“Speaking of Jesus Christ” (John 1:29-42a)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 16, 2011

“Speaking of Jesus Christ” (John 1:29-42a)

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge–even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you–so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift. . . .”

So began St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. He acknowledged that God had blessed them richly with all sorts of gifts, particularly “in all speech and all knowledge.” That’s good, and that’s you, too. If Paul were writing an “Epistle to the Bonne Terrestrials,” he could say the same thing about you. For you, St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Bonne Terre, Missouri–you also have been enriched in all speech and knowledge, the testimony about Christ has been confirmed among you, and you are not lacking in any gift, either.

Enriched in all speech and all knowledge. This is important, because it means that you know what to speak, and you will be able to speak, when the opportunity is there for you to speak to others about Christ. Did you know that? That you are quite capable of speaking about Christ? You are! You have been enriched, you are not lacking.

For a couple of specific examples of people speaking about Christ, in ways that will be instructive for us, we turn to our Gospel reading for today, from John 1. There we meet John the Baptist and Andrew, both “Speaking of Jesus Christ.”

The first one we encounter is John the Baptist. “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” And he goes on from there. In fact, the next day John sees Jesus again, and again he says, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

So what does John mean by that expression, “the Lamb of God”? Why does he use that particular phrase? You know, we hear “Lamb of God,” and it sounds very familiar to us, because we sing John’s words as part of the Agnus Dei every Sunday. And John’s disciples, who heard him say this–they too, as Jews, and having been taught by John, would have had some idea what he was getting at by calling Jesus “the Lamb of God.” But now imagine you were speaking of Jesus to someone who had no clue as to the biblical concept of “the Lamb of God.” After all, why would you refer to a man as a “lamb”? What is there about him that is like a lamb? Did he have wool and bleat? No, of course not. So how would you explain it, this “Lamb of God” reference?

John himself gives us a clue when he adds the words, “who takes away the sin of the world.” “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Now we’re getting somewhere. As I say, John is speaking to people who would have known their Bible. So his hearers had a frame of reference to work with. Think back to all the lambs mentioned in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. That’s what John’s hearers would have done.

They would have thought of, to begin with, the Passover lamb. Remember, Israel was in bondage in Egypt, the angel of death was about to go across the land and strike down all the firstborn, but the Lord told Moses to have the Israelites take a lamb without spot or blemish and spread its blood on the doorposts of their house. That would be a sign for the angel of death to pass over, sparing their lives. Jesus is like that Passover lamb, isn’t he, because his holy blood shed on the cross is the sign by which death passes over us, and we are spared for eternal life.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Then John’s disciples would have thought of all the lambs sacrificed for sins at the tabernacle and temple. And really, those lambs, even more so than the Passover lamb, go directly to the matter of “taking away sin.” However, those lambs truly could not take away sin, not on their own. But they were types pointing ahead to Christ. He is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament sacrifices. He really does take away the sin of the world! That’s what he was just setting out to do, setting out on the way of the cross, when John saw him and called him the Lamb of God.

And that takes us to a third lamb that John’s disciples may have thought of when they heard him say that. That is the lamb mentioned in Isaiah 53. There Isaiah prophesies of the Lord’s Suffering Servant to come, who will bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, who would be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. And the prophet compares him to a lamb: “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” And so John’s use of “Lamb of God” recalls also the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.

The Passover lamb, the temple sacrifices, the Suffering Servant–all these come to mind for one versed in the Bible when John points to Jesus and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

But now, like I say, this shorthand will work when you’re talking to someone versed in the Bible. However, these days, that would be hardly anybody. Almost no one knows the Bible anymore. The rate of biblical illiteracy, and just the general decline in education and historical knowledge, is shocking. If you start talking about Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” you may get a lot of blank stares. So what do you do? Unpack the terms. Do the longhand version, not just the shorthand. Explain the terms. Indeed, you may not even use the phrase “Lamb of God” at all, at least not to start with. But you can certainly get at what that term means. The sacrifice for sin. The one who takes away the sin of the world. People can understand that. Although you’d still have to get at the whole matter of sin, what it is and who has it, which is everybody.

Ah, and there’s the rub! It won’t be so much on understanding the concept as on resisting the application. People don’t want to admit that they are in need of someone to take away their sin. They’ll debate over what qualifies as sin, and why they’re not so bad, and how dare God think about punishing people for their sin! Who does he think he is, God? Well, yeah. And you’re not. You’re that sinner who needs his sin taken away and atoned for.

So let’s say you do get a chance to talk to a friend or neighbor or family member about Jesus. Unless that person senses their need for a Savior, your words are pretty much going to fall on deaf ears. If people don’t think they have sin that needs to be taken away, why would they care about the Lamb of God who does just that? They won’t. But who knows, you may just run across someone who does recognize his or her need. And then your words about Jesus as the “sin-taker-awayer” will be sweet music to their ears, just what they needed to hear! But you may not know who are the “resisters” and who are the “receivers” in advance. So don’t be afraid to go ahead and speak, and let the chips fall where they may!

Now the other person who speaks of Jesus in our text is Andrew. He’s one of those two disciples who hear John call Jesus the Lamb of God. So Andrew and the other disciple go and follow Jesus. Jesus asks them, “What are you seeking?” They answer, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” He says, “Come and you will see.” “So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.”

Well, that day, staying with Jesus where he was staying, is time well spent. It is enough to send Andrew on a mission. He’s so pumped, he’s so excited, he goes and finds his brother, Simon, and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” And “he brought him to Jesus,” it says.

Again, this is instructive for us. Nobody had to lay a guilt trip or pressure on Andrew to get him to go and “evangelize.” No, he just did it naturally, spontaneously. Why? Because he had spent time with Jesus and found it so important, so life-changing, that he had to go and tell somebody else. It wasn’t a program, it wasn’t a campaign. It just happened as a natural result of someone spending time with Jesus, growing in their understanding of him, coming to know who Jesus is and why that’s so wonderful.

And notice what else Andrew does when he tells Simon about Jesus. He then brings Simon to Jesus. He invites him to come along with him to the place where Jesus is staying, so he too can get to know him. And friends, you can do the same thing. Do you have a brother, a sister, a husband or wife, a son or daughter, grandchildren–do you have a neighbor, a friend, a coworker, someone you know that you could speak to and share your excitement with?

That’s assuming that you yourself are excited about knowing Christ. If not, if you’ve grown blasé about being a Christian, then take a time-out and reflect on all that Christ has done for you, all that he is doing for you, and all that he will do. He has taken away your sin, saved you from death and hell, he’s brought you into a new life with the Holy Trinity, he’s given you a hope and a future, and he will come again and take you home to be with him forever, in a raised and glorified body and a perfectly restored creation. I’d say that’s pretty spectacular! I’d say that’s something to get excited about! And I’d say it’s something worth telling others about, that they too would benefit from knowing.

So then do what Andrew did. Invite that person to come with you to where Jesus is staying. And that would be here. The church is where Jesus is staying, speaking words of life and forgiveness to hungry sinners. This is where Jesus is staying, giving out his gifts of salvation. Come and you will see!

Dear friends, you are like the Corinthians. You have been “enriched in Christ in all speech and all knowledge.” You know Jesus, and therefore you have something to speak about. So just be the John or Andrew you already are, one sinner telling another what you know: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” and “We have found the Messiah!”

Published in: on January 16, 2011 at 2:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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