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January 15, 2023 Sermon – John 1
“Look, The Lamb Of God”
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). — John 1:29-42
Last Sunday we remembered our baptism in a special worship service, and I told you that I had a beautiful sermon prepared with all sorts of facts and figures, but we just didn’t have the time for me to go over all of it with you. In the parts that I didn’t share with you I tied together several interesting facts about what we do know about the childhood of Jesus and what they all meant but it is a fact that we don’t know a lot about the first 30 years of His life.
This, of course, would have been fine with the author of our Gospel Lesson this morning, John the Apostle. In his writing you’ll find no genealogy of Jesus—no angels or dreams or visions— no story about Mary (Jesus’ mother) visiting her elderly cousin Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist)—birth stories—or visitors from strangers from the East and their three gifts.
In contrast to the writers of the other three Gospels which we call Synoptic, John was not so much interested in history as he was in writing theology. He wanted us to know not only that Jesus came into the world but also what that great fact means. He uses tremendous imagery such as: “The Word became flesh” and “The light shines in the darkness.” But probably, no greater image exists than what he shares with us this morning, “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
These two disciples that John is conversing with would have known that every morning and every evening, a lamb was sacrificed in the temple, symbolizing that the sins of the people were forgiven. We know, of course, that Jesus would eventually become the “Lamb of God” who by His sacrifice would take away the sins of the world. THE ENTIRE WORLD my friends!
A tourist visiting a church in Germany was surprised to see a carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church’s tower.
He asked why it was there and was told that when the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold.
His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured.
How did he survive? A flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved. To commemorate that miraculous escape, someone carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the workman fell. “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”—and saves lives as well!
I don’t know about you, but I believe we live in time that is ripe for the Lamb of God! A time that is ripe for the One who will take away the sin of the world. All we need to do to realize this is to look around us—pick up a newspaper—watch the evening news. Murder, rape, theft and hatred abound in our world. The pundits don’t seem to have the answer—the politicians don’t have the answer—nobody seems to be able to put their finger on an answer, but John did nearly 2000 years ago and its right in front of us this morning: The Lamb of God!
Now, let’s get to the meat of the story. John points Jesus out to two of his disciples and they start to tag along behind Jesus. Like us in the world we find ourselves living these two disciples may have also been looking for answers—maybe they too were getting low in the hope department. Either way, they are tagging along behind Jesus.
Have you ever been walking behind someone and they turned and asked, “What do you want?” It probably startled you—and you probably just blurted out something—kind of like these two disciples do.
This meeting between Jesus and these two disciples of John was very casual. He asked what they wanted—they asked where He was staying—and He invited them to come and see. Yet it was the beginning of a fellowship in a tightly knit little group which has been unmatched in the entire drama of human history.
I’ve been to the Dominican Republic twice on mission trips. Both times we spent most of our time working in Batay #7. A Batay is a camp for Haitian refugees. When Haitians manage to get out of their country, or the government kicks them out they end up in the Dominican Republic. But the Dominicans don’t like the Haitians, much like the Jews didn’t like the Samaritans and just like the United States has done with the Native Indians they stick them in a camp, usually in a remote place out in the country.
On my first trip down there we took along with us several duffle bags filled with children’s shoes. And one morning after a spirited whiffle ball game the kids lined up to get a new pair of shoes. Our guide made sure that the kids in line actually needed shoes because some of them were taking off their shoes and throwing them in the weeds in order to get in line. For many of these kids this was the first pair of shoes they had ever had and I’m talking about kids that werethree-years-old and older. I want to tell you, if you can do that kind of work without it affecting you than you’re a stronger person than me.
When we got done one of the boys took me and Tony Mallory, a friend of mine from Valdosta by the hand and he wanted us to go with him so we could see where he lived. Like Jesus, he wanted us to “come and see.” What we saw was deplorable. What we saw our dog wouldn’t want any part of. Dirt floor—no windows—thatch roof that probably leaked when it rained—no in- door facilities—no running water—no furniture other than some plastic chairs stacked up in the corner and some mats that the family slept on. But it was home—it was his home—and he was proud to show it to us!
I doubt if it was the place where He was staying but there was something about this Jesus that made Andrew want to not only follow Him but to also go and find his brother Peter so he could follow Him as well. Jesus had a drawing power about Him. He had a magnetism that made total strangers want to know more about Him—want to follow Him—want to emulate Him.
There are several things we can gleam from this story but maybe the most important thing is that you can’t learn much about Jesus by following Him at a distance. Twice in our text John says, “I myself did not know him.” Like me, maybe you are wondering, “Weren’t they cousins? Surely they knew each other.” But it’s an easy thing to do. To know Jesus. But do we really KNOW Jesus?
We know all about Andrew’s brother Peter, but there isn’t much written about Andrew. We read about him in our text this morning—in John 6 he brings a boy to Jesus who has a sack lunch of five loaves and two fish that Jesus uses to feed a multitude of folks—and in John 12 we find him bringing to Jesus a group of Greeks who have asked to see Him. Andrew’s greatest joy seems to be in bringing others to Jesus.
Last Sunday you had the opportunity to touch the water in the baptismal fount so you could remember your baptism and be thankful. You were also given the chance to take one of the seashells from the water and I said to put it someplace to remind you whose you are. Andrew has found a way to use his baptism by bringing folks to Jesus.
Who has been an Andrew in your life? And to turn that around, who have you been an Andrew for?
A Pastor friend of mine tells about a woman in her church who is so excited to be a Christian. She had a shady past and had pretty much hit bottom when a friend reached out to her…and brought her to church. The church member welcomed her warmly and loved her into the circle of their love and God’s love. She started going to church faithfully. She joined a wonderful Sunday school class. She began studying the Bible daily. She started praying regularly…and in the process was converted. She realized for the very first time in her life that God loved her…even her!
She came to understand that even though she had done all those sordid things in her earlier life— God still loved her—forgave her—accepted her—valued her—treasured her. She was absolutely bowled over by that “Amazing Grace” and she committed herself to Christ, heart and soul. She said to my friend, “I’m so excited to be a Christian, that I’ve got a strong case of the “Can’t help its.”
This is also true for Andrew in our story today. He has a strong case of the “can’t help its.” He was so grateful—so thrilled—so excited about Christ that he just could not sit still. He just couldn’t keep Jesus to himself.
Andrew and Philip started with those who knew them and trusted them. This is sometimes more difficult than witnessing to a total stranger whom we may never see again, but it is more effective because it can be followed up by a godly life and Christ-like attitudes. But we need to remember that witnessing for Jesus is more than just speech. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel always and sometimes use words if you have to.”
There are many lessons that we can take away from this story today. There are many ways in which Jesus can change us if we choose to follow Him. But the first thing we see in this text this morning and probably the most important lesson we can take away from it is this: You can’t learn much about Jesus or be changed by Jesus by following Him at a distance or not following Him at all.
Is it time that you got off the bench and got in the game? Do you know someone who needs to “come and see” as well. Maybe it’s time for you to invite them to church—maybe it’s time for you to say to them: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”
Thanks be to God!