I am indebted to the ideas and commentaries of David Lose and Brian Stoffgren for helping me to process and move through John 1:29-42 on this second Sunday of Epiphany.
29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I 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.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
38When 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?”
39He 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. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He 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).
Our text today is all about experience… how we perceive things, how they make us feel. It’s also about telling our story – specifically our story of our experience of God.
When have you known a place where God needs to be present?
When have you been aware that God been active in your life?
Our passage today is all about experiencing the impact God has in our lives, the impact that Christ has, and the openness of others to listen to accounts of those events and explore for themselves.
We begin with a story told by John the Baptist about his encounter with God through Jesus, through the baptism of one who is greater than he is. John is humbled by this encounter and encourages his disciples to meet this Jesus.
Two of his disciples take him at his word and follow this Jesus – who turns and looks at them and into them. He wants to know what they’re looking for; they respond with another question, Teacher, where are you staying.
Come and see, Jesus responds. Come with me and experience it. Not just see with your eyes but take it all in – come and see – see if it becomes a part of you. And they do.
One of John’s former disciples is named Andrew and after that evening, he becomes a disciple of Jesus.
Later, he goes and grabs his brother – a guy by the name of Simon Peter and tells him, we’ve found the Messiah. You’ve got to come with me and see! See for yourself!
How many of you talk about your faith? How many of you talk about how important Christ is in your lives? Do you know people who do?
I have to confess that I’m a bit evangelism-averse because evangelism has gotten a bad wrap. We’ve come to equate it with awkward interactions with others who have particular agendas. Some are coercive; some are threatening. You’ll hear things like:
Are you saved!?
Have you accepted Jesus into your life?
Do you know where you’re going after you die?
Are you born again?
This has made evangelism something of a dirty word – and we find it difficult to do – because we don’t want to be, well, those people. We don’t want to be pushy, or coerce others, or be threatening. So we keep our faith to ourselves. We hide our experiences, our lights under bushels of our own making – we hide ourselves away and wonder why our churches don’t grow.
So what are we to do?
Frankly, my relationship with God and Jesus Christ is very personal – I don’t talk about it easily. But when trust and openness exist, I’m happy to tell you about times when I felt God was at work in my life, when I felt Jesus close to me. I’ll tell you what I believe about God’s love and goodness and how that amazes me and makes me feel alternately completely unworthy and joyfully giddy.
Trust and openness…
Come and see…
See and share…
Have you noticed that in the gospel of John, there is no baptism of Jesus? Unlike Mark, Matthew, and Luke, we aren’t told how John baptized Jesus, we aren’t shown how the dove descended and the voice from the heavens split the air.
In the gospel of John, we aren’t witnesses to the baptism at all. We listen to John the Baptist tell us of the experience he had. He talks about how he came to realize who Jesus was, the role that Jesus is to play.
We don’t hear about what happened after John’s two disciples agreed to come and see what Jesus had to show them. We realize that it had such an impact on Andrew that he went to find his brother because his experience with Jesus was so powerful.
John the Baptist shared his story. Andrew shared his story. In fact, Andrew does this 3 times in the gospel of John. He brings his brother, a young boy with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and he brings “some Greeks” to meet Jesus. And, Andrew is probably the last disciple we think of when we’re asked to name them. Yet Andrew has this thing figured out – how to share his story so others want to join the experience.
Trust and openness…
Come and see…
See and share…
This is what real evangelism is. Sharing what God has done for us and inviting others to come and see for themselves.
But…How do we begin to share ours stories?
Perhaps there are three simple steps, suggested by David Lose.
First, begin to notice. Notice where you have seen or felt the presence of god in the world or in your life. It can be difficult at first but it will become easier. Maybe it’s easier to start with places we notice where God needs to be – places where there is tragedy, distress, or hurt. And over time, we’ll get better at noticing where God is – in first responders, in relief workers, in that neighbor that always has a casserole ready or is will to provide a ride. Or a friend that is always willing to listen. Soon, you’ll begin to notice God not only at work in your life but in the larger world.
Second, begin to share. This is what we struggle with the most, I think. So let’s begin with an easy one. Why do you like this church? Why do you like to come here? Take a moment… If you’re sitting near someone, tell them – go on…
If you’re not sitting near someone, on the way out today tell someone.
Third, and this one will seem to be the hardest of all, invite someone to join you here. They can come with you or meet you.
We’re not hesitant to tell others about a great restaurant we’ve found; a good barber or hairdresser, a wonderful doctor. We aren’t hesitant to invite people book club or out to a concert or play. So why are we hesitant to invite them here? If you enjoy being here, if you want to come here, be willing to share it! If you like it, surely someone you know will, too.
It will take time – time to notice, time to be comfortable sharing, time to be comfortable inviting others.
Jesus bides his time, too. We don’t know much about his early life or his young adulthood. But when he was ready? When he was ready to talk and to teach? He welcomed, he invited, he shared his story and his experiences. And so did Andrew, and John the Baptist.
Live your experience. Be mindful, noticing the breath of God, the movement of the spirit.
Trust and openness!
Come and see!
See and Share!