The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is 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 ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I 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.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When 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?” He 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. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He 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). - John 1:29-42
Jesus seems to do what he wants because he just can’t help himself. He doesn’t come in power only to be set aside. He doesn’t want to waste his time by leaving a job unfinished. Instead he comes upon the scene and finding a disaster, he does what he wants to do, digging into places where he could appear to be unwanted. Calling us to join with him and his people in a communion of saints that comprises every tribe and tongue and nation, even the ones you hate.
So, the sins of the world beware. Your vanquisher has come. The master of your destiny has appeared to lift you up, to take you away as the burden you have become to humanity, to bear the weight himself. All for the sake of the world. For the sake of people. So essential as to be pointed out by at least someone.
I’m lucky. I can remember growing up in a place where your personal testimony was key. In the church of my childhood, you would hear evangelists and pastors come to speak about their personal conversion. Some amazing story of transformation. Something like – I was an alcoholic and a drug dealer who sold women for profit, but then I met Jesus and all of it changed. That’s what you would hear. I felt small. Insignificant. I’d have people ask me – When did you get saved? I’d be like – Um…I don’t know. I’m not one of those guys.
Maybe I didn’t know because it was always there. My luck being in a family of faith and practice. My grandparents who helped build the church, literally. Who led choirs, taught Sunday School. Raised two potential pastors – my dad and my uncle. Who then began to work on me. Called into the world to be these messengers to share the life of faith and redemption with me. They were my John the Baptists.
Because, you see, that is John’s job. There he is out in the wilderness, doing his thing, you know. Water. Washing people. Repentance. All that stuff, and then suddenly, like a good Irish setter, he points his finger. Points in the direction of this Jesus of Nazareth – Behold, or Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He’s a sign post. That arrow you see on the corner somewhere saying – turn here. Going that way is this one you keep asking me about. The one I told you of beforehand. One who is coming after me, whose feet are so huge I can’t lift his sandals, and I will point him out more than once for you, so you won’t miss him.
First, at his baptism. He says, I came baptizing in order to make him known – to say ta da! I didn’t know him, he says. But I’m doing my thing out here and here he comes. The lamb. Stepping into the water. The one who has the Spirit land on him and the one who will dish it out.
This is made known just as much in our own baptism, yours and mine. Yours and your children and grandchildren. Baptized to make Christ known. Known to you and known to the world. This passing on of something more than ritual. Not for the sake of a ceremony. To get the certificate, or to make grandma happy. Not some little splash that pisses off a baby, or wets your hair that you already washed that morning. But a Jesus given to you. A Jesus ransoming you. Burying you and raising you. Baptized to make Christ known to you and in you.
But also made known, pointed out by John, while Jesus was just walking around. What was Jesus doing to draw attention? Was he teaching? Was he preaching? Healing? Who knows. It doesn’t matter. Instead it matters that John says – there he is. Again.
It could also be that John had some really annoying disciples. That Andrew. Boy. Maybe John needed to get rid of him. Over there Andrew. Go.
I often picture Andrew and the other disciple playing sort of a game. Hiding behind the tumble weeds or shrubs. Walking from rock to rock. Tree to tree. Wanting to not necessarily be noticed but spying on Jesus. A Hide and seek game. But they’re not very good at it.
Jesus knows they are there. He turns – Can I help you? What are you looking for?
And what does this little charade end in, this little game? A phrase - Come and see.
Rabbi, Where are you staying? They want to know where he is going, where he will be abiding. And Christ says – Come and see. Follow me and you will see.
Now, become Andrew for a moment, thinking to himself - Where is my brother? The hide and seek game now switches – Where is Peter hiding? I need to find him. The searching for the brother. The spreading of the word. The finding of the brother. Peter, we found him, come and see.
Christ-following is not an inherited trait. It is not something that we are born with, but something that happens to us as someone says – come and see. A searching completed, like Andrew. A pointing out like John. This finding of Christ, following the leader, leading to spreading of the word. A calling of John in the wilderness to direct you in the way of paradise, bringing you into contact with Jesus. Not knowing what that contact might be, what it might entail, but coming to the place to see this Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
It can scare us, this finding. Even worse, this telling. This sharing and spreading of the Gospel that Andrew does, that John the Baptist does. It makes us think of street-side preachers and proud prophets. These come-to-Jesus-or-burn types of preachers.
Not that this approach is all bad, in part. At least there is this declaration of Jesus happening. A calling for us to follow in the footsteps of John to pass on the knowledge we have come to in Christ. What we have seen and heard. Passing these things on to our kids, to our friends, to others, whomever that may be. More than just a church service, or a commodity, more than a song, or a felt-board Jesus. An actual Christ. An actual God. A God of encounter who digs deep into the well of his redemption to come as this Jesus, this Lamb, for you.
Each of us has a John the Baptist. Who was yours? This one who was sent by the Spirit, whether they knew it or not, to call you and to say to you – “Come and see. We found him. This Jesus. The Christ.” Who was yours? Even more, who was theirs and whose will you be?
When my grandfather died, we had the normal bulletin at his funeral with his favorite verse on the back – Psalm 78:
Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children, sh0wing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and the wonderful works that he hath done.
That line was his favorite – showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength, and the wonderful works that he has done. A calling upon all Christians, upon all followers, not to know all the intricacies of theology, not to know the difference between epiphany and theophany, or have the whole bible memorized. A calling to just say – Come and see. That’s Sunday school or our kid’s time. That is Confirmation and youth group. Women’s ministry and Men’s fellowship. Not some class that we sit still while we are instilled, but hopefully a place where your children, where you even, here and now, come into contact with this Jesus who takes away sin. Who conquers death.
The calling could extend to you. A calling to be blessed with the sacred gift of being the one to tell our coming generations, even new families and members of the praises of the Lord and the wonderful works which he has done. All it takes is those three words. Come and see. Experience this Jesus made alive in water poured over you. In bread you receive. In wine you drink. A tasting of forgiveness. A drinking of mercy. Feasting on new life.
Christ is relentless in his work. He’s a showman. He begins at baptism speaking words over you even when you are not more than a baby, or so new to the faith that you don’t know much but that this Jesus loves sinners, and destroyed death to prove it.
There begins the work of God in the Holy Spirit to drag you along kicking and screaming through this journey of faith. Pointing those fingers, guiding your gaze, opening your eyes to see this Jesus. To scream out loud those words to you again and again – Come and see. Then to put those words in your mouth – Come and see. Sought out. Set apart. A relentless Jesus who can’t help himself but to bring you into this Kingdom. You and the whole world. Amen.