John 1:29-42; Isaiah 49: 1-7
What strikes me most, hearing or reading this passage from John’s gospel is all the language about looking, seeing, finding, things being revealed – I counted about 12 references just in that short passage.
John wants us to see what he’s talking about, so
what do you see, what do you notice, what are you looking for, what do you find.. in this story?
This is John’s account of the baptism of Jesus – and it’s not like the other 3 gospels: it’s very much a second-hand account from the mouth of John the Baptist, rather than a kind of direct description as you might have heard if you were in church last week.
Why does John’s gospel tell the story that way?
John is very concerned that we understand for ourselves who Jesus is: and in this passage John the Baptist wants the people who up until now have been his, John the Baptist’s, disciples, to see Jesus for themselves, to understand who he is, and then to follow him.
John the Baptist says ‘look – there is the Lamb of God – I know how special he is because an amazing thing happened when I baptized him – he is the one you should follow now, not me – look there he is – see for yourselves’.
So the 2 disciples of John the Baptist – and we know one of them is Andrew – start following Jesus. Actually it’s a bit more like what we might call stalking Jesus. Jesus notices them following him and asks ‘what are you looking for?’ and they, perhaps a bit startled, ask the seemingly rather irrelevant question ‘where are you staying?’. I wonder if this is just the first thing that enters their heads? They can hardly say ‘John the Baptist says you’re the Lamb of God – is that right?’. But however silly the question ‘where are you staying?’ Jesus invites them into a proper conversation with him when he says ‘come and see’. Instead of just stalking Jesus they walk and talk with him – and they spend the rest of the day with him.
That’s enough for Andrew – he immediately goes of to find his brother Simon and tells him ‘we have found the Messiah’ – and then Andrew takes Simon to see Jesus for himself.
At the heart of this passage is the truth that when people notice Jesus, they see God’s love in action: and when they see that happen, they want to share it with other people and invite them to come and see God’s love for themselves. Noticing, sharing, inviting…
We heard a similar thing happening in the passage from Isaiah. God says to his people through the prophet ‘listen to me – see how I have shown you God’s love and taught you God’s word. Now, having seen the light of God’s love you will become like light to others, so that all the world will know God’s way’.
Notice God’s message of love, share in the light it gives, invite others to walk in the light too.
This is always how the message of God’s gospel of love spreads – like wildfire, one to another – someone is touched by God’s love and sees the light and then becomes evidence of God’s love so that another sees the light and shares the love, and so it goes on: down the centuries, through the churches, generation to generation, person to person, until it got to you.
And now what?
Are we going to keep this gospel to ourselves? Are we simply going to shut our church doors and remind each other what a wonderful gospel of love we have heard and go home with a warm glow?
Or will we allow ourselves to be challenged by John’s gospel to notice what God is doing in our lives, to share that love with others, and then to invite them to come and see for themselves?
This is the week of prayer for Christian Unity – so the good news is that we are not alone in our challenge to share the faith – it is not all down to us – there is a whole worldwide church of Jesus Christ in all its myriad forms, noticing God’s love, sharing it with the world around & inviting others to see it for themselves.
But the bad news is that the challenge to us is not just to go and invite people to this church, but to work with our ecumenical partners around us for the good of the world around.
It is a challenge to see how God is acting in the lives of other churches, different from ours, to understand something of the diversity of ways in which God acts and relates, and to be part of something much wider than our own interests experiences, and history.
But as we face the challenge to notice God’s love in new ways, share in that love, and invite others to know that love for themselves, God gives us the gift of this bread and wine of communion.
Here it is in front of us – a sign of God’s love, inviting us to notice and celebrate; a meal to be shared with one another, and with others who are not here today; an invitation to the whole world to come and know God’s love for every single person that there is.
So may we be filled with God’s love, and inspired to share it and to invite others to be part of the amazing body of Christ that is the Christian church – in the power of the Spirit, in the name of Jesus, and to the glory of God the Father. Amen