The Gospel: John 1:29-42
John 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).
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise tonight and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: As you all know we have a wedding coming up in several months. As part of the preparation for that event, we have been asked to find photographs of weddings from the past. We have been asked to find pictures of our parents, grandparents, and if at all possible great-grandparents at their weddings.
Matt and Emma are looking back at where they have come from. Looking to learn about the past to prepare them for the future. That has been an interesting process because as I am sure many of you know family relationships from the past are not always as perfect as we might hope they would be.
I am not sure if Matt and Emma know it but they are seeking to avoid what George Santayana, said in The Life of Reason in 1905: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Or perhaps more accurately what Winston Churchill said in a 1948 speech to the House of Commons. Churchill paraphrased Santayana when he said: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
So, all that got me thinking about the readings from this morning. In particular, I was struck by one section from the Gospel of John and how we might understand it and learn something that we can apply to our own lives this week. So, that section of the Gospel is: "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?” "
I want to suggest that the question: “What are you looking for?” is one of the most critical questions Jesus' ever asked. It is a question that determines so many other things. Not only in the lives of John's disciples on that day but also for us today and every day moving forward in our lives. So, how do we determine something of what Jesus was saying?
This morning we are going to take some time to do some Ancestory.com style research and investigation to help us understand our Gospel reading. The place we are going to start is with our Old Testament reading for this morning. Isaiah 49: 1-7.
We are not going to read it again now but I would encourage you to take it home and spend some time considering what it might be saying to you.
Now, I looked online and found some great information on the Britannica online site. For those who grew up in another generation, this is what The Encyclopedia Britannica is called now.
So, Britannica online says: The Book of Isaiah, comprising 66 chapters, is one of the most profound theological and literarily expressive works in the Bible. It was compiled over a period of about two centuries (the latter half of the 8th to the latter half of the 6th century BCE.)
The Book of Isaiah is generally divided by scholars into two major sections, which are called First Isaiah (chapters 1–39), and Deutero-Isaiah (chapters 40–55 or 40–66.)
Sometimes it is divided into three. If the second section - Deutero-Isaiah - is subdivided the third section is called Trito-Isaiah (chapters 56–66).
First Isaiah contains the words and prophecies of Isaiah, a most important 8th-century BCE prophet of Judah, written either by himself or his contemporary followers in Jerusalem (from c. 740 to 700 BCE.) Then there are some later additions, such as chapters 24–27 and 33–39.
The first, of these two additions, was probably written by a later disciple, or disciples, of Isaiah about 500 BCE.
The second addition, is divided into two sections—chapters 33–35, written during or after the exile to Babylon in 586 BCE, and chapters 36–39, which drew from the source used by the Deuteronomic historian in II Kings, chapters 18–19.
The second major section of Isaiah, which may be designated Second Isaiah even though it has been divided because of chronology into Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah, was written by members of the “school” of Isaiah in Babylon. Chapters, 40–55, were written, prior to, and after the conquest of Babylon in 539 by the Persian king Cyrus II the Great, and chapters 56–66 were composed after the return from the Babylonian Exile in 538.
The canonical Book of Isaiah, after editorial redaction, probably assumed its present form during the 4th century BCE. Because of its messianic (salvatory figure) themes, Isaiah became extremely significant among the early Christians who wrote the New Testament and the sectarians at Qumrān near the Dead Sea, who awaited the imminent messianic age, a time that would inaugurate the period of the Last Judgment and the Kingdom of God.
That is a lot of information, probably too much to take in just by listening to me read it this morning. There are copies of my Sermon on the welcome table if you want to take it home and read through the information for yourself.
Basically what it is saying is that Isaiah himself is credited with writing the first part of Isaiah, then others, over a period of time, which covers the exile and the return to Jerusalem, wrote additions.
We are reading from the additions this morning and from what is acknowledged as the section motivated by the Messianic predictions and nature of the Book. These writers were focused on encouraging those in exile that God hadn't forgotten them and that they should be looking forward with hope and expectation.
The Messiah, and his role, is central to all that we read and hear in the reading from Isaiah this morning. It is easy to understand why the people of Israel were looking for a Messiah who would be able to cast off their oppressors.
But Isaiah reminds them that the Messiah will be a beacon and a light that will bring the nations to worship the one true God.
So, when Jesus asks John's disciples "what are you looking for?" It is not a casual inquiry. It is also important to note that Jesus doesn't ask "Who" are you looking for? Jesus is seeking to know from John's disciples is, "what they understand they are looking for." What do they understand about the Messiah and his role?
John (the Baptist) has declared Jesus as the Messiah " John 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.’" Then again the next day while he is standing with his disciples he says: “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
When his disciples hear that they begin to follow Jesus. Jesus' when he recognizes they are there asks them what they believe and understand about him. Shortly after that Andrew goes and tells his brother Peter and told him: "“We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed)."
Can I suggest this morning that knowing the history of our background? Knowing the things, the people, and the events that have contributed to the development of our faith are all vitally important.
Jesus is still asking each one of us: “What are you looking for?” Unless we have spent time and thoughtfully examined what has drawn us to this point in our faith journey we may well not know what we are looking for.
Can we say with confidence, as John the Baptist did: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Or can we stand with Andrew and declare, as he did to his brother Peter: “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).
Who might there be in our world who needs us to be ready as John the Baptist and Andrew were to clearly, and with compassion, state who we have been looking for and who we have found?
May the Lord give us the opportunity this week to examine that answer for ourselves. So, I will you with this question: "What are you looking for?"
Bishops & Father Mike