2nd Sunday after The Epiphany

January 19, 2014

Summary

Following the Lamb

The next day [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34 ESV)

News flash! Hear it first! Get the news! Be informed! The words are told and the story goes out – whether it’s tragedy because of reports of violence throughout the land; political and economic news that seems to either head towards or head away from ‘catastrophe’; the latest in our courts; or a get-rich-quick scheme somebody has invented – and our lives are changed in some way (sometimes dramatically, sometimes almost imperceptibly). Our views on life, attitudes towards people, and opinions are constantly being informed and challenged, sometimes changed and probably more likely confirmed by the news we hear, the story that comes our way.

John the Baptist passed the news on as he saw it. Jesus had come to him for baptism and the Spirit of God had descended upon Jesus and remained there thus designating the One who would bring in the Messianic age that the Jews had looked forward to for so long. John was not an especially clever person who could work out who would be the coming Messiah. John, like everyone else, needed God’s Word to direct him to the truth; to point out the Messiah. And John then shares the message to others. John called Jesus many names – and while today so many names of Jesus are used blasphemously – John was describing Jesus to those around him.

Jesus – the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus – the One who comes after but ranks before.
Jesus – the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus – the Son of God.

When John had said these words Jesus had done nothing as yet. Jesus was beginning his public ministry and didn’t seem anything special. Maybe John was tired from all those baptisms he’d done? Maybe John was taking a guess? At that time there was nothing that Jesus himself had done that would make him stand out as a promising Messiah.

Yet John broadcast the news. God is among us. God is among his people. And in three short years God’s people strung God up on a cross and called out to the God they thought they knew to condemn the imposter that was hanging, gasping for breath. And Jesus died. God didn’t rescue him from the cross. But a more wonderful thing happened. Jesus came back to life on that first Easter Sunday – Lord of life and death; Victor over the power of sin, Satan, and death.

John’s words were right. This crucified and risen man was something special after all. Sacrificed for all people, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Risen, Jesus is the one who ranks above all. (When Thomas saw Jesus he said, “My Lord and my God”.) Ascended as Lord of all, Jesus did send the Holy Spirit to his followers that first Pentecost so that the work of bringing the Good News to all people through the Church could begin. This work continues today in each baptism and sharing of the Gospel. And Jesus who is Lord of all is known by Christians to be the 2nd Person of that glorious and incomprehensible mystery called the Trinity – Jesus is known as the Son of God.

And the news goes out today. The story is still told. And today lives are changed as people meet a real person. Jesus comes to people knowing what we’re really like and yet still accepting us, caring for us, and loving us. Sadly, many people today see Jesus as being irrelevant to their daily living or as being a spoil sport to living and a kill-joy to fun. The so called rules and regulations for being a Christian are too repressive for many people; there are too many ‘don’ts’ in it. For many people, God and Jesus seem to be relegated to the time when death has come or is imminent.

We may call ourselves as a species ‘homo sapiens’ (literally ‘wise man’) but about 10 years ago the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture in Rome, coined a new term for people today – ‘homo
indifferens’, the indifferent man – human beings indifferent to any particular religious doctrine. Yet at the same time spirituality is all the rage, chic even – but undertaken always on our own terms.
Christianity is increasingly sidelined in main stream western society. We may rue this fact from a societal point of view but this also provides Christians with numerous opportunities to (a) live –
remember the phrase of Irenaeus ‘the glory of God is a human being fully alive’; and (b) to share the hope we have in Christ.

This is often the tricky part for numerous reasons – knowing what to say, knowing when to let our actions only speak, knowing how to respond if actually asked, trying to work out what exactly to say
if there’s a debate about religion or Jesus or the faith. Of course there can be training and help for you in these areas – but the starting point remains the broadcast, the news flash, the gospel – God loves you – He has shown that love in Christ – God has rescued us from the domineering power of sin and death and fear – Jesus is with his people. You don’t need to know how the medicine works to
proclaim its goodness. In a world that is swamped with gods, the world needs people to point out ‘Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world … and that includes your sin … and my
sin’.

Jesus came to earth so that people could really live in the most exciting and fulfilled way possible. Jesus wanted people to know life in all its wonderful richness not impoverished and miserly. He
wanted life to be free from fears, hassles, worries. He wanted people to know what real love is all about. This life and love he offers and gives is on his terms. Sinful humanity squirms and doesn’t like
that. Sin still permeates our life and pollutes everything we think, do, and say. And it is this sin that keeps whispering to us: You know what happens when you follow a Lamb? You’ll get slaughtered! …
slaughtered! … slaughtered! And so the Christian battle with sin is a battle between sinful self preservation and walking in the footsteps of the slaughtered Messiah.

God’s contact with people is often through his forgiveness. In this encounter God takes the repentant heart and cleanses it and revives it with new life. That is what Jesus accomplished for us. Jesus was slaughtered so we can be free from the bondage of sin. That is why worship and Holy Communion today are so important because the slaughtered Jesus comes to people to relieve them of their burdens and to give them peace and joy in living.

People are freed from the selfishness of today so that they can start again in those relationships around them. However to be forgiven here so that we are freed to go out and swear, deny Jesus, sleep around, rip off, brag, bully and dominate, and be full of pride is not on, but is a mockery of the forgiveness Jesus freely gives. Being forgiven by Jesus is the gateway to a new way of living – where we can care for others and not be so self centred. With Jesus we can struggle to slaughter the sin within that ruins our lives and that of those around us. And because we aren’t perfect and fail during every week of our life – we need to come back to the Lamb – and bring with us others also to this Lamb who was sacrificed for us so that we can have a real full life and hear his words: I love you. I forgive you. I’m with you to help you not mess up again.

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Bible References

  • John 1:29 - 34