Epiphany 2 Year A : John 1:29-42
there are two sermons on this paage
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, `A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' 31I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." 32 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, `The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." 35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!" 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" 39 "Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). 42 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 PeterJ).
Epiphany 2 Year A : 15/1/17 6 p.m. John 1:29-42
In today's gospel John the Baptists humbly points to Jesus using three descriptions. The lamb of God. The Son of God. The Baptizer of God.
John the Baptist's father, Zechariah, was a priest. So, John was undoubtedly familiar with the roles animals played n the religious life of Israel. The blood of the animals that were sacrificed represented life and reminded the people of life and death. God told Adam and Eve that sin would lead to death.
To symbolise the people's covenant with God, a lamb was offered twice daily, morning and evening, and at various feasts. These included Passover, when the Jews celebrated their delivery from the slavery of Egypt by the angel of death passing over the homes that had lamb's blood painted on their door frames. Lambs were also slain to take the punishment for peoples sin and guilt. The value of the animal reminded the sinner of the cost of their sin. In the Old Testament, lambs were offered again and again.
Isaiah 53 describes Jesus as the servant of God “brought as a lamb to the slaughter” v7, who “bare the sin of many” v12, and who was an "offering for sin v.10".
When John the Baptist described Jesus as " the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" the primary meaning of this was that he would pay the price for people's sins, once and for all, on the cross. A sacrifice that need not and cannot be repeated. But, John's words also allude to the Passover Lamb and Jesus blood delivering those who follow Him from death, separation from God the Father. He also symbolises the New Covenant or Testament, taking away the sins of the world, not merely delivering a small nation our of slavery.
John said about Jesus, 34 "I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." This proclaims that Jesus is God. He is the Son of God because of his divine nature, while as to his human nature he is the Son of David. John said that Jesus `A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' Jesus was before John and Adam because He is co-eternal and co-equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. What Jesus did confirms this. He did things no normal man could do. He healed the sick, raised the dead, had authority over evil spirits, forgave sins, gives eternal life, & speaks with the authority of God.
Jesus is the Lamb of God, the Son of God, and the Baptizer of God. John said, verse 33, "the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, `The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
As I mentioned last week, John's Baptism was with water to symbolise those who wished to make a clean start with God by turning away from their sins. But this Baptism didn't have the power to change people. Jesus brought in a new era in salvation history. People would be able to have a new birth to become God's children brought about by the free and undeserved work of God the Holy Spirit (John 1.12f).
After Jesus ascended into heaven the Holy Spirit was poured out, Baptising the first believers. The New Testament (Acts 19.1-7, Rom 8.9b, I Jn. 4.14) teaches that the mark of being a Christina is to have God's Holy Spirit living within.
The Holy Spirit gives us the power that we need to put God and others before ourselves. The Holy Spirit gives us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control we need to be more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives us the gifts that we need to serve Jesus to build up his body, the church.
This leads us to the challenge of this passage. We can have this head knowledge about Jesus, be thankful to God for who He is and what He has done, but it has to change us. This should include telling others. This is a theme running through the gospel. John the Baptist told His disciples. Two went and met with Jesus. One of them, Andrew, brought his brother Simon. Jesus already looked froward to the way He would change Simon by telling Him that he would become Cephas in Aramaic, Petros in Greek, literally Rocky.
Albert McMakin was a twenty-four-year old farmer who had recently come to faith in Christ. He was so full of enthusiasm that he filled a truck with people and took hem to a meeting to hear about Jesus. There was a good-looking farmer’s son whom he was especially keen to get to a meeting, but this young man was hard to persuade. He was busy falling in and out of love with different girls, and did not seem to be attracted to Christianity. Eventually. Albert McMakin managed to persuade him to come by asking him to drive the truck. When they arrived, Albert’s guest decided to go in and was spellbound and began to have thoughts that he had never known before. He went back again and again until, one night, he went forward and gave his life to Jesus Christ . That man, the driver of the truck, was Billy Graham. The year was 1934. Since then Billy Graham has led thousands to faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot all be like Billy Graham, but we can all be like Albert McMakin - we can all bring our friends to Jesus.
God has transformed us and is transforming us by His Spirit.
Let us acknowledge that Jesus is the Lamb of God and the Son of God.
Let us respond by worshipping Him with our whole being (Rom 12.1).
Let us bring ourselves back to the Holy Spirit, to be baptised, drenched in Him, so He can empower us to live for God and to share the good news so that others may know God the Father, through God the Son, by the work of God the Holy Spirit.
On July 4, 1776, the members of the Continental Congress assembled at the State House in Philadelphia. Two days earlier the Congress had voted to declare the American colonies to be "free and independent states." Now they were considering how to announce that fact to the world. By the end of the day, the final wording had been determined and the Congress voted unanimously to adopt the Declaration of Independence.
The United States celebrates July 4 like no other day. The parades, the picnics, and the fireworks boisterously express national pride that they fought for, and achieved, their independence. Many other nations, such as the French on Bastille day celebrate their independence. This is in stark contrast to the Jews who celebrate the Passover as their 'Independence Day'. There are no parades, or fireworks. Everything takes place quietly inside a home with family members gathered round a table receiving portions of food prefaced by readings form the Old Testament. It is a worship event, not a party. The reason for this is that their freedom was a gift from God. They never fought a battle against the Egyptians, indeed the Egyptian army was destroyed by God alone.
The Passover celebration commemorates the final plague that God sent, the killing of every firstborn son in Egypt. The way that the Israelites escaped this judgment and God 'passed over' them was by sacrificing a perfect lamb and painting its blood on the door-frames of the houses where they ate the lambs. The blood symbolized a sacrifice offered as a substitute, one life laid down for another.
This is some of the background to Jesus being called verse 29, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
The substitutionary use of the unblemished lamb in sacrifice led to the idea of the Suffering Servant, who as a lamb died in the place of sinners. Isaiah 53 : 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
In Jesus' day the Jewish people expected the Messiah to re-establish a prosperous nation by military might, such as that enjoyed under the rule of King David
But Jesus, the lamb of God came to 'take away the sins of the world'. No military might could gain this victory. Jesus had to offer himself as a perfect, blameless sacrifice, taking the punishment for the sins of the world. His crucifixion may have, initially, appeared to have been a defeat for him, but, as his resurrection proved, it was a victory over sin and death. His blood led to freedom and deliverance, not of a small nation from servitude, but of millions of differing people throughout human history from the slavery of sin and death. His deliverance is not a physical one, but a spiritual one.
Dorothy Sayers (from Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World) put it this way: "Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restriction of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile"
John said, verse 33, `The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove at his Baptism. People came to John to be baptized because they wanted to repent of their sins and make a new start with God. Jesus didn't need to do these things but he was baptized for a number of reasons:-
1) This was not because Jesus did not have the Holy Spirit in him before, after all, he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament people were anointed with the Holy Spirit to equip them for particular tasks. This anointing showed that Jesus had such a task. So it was a statement that Jesus was the Messiah and heralded the start of his public ministry.
2) To show that he was devoting himself the mission God given him and God, in turn, showed his love and approval of Jesus when he said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.' ( Matthew 3:17 ).
3) Jesus identified himself with penitent, sinful human beings by being baptized with them.
4) Jesus set an example for his followers.
5) Out of obedience to God. In Matthew 3:15 Jesus told John that he wanted to be baptized in order to 'fulfil all righteousness', that is to say, to do what is right in God's eyes. Sometimes we are called to do things because it is God's will and our obedience pleases God. Surely, there is no better motivation than this !
The road signs outside my home town of Norwich say, 'Welcome to Norwich, a fine city' and have a picture of Norwich Cathedral. I seem to remember that they were donated by Norwich Union Insurance, who also have the cathedral on their logo. So perhaps their generosity in giving these signs was not totally motivated by grace !
As signs, they are not very good because they can attract attention to themselves, rather than to the fine city they are supposed to be pointing to.
As we saw in Advent, the role of John the Baptist was to prepare the way for Jesus, pointing to him. John did this, 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, `A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'
Jesus was before John in time and in importance. John could call people to repent and be baptized, but he couldn't give them the forgiveness they needed for not following God's ways or the power that they required to live for God.
A large carnival parade was processing through a town until it came to a halt because one lorry had broken down. On closer investigation it emerged that it had run out of petrol. This float belonged to a large oil company. With all their reserves and wells they had not put enough petrol into their own vehicle.
On day of Pentecost and ever since Jesus has been giving the power of the Holy Spirit to Christians. The Holy Spirit gives us the power that we need to put God and others before ourselves. The Holy Spirit gives us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control we need to be more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives us the gifts that we need to serve Jesus to build up his body, the church. We have the oil wells of the Holy Spirit at our disposal, but we have to come to him to be refilled again and again.
Albert McMakin was a twenty-four-year old farmer who had recently come to faith in Christ. He was so full of enthusiasm that he filled a truck with people and took hem to a meeting to hear about Jesus. There was a good-looking farmer's son whom he was especially keen to get to a meeting, but this young man was hard to persuade. He was busy falling in and out of love with different girls, and did not seem to be attracted to Christianity. Eventually. Albert McMakin managed to persuade him to come by asking him to drive the truck. When they arrived, Albert's guest decided to go in and was spellbound and began to have thoughts that he had never known before. He went back again and again until, one night, he went forward and gave his life to Jesus Christ . That man, the driver of the truck, was Billy Graham. The year was 1934. Since then Billy Graham has led thousands to faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot all be like Billy Graham, but we can all be like Albert McMakin - we can all bring our friends to Jesus.
The best thing to say to people is, "Come and see!" This is what John the Baptist did and two of his disciples acted upon his words, went to Jesus and spent a day with him. Their time with Jesus led them to conclude that Jesus was the Christ and one of them, Andrew, excitedly informed his brother, Simon, whom he brought to meet Jesus for himself.
Andrew and Simon were named 'Sons of Thunder' by Jesus, Mark 3:17, indicating their volatile nature. But Jesus said to Simon, You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter ). The footnote says, "Both Cephas (Aramaic) and Peter (Greek) mean rock" So 'Peter' or 'Petros' isn't a translation, it is a transliteration, saying what the Greek would sound like in English. A better translation would be 'Rocky'.
Jesus was saying that by God's grace in the power of the Spirit , Simon would become 'rocky', a stable foundation upon which the early church was built, as we read in Acts.
We have the duty and joy of being witnesses for Jesus. Sharing our story, pointing to him. It is not our job to convert people, that is God's job, and the sooner we realise this the less pressure we will feel about witnessing. We just need to be open to God's Spirit to give us the opportunities to speak about Jesus and we may be surprised about how God can work with feeble, weak individuals like us. We can see this in the life of Peter. As he got up to give his first sermon he faced people jeering and accusing the disciples of being drunk. Yet about three thousand came to faith on that day.
We have a God who is in the business of transforming people, and he will transform us by His Spirit if we give him the opportunity.
Today, Jewish people still celebrate Passover, but Christians do not. God has transformed the Passover, through Jesus, to the Holy Communion Service. Christ represents the Passover lamb. In Exodus 12:13 God says, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. When he sees the blood of Jesus shed for believers God will not bring his judgment upon them. The Lord's Supper, like the Passover, remembers a time of pain and of bloodshed, a time of freedom and deliverance and of God's action alone. He gets the credit.
So let us thank God for John the Baptist who pointed people to Jesus.
Let us thank God for the millions of Christians throughout the ages who have spread the good news of Jesus.
Let us thank God for giving us His Spirit to open our eyes to what Jesus has done for us and to start to make us more like Jesus.
Let us also ask God to give us the opportunities and the strength we need to live and witness for him.