Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Come and see!
“Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This is what John the Baptist said when he caught sight of Jesus. He went on to say, “I can tell you Jesus is the Son of God.” (John 1:34).
The next day John sees Jesus again and states for all to hear, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!”
What are we to make of John the Baptist calling Jesus a lamb? I know we use that sentence in our service order almost every Sunday, and many of us are very familiar with this language but have you ever really thought about what John was really saying about Jesus.
We can’t dismiss what John the Baptist says here as just the ramblings of a weirdo from the wilderness. To call Jesus “The Lamb of God” must have been important otherwise the Gospel writer wouldn’t have bothered to include this description of Jesus. And believe me, when the John the gospel writer includes a statement like this, we ought to sit up and listen.
about lambs for a minute.
They are cute and cuddly.
They are vulnerable and helpless.
They are an easy meal for foxes and dingoes.
They have a mob mentality that makes it difficult to get them to go where you want them to go. Try and get a mob of sheep to go through a gate is a very challenging job and they will refuse to go through no matter how much you whoop and holler. But when one goes through and the rest follow.
Their stubbornness and lack of understanding of danger is well known. None of this is a good reason to call Jesus a lamb.
John the Baptist say,
“Look! There is the Lion of God!” or
“There is the Eagle of God” or
“There is the Serpent of God” (thinking of the serpent that Moses put on a pole that saved the people of Israel).
These are all powerful images and immediately would have fitted with the kind of messiah everyone was expecting – a mighty and powerful ruler. But a lamb?
writer includes this statement of John the Baptist because he is very keen on
making sure everyone gets it right about who Jesus is.
Jesus is God; the same God who loved and cared for the people of Israel centuries before. Just as God loved, cared and rescued his people in the past, he will do so again, this time through Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.
Let’s look at some reasons why John the Baptist uses the image of a lamb. Recall the time God rescued his people from slavery and death in Egypt. A lamb was killed and its blood painted on the doorposts and the people were saved and given a new hope for the future. Through the blood of the lamb, God rescued his people. This became known as the Passover Lamb.
Then there were ritual sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. Even though the temple had been destroyed by the time John wrote his Gospel, and lambs were no longer a part of the ritual sacrifices, John the Baptist’s statement about Jesus being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world would have raised a few eyebrows. Was John suggesting here that Jesus is the new sacrificial lamb for the sin of all people?
This thought is
backed up by the familiar Old Testament passage,
“He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed ... like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (53:7).
This person who will bear the punishment we deserve and die in our place will suffer like a lamb to be slaughtered.
So, with all this background information about the Passover Lamb, the lambs sacrificed in the temple, and the prophesy that there is one coming who will suffer for the sins of all people and be slaughtered like a lamb, we are beginning to understand why John said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This image of the lamb tells us a lot about Jesus.
The Lamb of God
is the one who rescues us, releases us from the power of everything that holds
us back, frees us from the sentence of death.
He gives us life, eternal life, because all our sin has been wiped away
and we are able to inherit a place in heaven.
Because of the blood of the Lamb we are made clean and white.
We are forgiven and free.
Without a doubt, we are God’s precious dearly loved treasures and the Lamb will even give his life for us.
Having said all this about John the Baptist’s proclamation, “Look! There is the Lamb of God”, I’m not sure we have yet discovered the complete reason why the gospel writer has included this in his book. Yes, it’s a valuable piece of information but there’s more.
question that I like to ask myself as I read the Bible is, “So what?”
It’s great to know all these nice things about Jesus – how he is the Lamb
of God who takes away the sin of the world but these are just facts. Interesting
thought provoking facts,
and for some, yes, they might seem irrelevant facts because they have gone right over their heads.
What is important in the reading today is what happened after John the Baptist’s pronouncement, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” Two men who had been following John, looked Jesus up and we are told they remained with him the rest of the day.
The word used
here is the same used later by John in chapter 15 and has been translated as
‘abide’ or ‘remain’ or ‘stay’ meaning a very close relationship is created
between Jesus and those who ‘abide’ in him. Jesus talked about his relationship
with us, “I am the vine; you are the
branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from
me you can do nothing.”
The point I want to make is that when these two disciples, Andrew and probably John, met with Jesus, they remained with him, they formed a close relationship with Jesus, and something happened that changed them.
The details are sketchy but it’s the way John uses this word ‘abide’ here that indicates something more than a casual meeting. They get up close and personal with Jesus like they had never done with anyone else before. Jesus was not just ‘The Lamb of God’ as John the Baptist had said, but he was very real, very personal, and very relevant for them. Jesus was the one who knew about their own personal troubles, and weaknesses, and fears, and inevitable death. Jesus not only understood their inner soul you might say, but Jesus is God and there is no-one better to deal with what bothered them.
Jesus was the real deal for Andrew and he went and found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah – one who really can deal with the things that matter in our lives. Come and check him out”. The next day Philip did the same and invited Nathanael to “Come and see”. They were excited; this was extremely good news. What the Baptist said was not some boring old fact about the messiah that they had learnt at synagogue school but he was talking about a connection, a relationship, the amazing and extraordinary love that God has for each one of us.
It’s easy for us to put Jesus in a box,
over there separate from everything else,
keep him with our Sunday best,
bring him out on special occasions,
keep him with our other quaint treasures
and believe that we know who Jesus is.
On the other hand, some of us have a sense that we are called by God and because we live in a society that looks at results, we get busy. We get so busy that there is no time for anything or anyone else.
My friends, that’s not abiding in Jesus;
that’s not remaining in him,
that’s not walking with him every day,
that’s not really knowing him as the Lamb of God who loves you – every nasty little bit of you and died on a cross for you because of that love.
When Jesus says, “Follow me”, he is calling us first to himself – to a personal intimacy, to sharing life with him, to spending quality time with him.
We are simply asked to get to know God
and Jesus better.
It’s a call to listen,
to seek him first,
to know him better
and to move toward making that relationship the central focus of our lives.
It’s time to listen to what the Lord God is saying.
We need that first.
We need that most.
It was only after this remaining/abiding with Jesus that he gave them things to do.
Today this reading invites us to
“Come and see” what John the Baptist
and Andrew and Simon and Nathanael and John saw.
Come and see and remain – abide, get close, get to know, through his Word in the Bible and through others, that Jesus is the one and only who can give you a real future – now and forever.
Jesus invites you to abide, remain, dwell with him.
He invites you into a relationship with him.
He calls each of us to “come and see” and “follow”.
Come and see who truly loves you.
© Pastor Vince