In this sermon from John 1:29-42, I explore the invitation offered to different individuals to come and see. This is how we encounter Christ, and how we offer the invitation to others.
You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
I have come to the conclusion that if a company wants to make an impression on me, they should advertise with talking animals. This conclusion came to me in a moment when I was thinking about 2 different commercials, both made by the same company, that both feature this sort of thing…and at least in my mind, are unforgettable.
The company is Geico, and the first one features the Geico Gecko attempting to be dramatic as he talks about roadside assistance, and we “SOMEONE HELP ME I HAVE A FLAT TIRE!” The commercial is doing its job because I can instantly tell you both the company and the specific service that it is intended to sell me. (pause)
Now the second commercial, also for Geico, features 3 racoons, snooping around a batch of garbage cans…its mainly an exchange between 2 of the raccoons, with the nervous 3rd making occasional side comments. (pause)
“Woah this is awful…try it.” “Oh no that looks gross, what is that?” “You gotta try it, its terrible.” “I don’t want to try it if its terrible.” “Its like a combination of mango chutney and burnt hair.” “I’ve got a very sensitive pallet.” “JUST TRY IT.” “Guys, I think we should hurry up.” “I can’t get the taste out of my mouth.” At this point we hear the tag line for the commercial come up…If you taste something bad, you want someone to try it…its what you do…before the raccoons get spooked by a bark and creep off into the night muttering “Dog…dog…dog.” (pause)
Now for those of you laughing out there…I see you share my infinity for Geico commercials…But interestingly enough…that single raccoon’s desire to share this amazingly bad taste with someone else is quite similar to what’s happening within today’s gospel lesson. (pause)
For those of you that were here last week and heard the story of Jesus baptism, then I’m guessing that a portion of this passage seems quite familiar…and that’s understandable. As we find ourselves here in the season of Epiphany, we continue to be reminded of the ways that Christ was revealed to the world. Last week as we focused on the story of his baptism, the big reveal came straight from the source, as God the father made a big booming proclamation about the identity of Christ…the one who is God’s beloved Son.
But today we get the story from John’s gospel. As per usual here in the 4th gospel, this account of the story is a little different…as we see John the Baptist take the role of witness…bearing testimony to what he has seen and heard and experienced.
Now here in the 4th gospel, that’s how Jesus’ baptism is presented…its past tense…being recalled by John in addition to what God has revealed to him…that’s the thing about John…he knows who he is, and he knows who he isn’t. And we hear in different places that he has come to point the world towards the Messiah…and that God has somehow revealed to John that he would see the Holy Spirit descend upon a man…and the Spirit would abide within that man…and when John sees this, he will know that this is God’s messiah…this is the Lamb of God.
Now we’re familiar with the story of Jesus’ baptism…and we know that’s what happens…and that John was right there when it happened…and so now…as he stands before the crowds who have come out to hear him…and John see’s Jesus walking by…he shares his experience. (pause) BEHOLD…HERE IS THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD. (pause)
That’s John’s role…one that he takes quite seriously…to testify to his experience of the Messiah…to point him out to the world…and he does this by sharing what he has seen and heard…and John speaks this truth quite plainly. I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God. (pause)
Now, once John’s recollection and testimony about the baptism is over, the story jumps ahead 24 hours…though the scene sounds pretty similar. John is hanging around yet again…this time he’s got a couple of his followers along with him…when once more Jesus comes walking by…and John makes the very same statement. “BEHOLD…here is the lamb of God.”
Now we don’t know if these two guys had been there the day before or not…probably though we don’t know…but as disciples of John they were likely familiar with his message, so they’d likely heard his testimony about Jesus…and so as they’re standing there and hear John say “There he is!” It must have been a pretty major moment for them. “THAT’S HIM? THAT GUY RIGHT THERE? Let’s follow him.” And they do, trailing along after Jesus. Now who knows why? Maybe they were a little starstruck…maybe they were geeking out…Lord’ knows I’ve had the same experience before…full disclosure, I geeked out on our former Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson once. I can only imagine what it would be like to have the Savior of the World walk by…someone that your entire culture has been waiting on for centuries.
And so Andrew and this other unnamed guy start tailing Jesus…and somewhere along the way he notices…and turns around…not cranky…not suspicious…just Jesus being Jesus, asking the right question at the right time…something he seems to be pretty good at. What are you looking for?”
Now we could go all kinds of places with that question…because honestly what are we looking for? Any of us? Love, acceptance…joy…respect…fulfillment…some small glimmer of light in the midst of the darkness that this world is constantly smacking us with…that’s a big question…and maybe these two guys were overwhelmed by it…because their response is a little odd. Teacher…where are you staying? Where are you abiding?
And Jesus…God in the flesh…offers a simple invitation….Come and see. (pause) Come and see. Come check it out…see for yourself…and you’ll abide with me where I’m abiding…we’ll hang out together…and they do. And then…having done just that…having spent time together…Andrew realizes the truth of John’s testimony…that there’s something about this guy…that yes…this is the Messiah…and he is compelled to share it…so he goes to find his brother…Yo…SIMON..DUDE…YOU GOTTA CHECK THIS OUT!!!! Because apparently when you find the messiah, you invite others to find him too…its what you do. (pause)
Now this isn’t the only case either…directly following this passage, Jesus bumps into Philip, and because of this encounter, Philip goes off to invite Nathanael…Dude…we found the Messiah…come check it out.
And the thing that every one of these individuals has in common is that they did in fact, come and see…they spent time with Jesus…they had their own experience and then pointed him out to others. (pause)
You know there’s a name for that sort of thing…one that gets thrown around in the church world pretty regularly…but one that can make us squirm just a touch…Evangelism.
You know that word…it conjures up images of street preachers…and door knocking…of uncomfortable conversations that sound like “If you died tonight would you go to heaven or hell?”
But what if evangelism was as simple as “come and see.” That’s what John the Baptist did. That’s what Andrew did…that’s what Philip did…later on down the road Peter would do it…and Paul would do it…and others would do it too…and at some point a couple thousand years later, someone did the same for you…otherwise what are you doing here today?
You can use whatever word or phrase that you’re comfortable with…but evangelism…or sharing the gospel…or sharing your faith is as simple as sharing your story…and while some are called to go halfway around the world…and others are called to stand up before giant crowds…most of us are called to share our stories with those right there in our backyards.
As I think about these first disciples of Jesus…that’s all they did. Andrew and Peter were brothers…we hear that Philip and Nathanael are from the same home town…these are probably 4 guys that grew up together…and sharing this news “We have found the Messiah” came as easily as “The Cubs won the World Series!” (pause)
You’ve likely heard me use the phrase Cross Generational ministry. Its something we’ve been throwing around quite a bit in the past year here at the church. And this is all it is. Sharing our experience…sharing how we’ve seen God active in the world and in our lives…and realizing that when God encounters us, our story becomes part of His story…and that he desires that we share it…that we embrace the glorious truth of the gospel, that we are seen and claimed by the one who makes us and who loves us…and that God desires everyone to experience the same joy that comes with it…and that God desires it so much that he was willing to become one of us…he was willing to live out life with all of its sorrows and all its joys, and ultimately he was willing to die in order to overcome every obstacle that stands in the way…and in the end…he did it for you….and as amazing as that is…he also did it for your neighbor that lives across the fence…and all God asks of you is that you share it…that you invite them to come and see.
We plant the seeds…that’s all we do…its up to God to give the growth in the lives of others…and I don’t know about you…but remember that really takes the pressure off. Its not up to you to save the world, God’s already done it…its not up to you to change the minds and lives of others…only the Holy Spirit can do that…all we are called to do is live out the truth that we have experienced…that I am loved…and I am accepted…and I am redeemed by the one they call Jesus. (pause)
If you taste something bad, you want someone to try it…its what you do. (pause) If you experience the joy of the Lord, you want to share it…its what you do. Amen