John 1: 35 – 42
The First Disciples of Jesus
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).
Sermons of Note
"4 O'Clock People"
To meet Jesus again for the first time sounds really good to those of us who have experienced ennui…life fatigue. We can get so caught up in “doing” church, or “living life,” that we can lose sight of the one who brought us here in the first place, the one who created us from the dust of the earth.
Marcus Borg wrote a book titled “Meeting Jesus again for the first time.” In it he tells of how he was brought up with the Jesus of tradition’s faith. But, college broke his ability to believe without questions. So, as a young man, he sought out the Jesus of history. Looking at historical and archelogical evidence, he found a man living an extraordinary life. This man, Jesus, was so compelling, and so spoke to his heart, that Borg could do nothing else but follow.
I used to get upset with Borg and his Jesus Seminars because, in their seeking of the truth, they did things like vote for what Jesus said and what Jesus didn’t say producing the red letter Bible.
But, today, I see Borg’s journey differently. The Jesus of his Sunday School years no longer held his heart. But, he wouldn’t stop, couldn’t stop, seeking him. Borg went on a quest until Jesus walked into his life once again.
Seek and you shall find.
When I was a young adult, I was influenced by the Road Less Traveled, a book written by the psychologist, Scott Peck. He wrote of faith as if it were a one way journey up a developmental ladder. He argued that you begin with a child’s unquestioning faith, then you enter into your skeptical years full of questions and
doubt, and then, if you keep on seeking, you will find your adult faith. Describing faith in a way you would describe developmental stages of childhood doesn’t ring true. After years of study, there is a part in me that just wants to hold Jesus’ hand.
There’s nothing a matter with just wanting to hold Jesus’ hand. It is a sweet childlike part of yourself that opens up to his love. What Peck didn’t understand is often the child part of our selves is the one who leads you to Jesus. For me, allowing myself to be like a child, happy to simply be with Jesus, that is spiritual growth.
Whether you are, like Borg, seeking to find Jesus that is alive amidst scientific inquiry; or you seek to see Jesus holding you as a daddy holds his child’s hand; scripture is clear, if you seek him, you will find him. When you find him, you will be found.
When the two disciples take interest in Jesus, Jesus doesn’t ask….
Where they studied Torah…
Or to describe their beliefs in God…
Or to list off what they’ve done regarding good works this past month…
Instead he asks: “What are you looking for?”
They answer … “where are you staying?”
The gospel of John records “They [the disciples] came and saw where [Jesus] was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.
The Baptist’s proclamation: “Here comes the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” certainly that got their attention. Because of the Baptist’s words, they looked up to see who it was of which he spoke. His words called them to see Jesus. Let’s consider what it is he says.
The Lamb of God harkens back to the Passover, where Israel put the blood of a lamb on their door hinge so the last plague, the death of the first born son, would not touch the people God chose to bring out of slavery. This title given to Jesus gives him a place in the history of the Jewish faith.
The second part…who takes away the sin of the world…is a theologically dense subtitle. Give it a moment. We can unpack it.
First, note it isn’t individual sin but the “sin of the world” the Lamb of God takes away. We’re so used to preachers talking about our personal sins and how we need Jesus so we can stop sinning, that we can miss what is being said. The Lamb of God takes away the “sin” of the world.
Here’s a picture. Imagine coming in from the garden covered head to toe with dirt and mud. You aren’t dirty because you were doing something wrong but because you get dirty when you tend to your plantings—you’ve got to pull those weeds.
Similarly, in this world, when you are trying to grow what is holy and good, you get dirty. You can’t work in God’s fields and stay clean.
But, and here’s the part I need you to hear, you don’t have to wear the mud. You don’t have to carry years and years of caked on filth. Because, the affirmation of our scripture is that dirt can’t cling to you when you follow Jesus. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. The muck falls away.
For the Baptist, this was very good news. When I first read the scripture, starting with verse 24, I had this image of him jumping up and down like a child who has just received the best gift in the whole world.
Imagine the Baptist’s life. Everyday people come to him because the temple rituals no longer gave their lives meaning. They came feeling a burden of sin. If mud stays on you too long, it attracts more mud, and it becomes really heavy.
Imagine the stories he heard of broken promises and fenced in lives. Jews no longer lived in a land of milk and honey but in a land of centurions, crowded city streets, and a stratified societal structure of which, many of them, were on the bottom rung.
And, so they return to a wild place where they are told to repent, as water dripped from their heads. Live another way.
Which is much easier said than done. Patterns are instilled in us. Our bodies have memory. You fall into the same patterns like you fall into the same indentation of an old mattress.
Did John see some people again and again? Did he hear them tell the same stories of lives that never change because they won’t, they can’t change? Did they tell him about what they said to another, eagerly giving advice, while avoiding the difficulties in their own lives?
Did John encounter oppression so strong that people were forced to make desperate choices? Or find his heart broken for people who were stuck on the bottom rung who would have no chance of rising? Did he cry for those who are left behind because they are different?
In this small church, we’ve felt it all. One of the most difficult things about being a pastor anywhere, Corona del Mar or North Long Beach, is the inability to change a life with sage advice or a baptism.
Yes, John is excited because it is not his responsibility to change anyone. His job is to announce the one who has come.
In response to the Baptist’s exuberant announcement, Andrew looks up. He sees Jesus and starts to follow. When Jesus notices Andrew following, he asks him, “what are you looking for?”
Oh, dear Jesus, ask me that. I have a whole list.
I’m looking for new people to call friends.
I’m looking to break open systems that keep people stuck so you have a chance to live more free.
I’m looking for a shelf that will fit in my cabinet so I my dishes don’t look like a dish balancing act upon the feet of a Chinese Acrobat.
I’m sure Andrew had his own list.
But, when Jesus looks at Andrew, his list falls away.
He simply asks…where are you staying?
And Jesus responds, “come and see.”
The beauty of the gospel of John is that there are no angels heralding Jesus’ birth nor wise men coming from afar. There is no miraculous birth. There is simply a miracle…Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…saying to us, come and see.
Come and see what life is when you don’t carry around all the mud.
Come and see what can be when you let go of your list.
Come and see what God can do, and is doing, right now all around you.
You ain’t working the field all alone, my friends!
So important is this moment when the first young man follows Jesus, that it is given a time stamp. At 4:00 in the afternoon, Andrew and another followed. They stayed with Jesus the entire day.
This past week I had opportunity to ask a few women when they began to speak with Jesus. Each of the three had a story about Sunday School…a teacher who encouraged them to give it a try. They spoke of how silly they felt when they began to talk to Jesus as they would a friend. Oh the voices of the world entered in, splashing the mud of doubt on the beginnings of their conversation. But…because they were young, the mud didn’t settle. In their innocence, they found talking with Jesus gave them comfort and joy and peace. So they continue on to this day. Even when life gives them great burdens to carry, the mud don’t stick.
Perhaps it feels too silly or naiive to you to simply speak to Jesus as you would a friend. It doesn’t feel life transforming. Especially with all the crises we now face. We gotta do something!
Except…consider that …if you keep accumulating mud on your back, soon you gonna drown.
The lives I’ve seen changed do not rely on themselves to clean up the world—that is way too much like the old mattress. Nope, they rely on doing one thing…following Jesus, believing Jesus will make the next step clear. And when there is an obstacle, believing Jesus will make possible a miracle, or show them a way around.
I’ve often heard it said that it takes a leap of faith to believe in Jesus.
I don’t think so…believing in Jesus, following him, just requires you seek him. You spend time with him, talking with him as you would a friend, and listen expecting him to lead.
Then, only then, comes the leap…
The leap from living in your familiar patterns to leaping into a life that is led by Jesus. That change requires leads you to some cliffs to cross with some with very scary drops between them. Now that your eyes are cleared of the mud, you can see what is ahead. Sometimes that is a whole lot more scary.
But, Jesus knows what you can and cannot do. Jesus knows how to lead so you can make the jump. Jesus has hold of you. So… you can…
Get out of that damned old sagging mattress. You can “come and see” where Jesus will lead. You can let Jesus show you how to be…
Gandhi famously said, in order to change the world, “Be the change you wish to see.”