The Second Sunday after Epiphany (January 16, 2011)

Lessons:Isaiah 49:1-7 Psalm 40:1-11 (8) 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 St. John 1:29-42

Prayer of the Day: Holy God, our strength and our redeemer, by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may worship you and faithfully serve you, follow you and joyfully find you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

1:29 The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 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.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 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?” 39 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. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 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).

St. John 1:29-42, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sin of the World

This week’s text is a classic blockbuster from St. John’s Gospel: worthy of weeks worth of study, and containing the seeds for dozens of sermons. This week, in my Bible studies, I’ll be reflecting on verse 29, and what it means that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (note: not “the sins of the world’s citizens” but “the sin of the world”). For my sermon, I plan to dial in on verse 38 and Jesus’ surprising question, “What are you looking for?”

This section of St. John is typically remembered as John’s version of the baptism of Jesus. Curiously enough, the baptism of Jesus isn’t specifically mentioned here. John the Baptizer testifies that he saw the Spirit of God descend upon Jesus (which we know, from the other Gospels, happened after John baptized him), but the actual baptism of Jesus is never mentioned. What stands at the center of this text is not the baptism of Jesus, but the testimony of John. And what is his testimony?

  • Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
  • This one ranks ahead of John, the Baptizer.
  • This one came before John, the Baptizer.
  • The Spirit descended on Jesus, and remained on him.
  • Jesus is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus is the Son of God.

Nestled in the midst of these proclamations is this nugget from John, the Baptizer: “I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”

As compelling and life-changing as John’s ministry might have been for those individuals who came out into the wilderness, listened to him preach, became convinced of their sinfulness (and need of a Savior), decided to turn their lives around, and received the waters of baptism as a sign of this new intent… that’s not what John is about. His purpose is not to change lives (although that happened). His purpose is not to reduce the amount of sin in the world (he really would have had his work cut out for him, if it was). His purpose is not to develop a following who will support and continue his own ministry (although, strangely enough, that happened).

John’s purpose is to reveal Jesus. John’s purpose is to make known to all who are willing to see the truth, that God has sent a Messiah to live among us, to do battle with the forces of evil in this world, to inspire faith in the heart of believes, and to take away the sin of the world once and for all. In Jesus is the answer to all of our longing. In John, is the hand of God, pointing. Pointing for the people of his day, and pointing for you and me. Pointing to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Pointing to the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Pointing to the Son of God. Pointing to the source of our hope, our peace and joy.

Point us to Jesus, dear John, that we might  turn to him in faith. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why does John the Evangelist say so little about Jesus’ baptism, and so much about John the Baptizer’s testimony?
  2. Why did John the Baptizer specifically point Jesus out to his two disciples?
  3. What do the actions of Andrew say about his experience with Jesus?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Who first pointed me to Jesus?
  2. When did I first find myself following Jesus? What was that like?
  3. How might my words and actions point to Jesus?