Too good to be quiet
Too good to be quiet
John 1:29-42 (NIV)
Every time I meet with some of my friends and family members, I know that sooner or later we will begin to talk about medical treatment of various diseases. They will tell me that if I want to lower my cholesterol all I need to do is eat raw garlic every morning. Diabetes is treated by drinking the water of oat meal or the juice of cucumbers. With the authority of a medical researcher and the boldness of a professional motivator they will sing the praises of various fruits, vegetables or roots that will totally cure one disease or another. When people find something they think works, they just have to tell someone.
My son a month or so ago purchased an I-Phone. I have seen him a couple of time since, and every time he had shared with me his excitement about his I-Phone. He would show me some of its features and how to use them. He would play for me some of his videos, or show me our house in a map, or his collection of music. You can tell that he is now an I-Phone evangelist. When you find something that works, something that is very good, something that had touched you or inspire you, you cannot remain quiet.
The gospel of John does not have a record of Jesus’ baptism. He begins his gospel by having John the baptizer denying being the Christ, to the priests and Levites that came from Jerusalem to ask him who he was. The next day, after his denial, John the Baptist looked up and saw Jesus coming toward him. In the thrill and excitement of that moment, he cried out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” He then went on to explain himself. “This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Those around him knew exactly what he meant by the phrase “the lamb of God.” The lamb was a sacrificial animal among the Jews. The lamb was killed as a substitute and its blood, shed so that sins might be forgiven. But this lamb was different; it was not offered for a particular sin, of a particular person; but it was offered for the sin, singular, of the entire world. The most radical statement was that Jesus was before him. We know, thanks to the gospel of Luke, that Elizabeth was in her sixth month when the angel told Mary that she was going to have a child. The reference of John here is to the pre-existence of Jesus. That is why John begins his gospel with the statement: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The gospel of John is written to prove this premise.
Then John the Baptist gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” This is the only reference to the baptism of Jesus and only indirectly. From that statement alone we cannot tell that Jesus was baptized at all. But what surprised me about the narrative is that with all that argument, with John’s powerful witness about Jesus, nothing happened. But the next day John is with two of his disciples and he sees Jesus passing by and says: “Look, the Lamb of God!” and after those simple words the two disciples that heard him, left John the Baptist to follow Jesus.
Come and see.
The gospel of John does not tell us who was present the first time John the Baptist testified. But biblical experts tell us that one of the two disciples of John the Baptist that was there during the second witness, was John the writer of the gospel. It would make sense that he was there the first time and that is how he was able to record in his gospel the words of John son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. So if John the evangelist heard the first witness, why did John respond to the simple message and not to the long witness of the first day? Was it that the second time his mind was open and his heart ready? Was it the he needed time to think about what he heard? What made the difference?
The United States as a whole is becoming more of a secular nation. Not only are most denominations losing members, but the members that remain worship at their convenience. And those denominations that are growing are growing not by making disciples of Jesus Christ but by transferring disciples from one congregation to another. At the same time the church is growing rapidly in Africa and Latin America. The churches in the southern hemisphere cannot keep up with their own growth. People would walk miles to attend church and many times would expend hours standing up in church worshiping. What is missing in our country, what is missing in our worship? Have we outgrown our need for a savior? Or have we lost our spiritual abilities?
The Asbury Park Press of Friday, January 18 carries an article by Cathy Lynn Grossman. This article is about a new survey of US adults who do not go to church, even on holidays. The survey found that 72% of them say that “God, a higher or supreme being actually exists.” They also say that the church is “full of hypocrites.” 44% of them agree with the statement: “Christians get on my nerves.” 61% say that the God of the Bible is “no different from the gods or spiritual beings depicted by world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.” 86% believe that they can have a “good relationship with God without belonging to a church.” And 79% say that “Christianity today is more about organized religion than loving God and loving people.” At the same time 78% say they would “be willing to listen” to someone tell “what he or she believed about Christianity.” Whether or not people become disciples of Jesus Christ depends on what those of us inside the church do.
“Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see. So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him.” This is the secret! Jesus asked a very important question, what do you want? When you come to church what do you want? Why are you here? What are you seeking? We need to come to worship with the same thirst as the psalmist (Psalm 42:1-2) “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Both things need to be present; we need to have water and you need to be thirsty. We can have spiritual water here, but if you are not thirsty nothing will happen, on the other hand if you are thirsty and we do not have water nothing will happen either.
The disciples knew that to develop that thirst you need more that information and knowledge; you need to experience. The disciples did not ask any questions. They did not start a teaching and learning conversation. They wanted to know where Jesus was staying; they wanted to spend time with Jesus. They wanted to see what it was all about. Jesus responded, come and you will see. In his first letter John begins by telling his audience what his message was all about, he writes: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
“Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Peter.” In the gospel of Matthew and Mark we are told that after they came to Jesus to check him out, Jesus went and called them in. (Mark 1:16-18) “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.” They were able to respond immediately because they had already seen, heard, and touch.
Passionate worship happens with passionate parishioners, it is not the style but the thirst and hunger for God. It is to believe that God is the most important person in your life. It is to know that everyone you meet needs to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I invite you with the words of the prophet Isaiah (55:1-2): “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come; buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.