.

And rather than give them a lecture on what means or insights into the intricacies of how that all works, Jesus simply invites them to “Come and see.” That’s it. You don’t have to understand it, or explain it, or critique it. Just come to Jesus and see it. Come to Jesus and find out for yourself. If you don’t know what “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” means in explainable detail, that doesn’t matter. But if you want to know more about God, more about what God’s intentions are, God’s perspective is; if  you want to know compassion more, or love more, or grace more, come along with Jesus and see for yourself.

This may be hard for us preachers to admit, but our lectures and teachings and explanations don’t always help as much as we might like. So for today, I’ll stop doing that. Today, I’ll invite you to “come and see” the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Come and see for yourself. Check Jesus out, this one who reveals God’s presence in the world. The Lamb of God. Come and see. Follow him and see what happens.

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Posted by on January 22, 2017 in Sermon

 

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