From the Pulpit

From the Pulpit 

Sermon on John 1:29-41
Second Sunday after Epiphany
19 January 2020

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance! Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters of our Shepherd, and Lamb, Jesus Christ. Have you ever tried to point out something to someone who was too busy or preoccupied to look? Something like “look honey, a deer,” but your wife’s in the passenger seat doing a crossword and by the time she looks up, the deer is gone. Well, the situation in our gospel for today is nothing like that one. John points, and people look and see what he wants them to see. So let's look up from our crossword, or whatever has been calling our attention, and look where John points; and may we respond as he, and our God want us to respond. The Lamb of God! Look! Listen! Share!

What does John want us to look at? “The lamb of God, who even now is taking away the sins of the world.” You see, Jesus’ saving ministry did not begin with his baptism – even from his birth he was already working on our salvation, by leading the perfect life we could not, and so that he could offer that life as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

But what is John saying when he says “Look, the Lamb”? Consider all the multitude of lambs and goats and cattle that were sacrificed since God instituted that form of worship more than a thousand years before. Each one’s blood was shed to forestall God’s punishment for sin. But their sacrifice was just a foreshadowing of the perfect sacrifice to come. Not all the blood of all the beasts in the world shed by thousands of priests could pay the price for one sin against our holy God.

Only the blood of God himself could pay for sin – because the sacrifice must be perfect. So here is John, saying: “Look, here is God’s perfect lamb, God himself; he is not only the sacrifice, but the priest who brings the sacrifice – and this sacrifice will be the last; no more blood needs to be shed, because this one is sufficient to pay for it all.”

And we must look. Recall the many times as Moses and the Israelites traveled in the desert, the people would complain bitterly. On one of those occasions, God sent asps to strike at them, and many were bitten and died. But then God in his mercy commanded Moses to raise a bronze serpent on a staff, and any who looked to it were cured; but those who did not, died. Likewise any who look to the Lamb of God for their salvation will not die, but live. But if they do not look, they are still in their sins, and will die forever.

And so look, my friends – keep your eyes on your Savior and do not let yourselves be distracted by the cares and worries of this world. Look to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world – who takes away your sins.
And what’s more, listen to him…

Just last week, recall that when Jesus came to be baptized by John, John argued against it. At the time, he did not yet understand the full implications of Jesus’ ministry, or his own. That is why he said "I did not know him then." But when he listened to his Savior’s explanation, then he understood that Christ taking his place alongside his brothers in the Jordan was part and parcel to the righteousness he would win for mankind by his perfect life and innocent death. Though he had no sin, he was baptized with us to demonstrate that he is one of us.
And having witnessed the Holy Spirit’s descent upon Jesus and the Father’s testimony in support of his Son, John could say with conviction that Jesus is the perfect lamb, the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. For whose sins? Everybody’s sins!

And so John grew in his faith, as do all of us who listen to the Lord’s correction and instruction. And he understood that his ministry, that is, John's ministry, was but a beginning – he preached repentance, but Christ would bring the repentant salvation! Jesus' ministry pointed to something better, something eternal.

And so when in the performance of his ministry, John pointed to Jesus, God’s lamb, his disciples listened to him, and then they left their master behind, knowing that’s what he wanted, and followed the Savior John had pointed out to them.

They followed their Savior and asked if they might get to know him. And what a great example for all of us! Are you satisfied to know that Jesus is your Savior, and to leave it at that? Jesus loves me, this I know, and that is all I want to know. Why should you not want to get to know the God who gave you life and breath and eternal salvation? Of course you want to get to know him! And the Spirit who works hand-in-hand with Jesus through every step of your life of faith has given you the means to do so – his Word. That is the means by which he brings us to faith and teaches us to follow after Jesus, to hear his word and grow in love for our God and our neighbor.

So look to your Savior Jesus, and listen to his Word, and as your faith grows you will be moved to share it with others…
What was Andrew’s first response after looking and listening? The same as his last – the symbol of St. Andrew is an x-shaped cross, for tradition has it that he was crucified for his faith on such a cross, but not until after he took the good news of salvation out into the world – some say to present-day Ukraine, others to Scotland – perhaps both. But his first action after he came to know his Savior was to share the good news with others.

And shouldn’t that be our first, best response, too?  Too often it isn’t, though. We live in a society where “coexistence” and “tolerance” means we aren’t supposed to tell others what they don’t want to hear, whether it’s the truth or not. The fact that our constitution gives the right to all residents of this country to believe and worship as they wish has come to mean that any religion is as good as another. We are supposed to shut up and not trod on someone else’s beliefs.

And so we frequently close our mouths when we ought to speak, for fear of the ridicule and anger of a society that thinks our truth doesn’t necessarily have to be its truth. But it is the truth, my friends, you know it and I know it. And if you do not tell others to look – then they won’t. And if you do not speak the truth to them – then they will not listen, either. If you do not share the saving message of Jesus Christ and forgiveness of sins with them – then they will never believe.

But you must share it, because the Lord himself says to Isaiah that it is too small a thing that his Servant, the Savior, should come only to the people of Israel, or only to the people of Our Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church. His Son’s salvation will not be complete until it has been brought to the ends of the earth. This world will not end until all of God’s elect have come to faith, and we are the tools he uses to make that happen.

Jesus’ Great Commission to make disciples of all nations—that is, the whole world—is what we like to call a "gospel command." What do I mean by that? I mean that we do not respond to it out of fear, but because we love our Lord and want to do his will. Telling others about Jesus is the natural response of anyone who has looked upon the Lamb of God and listened to the prophets and John tell of the salvation our Messiah and Shepherd came to win for us, and who has listened to the apostles tell of that salvation won and freely given to all who believe. We obey with the joy and hope of those who expect their salvation – and who want others to have the same hope and joy as we have. The Lamb of God! Look! Listen! Share!