2nd Sunday after Epiphany
January 16, 2011
John 1: 29-42
Right in between next week’s story of the calling of Jesus’ disciples and last week’s story of Jesus’ baptism from Matthew’s Gospel, we get John’s version of both. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is the powerful actor. Nothing happens to him by chance. He sees to it that all things happen in order to reveal something important about God, who sent him to save the world. John begins his Gospel account not with an angel announcing the birth of a baby who will be the promised Savior, but with the Word himself creating the world “in the beginning.” And then he recounts the movement of the Word to become flesh to dwell with us.
If you notice, John the Baptist tells the story of what he saw at Jesus’ baptism; the Spirit which descended like a dove, remained on him, just as predicted. This is John the Baptizer’s own testimony. There’s a lot of testifying in this early part of this Gospel, and it will continue as people testify about Jesus, and Jesus testifies about God.
I must admit a great fondness for this story. I like it for a couple of reasons. It was the first thing I read in Greek. We had struggled through the beginning of the first chapter of John and when we came to this passage, our professor stopped our clumsy translation attempts. He pointed out that this story contains the first words that Jesus speaks in John’s Gospel. In narrative theory, the first words and the last words the main character speak bookend the story. They tell you what the writer wants you to pay attention to. Up to now, John the Baptizer has been the speaker, the testifier. Here he directs his own disciples to Jesus. When they begin to follow, Jesus stops and turns around. “Listen to what he asks,” said my Greek teacher, “this is also what the writer is asking you, the reader of this Gospel story.” “What are you seeking?” says Jesus. It gave me goosepimples. Up to then we had just been concerned with getting the right tense and the right English word for the Greek. Suddenly, it was as if Jesus himself was looking right at me, the beginning seminary student, penetrating all my trepidation and excitement; asking why I was here. The disciples want to know where he is teaching. His answer seems so simple, “Come and see.” But it will change their lives forever. “Come and see,” seemed like the invitation I needed as well. We were off on the journey of a lifetime. I didn’t need to know the end, I only needed to know who I was following.
I found myself falling in love with Andrew as I read this story. We hear so little of Andrew, always overshadowed by his brother. You never hear of Andrew alone. He is always bringing someone to Jesus. In this story he brings his brother, Simon. In another story, he brings the boy with two fish and five barley cakes to Jesus who is looking for a way to feed a crowd. Later, Andrew and Phillip bring some Gentiles who want to meet Jesus. Like my hero Barnabas, Andrew is not the star, he is the one who brings the pieces together. Barnabas is the one who brings Paul to Antioch, Andrew is the one who brings Peter to Jesus. He is quick to recognize the deeper story that must be told: “we have found the Messiah.” He has to share; he can’t keep it to himself.
How is this story an Epiphany story, a story which reveals Jesus as a light to the world? And how does it speak across the ages to our story?
This story still has the power to bring us face to face with Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Son. This morning you have been part of bringing these young women to Jesus. Your place in creating and supporting this ministry has created the opportunity for Jesus to welcome them into the community of faith in this place. Through you, Jesus has been able to extend the invitation to them to “come and see,” and through your teaching and worship and continuing support they will learn more and more about the God who loves them and has called them into faith. In the same way, someone provided the possibility for you to “come and see,” about Jesus. And so the invitation of Jesus gets played out over and over through Jesus’ people, “come and see,” gets asked through a grandparent who brings grandchildren, a husband or wife who comes faithfully to church testifying to his or her spouse, a Sunday School teacher who tells the story over and over to other people’s kids. It’s as simple as “I’m going to church. Wanna come?”
Sooner of later, we all come face to face with Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?” It’s the question each one of us must answer himself or herself. Our answer will grow and deepen over time, as our relationship with God in Christ grows and deepens, but it starts with Jesus’ invitation, “come and see.”
Now may the peace which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen