Epiphany 2A January 19, 2020 John 1: 29-41
“Behold, the Lamb of God!” These are the words John the Baptist used to introduce Jesus to the world. I find it interesting that John spoke these words before Jesus actually did anything that would indicate this is who he was. He was still fresh from the carpentry shop in Nazareth. He had performed no miracles, he had uttered no parables about the Kingdom of God, he had healed no afflictions when John made his introduction. No enemies had yet been made, no controversial ideas had been shared, no royal feathers had been ruffled yet by Jesus. The only thing that gives John cause to believe that Jesus is the Son of God is that he saw the Spirit descend on him like a dove when he baptized him in the Jordon. Outside of that, who’s to know if John is right or not.
Even more amazing is the fact that John’s passing comment saw such dramatic results. Immediately after his remarks two of John’s disciples left John and started following Jesus and they stayed with him. We know the name of one of these, it was Andrew. And, before long, he was at the door of his brother’s house with the news of whom he had found.
And here’s what gets me. Nothing extraordinary has happened and yet Andrew, his brother Simon, and one who remains unknown put their faith in Jesus and followed him. It happens without anything said or done that is the least bit inspiring or provocative. And this is what gets me; I’m in the faith business myself and I’m always looking for some gimmick … some hook … that will get people to believe in Jesus and follow him and, so far, none of those things I have come up with over the years have worked.
I read a book called “The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters about the Business of Life” by Philip D. Broughton. I don’t remember much about the book but one thing that has stuck with me are the three things that are key to the art of the sale … key to mastering the business of life … and those three things are relationships, relationships, relationships. And that is exactly what is happening here. For it was the relationship Jesus had with God that made him stand out in John’s eyes in the first place. And it was the relationship between Jesus and Andrew and his friend that confirmed their faith in the second place. And it was the relationship between Andrew and his brother, Simon Peter, that led Andrew to share his faith in the third place. Relationships, relationships, relationships.
And what makes Jesus such a revolutionary is that this was a new way of thinking about faith. For the most part, people looked at faith in terms of observing specific institutional practices. It was kind of like belonging to a club. To be a faithful member of a club you must pay your dues. To be a faithful member you must attend the meetings. To be a faithful member you must live up to the expectations of the organization. But the kind of faith Jesus was looking for was very different than that. The kind of faith he creates and blesses grows out of a relationship with him. It is all about love and trust and respect. It’s more like being in a family than being in a club.
If you think about the reason God sent Jesus into the world, it’s because of God’s desire to have a deep relationship and abiding with us. God didn’t send Jesus here simply to show us how great God was. God sent Jesus to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” And by taking away our sins, Jesus makes it possible for us to live in harmony … in relationship … with God once again. Jesus didn’t come to make some new rules for us to follow. He didn’t come to establish a new religion for us to belong to. He came to forgive our sins and, thus, transform our lives through a daily relationship with him.
A young man sent an email to his former fiancée. This is what it said: “Dear Marie, no words could ever express the great unhappiness I have felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you will take me back. I love you. I love you. I love you! Yours forever, Mark. P.S. Congratulations on winning the Powerball Lottery.
You gotta laugh, don’t you? I laugh because if he had been the winner of the lottery it would have probably been totally different story. And yet, that story could describe the kind of relationship some people want with God. For some of us our love and devotion to God could be based on the fact that God has all the winnings and the only way we can get our hands on it is if we play by God’s rules and reluctantly do what God wants us to do. For some, faith is purely a matter of economics; hoping that we can get as much as we can from God without have to give too much in return.
Like that guy, I’m afraid that it might be a different story if we had our hands on the winning Powerball numbers. And yet, the point of the gospel is that we are the winners. Jesus’ death and resurrection means that our sins are forgiven and salvation is already ours. The only thing we have to do is claim the prize; a prize that is far greater and more costly than any lottery could possibly offer. And once that claim has been made, we can enjoy the love and the grace it promises.
So, our relationship with God is much more than a legal and dutiful arrangement. Instead, it is a relationship that, in every sense of the word, is a love affair with God that is so deep and so eternal that it touches and transforms our every breath and our every step. And this is why we can sing with gusto, “worthy is Christ, the lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God.”