Come and see! Duncan’s sermon on John 1:35-51

Come and see

On Sunday, Duncan was preaching on John 1:35-51, the Lectionary passage for the day.  John’s good news story is the fact that God appears in human flesh. ‘The Word [that’s God] became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ (John 1:14) – or as the Message translation puts it:  ‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.’

John the Baptist points us to Jesus

John the Baptist was the person sent ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for him. ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ he says in John 1: 29.

There’s a traditional focus in churches around the world on this particular Sunday on John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism.  But when it’s the year when the Lectionary highlights John’s Gospel, there’s a problem, because there is no specific reference there to John the Baptist baptising Jesus.

We have very clear allusions to the baptism however. For example: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.’ says John the Baptist in John 1:32 – an event which took place at the baptism of Jesus. And, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ John the Baptist said to two of his own followers, indicating Jesus. (John 1:35)

John points forwards to what Jesus’ ministry will involve

In those words, John was pointing us to the kind of ministry Jesus had come to fulfil. In the history of Israel, lambs were associated with the festival of Passover in the book of Exodus – a festival where the people remembered how they had been rescued by God from slavery in Egypt.  God had delivered them, and led them into new life in the Promised Land.

When John the Baptist points to Jesus as ‘the lamb of God’ his words resonated with the back-story of the Exodus. John is presenting Jesus as a rescuer, as one who will offer the possibility of a fresh start in life, a new life in life.

‘I have come that you might have life,’ Jesus would say (John 10:10)

God so loved the world

At the beginning of a New Year, this image of Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God’ is very powerful. God comes as One who is willing to sacrifice, and to be sacrificed in order to bring us new life.

A fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning.

At the very beginning of this Gospel, John the Baptist is already pointing towards the destination. For ‘the Lamb of God’ will give his life upon the cross, and through the cross will open up the way to resurrection and new life.

This is the gospel story. God loved the world so much that he gave for us his only Son, ‘the Lamb of God.’

What does the Jesus story mean to me?

Duncan asked us a very direct question:

‘What does this story of Jesus, the Lamb of God, mean to you?’

What difference does it make to our lives? Do we find it to be ‘good news’ today?

Sharing the story

Today’s passage is ultimately a story about witness, Duncan said. It’s about people discovering something utterly compelling and life-changing when they encounter Jesus. They, in turn, introduce a friend, a neighbour, a colleague, or a family member to Jesus, and those people also then have a transformational encounter with Jesus.

The network of Jesus’ followers grows as people share the story, person to person.

One shall tell another
And he shall tell his friend

The way the good news about Jesus spreads is – as it always has been, and always will be – about one person telling another.

Duncan pointed out the striking way in which this happens in the passage.

Two men ask Jesus a question about where he is staying. (John 1:38) He doesn’t answer the question, but simply invites them along –‘Come and see!’ (v39)

Philip invites Nathaniel to come and see Jesus and gets a rebuff (v46)  Yet again, Philip doesn’t answer the question, or engage in an argument, but simply says ‘Come and see!’

At its heart, Duncan said, the passage encourages us to notice what God is doing in our lives, sharing that with others, and inviting them to come and see for themselves.

‘Come and see!’

‘I think,’ said Duncan ‘that this story is telling us that the answers are not going to be found in words, but in experiences.’

What experiences of God have we had that are ‘good news’ for us, and which we believe can be ‘good news’ for others too?

Answering that question involves asking ourselves another: ‘Why is Jesus good news for me today? Where am I seeing that good news being worked out in my life, or in the world at large today?

The Gospel today is telling us that if we are prepared to journey with Jesus, to ‘Come and see!’ we will not be disappointed.

Andrew tells his brother Peter, introduces him to Jesus, and Peter becomes the rock. (v42)

Philip tells Nathaniel who is initially sceptical, but on meeting Jesus and listening to him declares ‘you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (v49)

Duncan concluded ‘At the beginning of 2018, this story is an invitation to all of us to ‘come and see’, to join in the journey with Jesus.

According to John’s good news story it’s a journey of light, life, joy, glory, resurrection, love. As we reflect on the disciples’ good news experiences of Jesus, I invite you now and in this coming week to think of your own.

‘Come and see!’

 

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