Be disciples. Make disciples.
Old Testament Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm Psalm 40:1-12
Epistle 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Gospel John 1:29-42
"I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." - Isaiah 49:6b.
In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Last week the evangelist Matthew offered a detailed description of Jesus' baptism, complete with the heavens opening, the Spirit descending and resting on Jesus, and a voice proclaiming, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." This week, in the Gospel according to John, we feel the aftershock. John's gospel does not describe Jesus' baptism, but more the response to it, what it proclaims, and how it might lead others to believe.
John the Baptist is just hanging around, doing whatever prophets do, and sees Jesus coming toward him. John is compelled to continue his role of pointing to the Messiah. “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” And he proclaims all that happened at the baptism.
To call Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" must have sounded peculiar to the Jewish audience. Bulls and sheep and goats were the sacrifices appointed for sin offerings, not lambs, and not people. But something new is happening in Jesus. The Jews would have connected "lamb" to the Passover Lamb, a symbol for collecting God's people to God's self, and deliverance out of the suffering and oppression of Egypt. Jesus is the Lamb of God, bringing deliverance and salvation.
The next day, John is standing with two of his disciples. "The next day" should bring to mind the Creation story, as the phases of God's work forming the world and all that is in it moves along a day at a time. God is up to something new, a new Creation. John the Baptist proclaims, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" The prophet continues his role of pointing to the one to come after him, the one who has arrived. In this Epiphany proclamation, John announces the Son of God who is manifest in the world.
Apparently, John’s disciples have been paying attention. The Baptizer has repeated his message ... He is coming! He is coming! Now his message has changed ... there He is! The two disciples need no instruction. They know what to do. They immediately follow Jesus. They must follow Jesus. They can’t not follow Jesus.
Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?” We might consider this question when discerning our faith and discipleship. Are we looking for safety, security, peace, salvation, meaning, purpose, answers? The two give an odd response, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” They know who they are called to follow, they assume their discipleship, and suggest that wherever Jesus goes, they will follow. The two expose our need to abide with God, to be reconciled with God, and to be taught how to live with God. Jesus requires nothing more, and invites them, “Come and see.”
One of the two disciples was Andrew, and he begins his Christian evangelism by finding his brother Simon and proclaiming, "We have found the Messiah!" Note the inclusiveness of the Good News ... WE have found the anointed one! The called are also the calling. Andrew goes beyond simple pronouncement, and brings his brother to Jesus. Jesus recognizes him, knows him, and identifies him by his worldly identity ... "You are Simon, son of John."
Our gospel reading is purposeful in identifying Jesus: Lamb of God, Son of God, Messiah, Rabbi, the One to follow. Now Jesus identifies Simon, and renames him Peter. This renaming not only establishes Jesus' authority, but identifies Peter as called, and establishes his new purpose. Peter means "rock", and he will later be called the rock upon which the Church will be built.
And so it begins. I wonder if the disciples knew what they were getting into? I wonder if we know what we have gotten into? There is so much more in God's plan than we will ever comprehend. Sometimes in imagining the enormity of God's salvation, it is unimaginable that we could play any significant part at all. Yet God calls each of us to come and see, to experience the kingdom life, to be transformed, to be disciples. We cannot imagine we are up to the task. We focus on our own inabilities, rather than trust in God's abundant ability. Mother Theresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” Imagine what we can do together, with God.
As Christians, we are called to be part of something bigger. Just as Jesus begins by calling a group of people together, we are called with all Christians to share God's love with the world. We are called ... brace yourselves ... to be evangelists!
Paul encourages us that we all are called and well equipped. Most of us compulsively tell about a delicious a meal at a new restaurant, or vividly describe a good book or an outstanding movie, or what fun we had on a fabulous vacation. Why not share our experience of God present here among us in this community, in worship, fellowship, and service? Why not share a story of transformation feeding the homeless at weekend lunch, or mentoring a child at Path To Shine? Why not share the nourishment of body, mind, and spirit we receive at the Eucharistic table, and invite others to come, taste, and see?
Perhaps we should examine our motivation. Do we want to invite new people into the community? Why do we want new people? To give more money to keep the doors open, share the work load, or simply sustain our numbers? OR, are we so compelled as disciples of Christ to share our experience of the living God that we cannot contain it, to the point we overflow with invitation? In being invited ourselves to come and see, are we so overcome with God’s abundant joy that it is simply too much to keep to ourselves? Are we an exclusive club for the satisfied immovable? OR, are we a school of disciples on a journey together, arms open wide to all?In experiencing a glimpse of the kingdom, do we hoard the treasure we have found, or find ourselves gathering anyone who will listen, saying, “You have got to come and see this!”
Sharing God’s love with the world manifests in all sorts of ways, including good works, as well as we can perform them. Perhaps our highest call is to explicitly share the Good News of God’s saving love and invite others to come and see. Our example is John the Baptist, who when face to face with Jesus cannot help but blurt out, “Here is the Lamb of God!” Our example is Andrew, who was compelled to share the Good News with his brother, and anyone who would listen. We are forever transformed by encountering the living God in Jesus Christ. We are called to be disciples. We are called to make disciples of all the nations, so that God’s salvation may reach to the end of the earth. AMEN.