2nd Sunday after the Epiphany
January 19, 2020
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the Gospel text from John chapter 1.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
3 years ago on this same festival I preached a sermon on this very same text and the sermon was called “Questions.” If I recall correctly, it was a particularly moving and wonderful sermon that you no doubt recall with great joy and fondness. In fact, I want to say that I received a standing ovation after the sermon was over… or maybe you just stood because it was time to stand. But I digress. Anyway, in that sermon called “Questions,” I posed 3 questions from this text to answer by the sermon. The three questions were: “who is this?”, “What do you want?”, and “where are you staying?” Again, if memory serves me clearly, I answered those questions with stunning brilliance and eloquence like this pulpit has never heard before. Well, okay maybe it wasn’t THAT good.
Today we have the same text to consider and I’ve already preached one sermon on questions found within John 1:29-42a, but you know what? Here it is 3 years later and after careful study I’ve uncovered 3 MORE questions for us to consider…tougher questions…questions that dig deep into our faith…questions that need answers because ultimately these questions and answers impact both our faith and our lives as Christians.
First question for us to consider: what does “Lamb of God” mean? In today’s Gospel there are a lot of titles given for Jesus: Son of God, Rabbi, and Christ, and Messiah to name a few. But in verses 29 and 36, John the Baptist calls Jesus the “Lamb of God.” “Well, of course John called Jesus Lamb of God because He IS the Lamb of God” you might say. But did you know that these are the only 2 specific references to Jesus as “Lamb of God” during His earthly life and both are John the Baptist? Calling Jesus Lamb of God is not an automatic Old Testament reference. In fact, it kind of confuses the issue.
We think of Jesus as the Lamb of God because He is the perfect, sacrificial Lamb who dies to take away our sin. However, if you read the Holiness Code in Leviticus chapters 4-6, the specific sin offering when you sinned against God or your neighbor was to be a male or female animal without blemish: bull, ram, goat, dove, or pigeon. A lamb was not one of the primary animals prescribed to be given as a sin offering in the Old Testament sacrificial system. So why is Jesus the “Lamb of God?”
Jesus is the Lamb of God in the sense that one day He would be the sacrifice that would atone for the sin of the world and redeem all mankind from death. In Genesis 22, Abraham told Isaac that God would provide the lamb as a sacrifice. Additionally, there is a well-known Old Testament referent to a Lamb that saves people from death and that is the spreading of the lamb’s blood on the doorposts of the homes of the Israelites to save them from the 10th plague while they were in Egypt (Exodus 12). In the New Testament, Jesus’ shed blood on the cross enables Him to become the Lamb of God who does take the sin of the world away and saves us from eternal death, but before the cross that association would have been hard for Jesus’ contemporaries to make;. It shows tremendous, divine insight by John the Baptist.
Secondly, why did the disciples – Andrew and an unnamed disciple want to know where Jesus was staying? (verse 38). That’s kind of a creepy request. Are they stalking Jesus? Do they want to rob Him or something? Of course not. But this is a very interesting little turn of events. Consider for a moment that Jesus had no place of His own to show them. Matthew 8:20 reminds us that “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” The closest thing Jesus would have to a home would have been Mary and Joseph’s home in Nazareth, but John 1:28 tells us these events took place at “Bethany on the other side of the Jordan River,” some 20+ miles from Nazareth. John 1:43 says that the next day Jesus left for Galilee, so He obviously wasn’t going to take the 2 disciples 20 miles on foot and back again to see His childhood home just so He could leave the next day. So what gives?
This request of Jesus – “where are you staying” – is the disciples’ attempt to get an invitation to follow Him. In Jesus’ day it was up to the Rabbi or the teacher to call his disciples to follow him in discipleship. Andrew and the other disciple, although we don’t know for sure, realize that following John the Baptist wasn’t critical; it’s about following Jesus.
And that brings us to our third and final question for today. Just why did those 2 disciples follow Jesus? Jesus only said 2 things: “what are you seeking,” and “come and you will see,” yet the two decided to follow Him (verse 37). Why? This one is tougher to answer because no answer – no reason – is given in the text. Jesus doesn’t say anything…He doesn’t do anything…but the 2 disciples up and follow Him, actually seeking an invitation to follow Him in discipleship. What’s up?
I think that there is no answer given on purpose, because it is now up to us to provide the answer. When a person considers everything that has happened in these theologically- rich 14 verses, we too feel the pull to follow this Jesus guy, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (verse 29). When the disciples ask about where He is staying, Jesus responds by saying “Come, and you will see” (verse 39). Jesus has no intention of showing them His living quarters, but rather He wants them to come, follow Him, and see what He as Lamb of God can and will do for His people.
Ultimately, that is the same invitation for us, too. Jesus Christ is a Savior who calls us to closely and lovingly follow Him, and we all have our reasons why we do. Your living Savior calls you to have a true, lasting personal relationship with Him; a relationship that touches not only your head, but also your heart.
He answers all questions. He ends all doubts. He dies to save you from your sins and sets you free from death and damnation into the promise of heaven instead. He is the Lamb of God who lived, died for you, and rose again to secure eternal life for you. And to you He asks no questions…He only bids you to come and see the eternal life that He has prepared for all who believe and follow Him in faithful discipleship. There. That should hold you over for another 3 years or so. And yes, I plan on being here for that festival 3 years from now too. I’ll be here to explain John 1:29-42a as long as the Lord wills it. No need for a standing ovation this time.