1/19/2020 Second Sunday after Epiphany The text is John 1: 29-42.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning we find that we remain in a time of discovery and revelation, and recognition; specifically, in the church calendar, this is the Second Sunday after Epiphany. The Wise Men have come and gone, Jesus has been baptized by John the Baptist, and the voice from heaven has declared that God is ‘well pleased’ with his Son. And this morning we encounter Baptizer John continuing his testimony by declaring that Jesus is the ‘Anointed One’, the ‘Lamb of God’, come to cleanse the world of its sinfulness. And throughout this Epiphany season we more deeply discern how we approach and perceive the nature of Christ; God-in-flesh. We determine those things that are hidden, and more importantly, what is revealed in the gospel.
So far John is the only one speaking as he recounts seeing the dove-like Holy Spirit descending on Jesus; and bestowing the ‘Lamb of God’ title upon Jesus. Now we hear the first words Jesus speaks as his ministry and mission begin. He asks the two of John’s disciples who are following him, ‘what are you looking for?’. In the original Greek, Jesus’ question is, ‘what are you seeking?’. This verb adds a bit more depth to the question. ‘Looking for’ something is rather mild; it could be a misplaced sandal or perhaps directions to the best local olive oil producer. ‘Looking for’ something. But ‘seeking’ something suggests a deeper search, a longing, desire, a need. Just what were these first followers of Jesus ‘seeking’?
Their response to Jesus’ question was, ‘where are you staying?’. Rather odd, don’t you think; answering a question with a question? Again, their query wasn’t quite as simple as the English translation would suggest. The Greek work used for ‘staying’ in this passage is ‘meno’, which refers more to ‘abiding’, ‘enduring’, or ‘being present’. These connote a sense of permanence and stability. They are asking Jesus what his ultimate purpose will be, where he will ‘abide’, especially with regard to his relationship with the Father. After all, John has referred to him as the ‘Lamb of God’ more than once. And, we may assume they are also wondering what his relationship will ultimately be with them.
So, the dialogue between Jesus and his very first followers went something like this. He asks them what they are seeking to find as meaning in their lives. And they ask Jesus what he will provide if they choose to follow him in his mission. Will he be ever-present for them; will Jesus provide stability and permanence of place; will he remain always for, and with them? And this ‘Lamb of God’ title they’ve been hearing about; will Jesus be the One to bring them into righteous relationship with the Father? After all, John has testified that the Holy Spirit alighting on Jesus confirmed that he is the Son of God! They seem to be right on the cusp of an epiphany of their own, but there appears to be some amount of hesitation.
Jesus answers them, ‘come and see’ where I am staying; where I abide, where and how I will always be present, permanent, and in perpetual right relationship with the Father, and with all who choose to abide in me. In the spirit of this season of the Epiphany, it seems that the revelation is complete; Jesus embodies all that his first followers were seeking, and that they have apparently found. In fact, we’re told that right after the initial encounter, Andrew rushes to tell his brother Peter that the Messiah has been revealed. But we know how this turns out, don’t we? Even th2ough Jesus tells Peter that he is to be the rock that will serve as the foundation of Christ’s church, he isn’t quite able to cling to his understanding, his epiphany of who Jesus is. Simon Peter fails to recognize the truth of most of what Jesus does or says. He has serious doubts about Jesus’ judgement in many instances. He denies him three times and Jesus tells him, ‘get behind me, Satan!’.
Several years ago I attended a camping weekend with a group of about 800 New England Lutheran youth. The guest speaker was a Lutheran Youth Pastor of some renown. He shared the following observation with us. He was recounting Peter’s lack of faith and understanding of what was before his very eyes. And he told us that it gave him great comfort to know that Peter’s weakness and confusion about his faith rather gave him permission to feel the same from time to time. Just like all of us. He said it was reassuring to be part of a religion whose first and most revered apostle was, and I quote him here, ‘an idiot!’
Now this may be a bit harsh, but there is a ring of truth to it. Peter, the very rock of the church struggled to fully understand what it was that Jesus told his first followers; to ‘come and see’ where he ‘abided’, and they would find what they were ‘seeking’. Sure, Peter and the others did their best to understand the truth about who Jesus was when he walked among them. They observed the signs and miracles that Jesus performed, but even these events weren’t enough to afford everyone the opportunity to experience the epiphany of the reality of Christ’s identity. We, on the other hand are witnesses to the resurrection, the defining epiphany that reveals the true nature of Jesus the Christ; the redeeming Son of God.
Everything becomes clear when viewed through the lens of Christ’s rising from the dead. We know that through the bread and the wine that Jesus truly ‘abides’ within us. The Spirit of our Savior is ever-present and unchanging. The answer to, ‘what are you looking for’ is to be found in the very nature of Christ. In him we are offered truth, light, forgiveness, and life-everlasting! In this Epiphany, what has been revealed to us is the Way of Christ. This is what John the Baptist, the first apostles, and we, seek. And what has been found, is that we know where the Lamb of God is ‘staying’ and that he ‘abides’ within us all.
Will you pray with me? Good and gracious God, your glory has been fully revealed to us through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Grant us faith that we will always recognize and acknowledge that we are led to where Christ abides; so that we might find what we are seeking.
And in Jesus’ name together the people of God say…Amen.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. Amen.