Philip Casmer

Look! The Lamb of God…

by Philip Casmer on January 15th, 2023
John 1:29-41

Words are important, aren’t they? They tell us things; they direct us places; they explain; they share emotion; they tell stories… Though it’s always bunches of little, separate words that do these things. Which means, they’re easily dismissed too. Especially when you’re reading somebody else’s words or when you’re reading things that are very familiar. There’s this temptation to kind of gloss over things. To take for granted what things mean. 

Say, with this story of John the Baptist. These early chapters of John’s gospel are memorable – “In the beginning was the Word…” you know? And here, today, you can probably picture the bible story image after that first sentence. There’s John, pointing, and Jesus is walking in the background. And then you’re thinking about the two disciples who left and followed and went on with Jesus. And perhaps on from there to where all this goes: cross and grave and ascension… And those are all true and good. But don’t miss this… In one word, John calls us to do one thing that properly prepares us for all the rest. John says, “Look…”

In John’s language and in our own it’s an attention-getting word. When the car dealer tells you to buzz off after your new car goes lemon, you say, “Look here! That’s not how you treat customers…” And you mean to stop whatever’s going on and call attention to that the proceedings are gonna turn in a different direction. “Look!” is the word that turns heads – it’s meant to. It’s a stopping, arresting, attention-seeking word. And this morning that’s what John wants. That you and I stop and look: that we take in who this is, what he’s doing, why he’s even worth looking at.  John says, “Look! The Lamb of God…” 

And, start with this… Do you? Stop and look? I mean, think of the busyness…even here! A thousand blessed things we’ve got right here in people, relationships, kids and their trucks, Saturday seminars, c-team basketball, gym worship setup… We live in a country that is blessed with a general abundance. We’ve no lack of things to occupy our time and attention. Do you stop? Do you look? And, aside from stopping, when you do…do you look here? for him? Do you remember why we’re here? It isn’t first for a great education in a school; it’s not primarily for baby-friends; it isn’t even to escape the crazy in the world… 

If we heed John’s call, it’s to see here something we cannot see anywhere else. John shares a number of important things rather quickly. V.29 holds two key concepts: 1) Jesus is the Lamb of God and 2) he “takes away the sin of the world.” Though the second is obviously tremendous in scope, the first is perhaps more difficult for 21st century ears. Most of us don’t deal with lambs at all except at a petting zoo; and even if we’ve some 4H experience, none of us have employed lambs like John’s thinking. He’s thinking of Israel’s sacrifices – pick one – burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings, guilt offering. In those they killed a bull, a ram, a lamb… instead of the sinner. Because this is the principle in that second epic statement – that sin is taken away, lifted off the whole world’s shoulders, borne away somewhere other than with us… Well, the writer of Hebrews will later say, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” For people to be right with God – sins removed – somebody’s gotta die…

Now, the implication that we forget is – it could be your blood / death to remove sins or, really, just to pay and pay and pay... And you could try all your own effort, but if you’re honest, if we’re making a tally of your own goods v. bads I can guess which will win out every week. We end up looking at the kind of record that would cause us to avert our eyes in disgust, despair… So instead, here’s a lamb, not just any, not really like any other one. This is God’s Lamb. John says Jesus is God’s sacrifice. God’s as opposed to yours or mine – his work, his life – God’s own solution. Jesus will die at the cross (we later learn) in order to make the blood payment for all people; for the sin of the whole world. As we said before, that’s tremendous… and promising… and far more than I could accomplish or you… So how? Well, it’s good to learn and remember…

v.30: Jesus came after John – he’s younger, arrived on the scene later – but he was “before me”, John said. And he meant like earlier in ch.1 when John the gospel writer said, “[Jesus, God’s Word] was with God in the beginning…” And vv.31&33: This Jesus who is eternal with God but walking before John – he’s the one we saw last week, baptized in the river, anointed with God’s Holy Spirit, and blessed with God the Father’s approval. V.33: he is “God’s Chosen One.” He’s the one God chose to accomplish this taking away the world’s sin and being God’s lamb of sacrifice. 

I know the story’s old, familiar – but even John the Baptist didn’t know Jesus, didn’t recognize him for who he was until God revealed it. And perhaps you and I need God to re-reveal him for these days of our lives, for this circumstance you’re in – because of our failings, to know that God’s forgiveness and love are ours; because of our fears, to know that God’s Chosen One has accomplished our saving; because we’re weak, to know that there is no work for you do to – no winning God’s favor by all your working – it’s done! He takes away the world’s sins – which means he takes away yours!

At yesterday’s seminar, Pastor Stroh started with this question: do you think of yourself as a sinner or a saint? About ¾ of us raised hands for the first…but he argued the essence of our mission as a church is to proclaim the second: we’re sinners made to be saints by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – that’s who we are… If you haven’t in a while, stop, look again, and re-learn that Jesus is the Lamb of God, God’s Chosen One to do and bring into your life what no one else can. And God calls you and me to keep on looking at him – to better and better know him and realize the weight and worth of his work in our daily lives… Because, the reality is, the more we learn about him, the more we can tell about him.

We should look and see that in this reading, right? John is telling. We might get caught up in the actions, but this is an important one of them. Telling was John’s direct calling, of course. But still, he’s giving testimony, being a witness (v.32) – he was telling what God told him to say. And when the two disciples saw who Jesus was, after they sat at his feet and learned from him, what did they do? Their job was fishing or something else – just like you – teachers, moms, artists, friends, builders, students – you know, everything besides “pastors” or “forerunners of the Christ.” Yet, those fishermen became tellers too…

 Which may seem daunting… But, did you see that question – a passing one in the conversation / but a thoughtful one for us… Jesus said it to the disciples as they followed him, “What are you looking for?” It’s a good reminder. People are always looking for something. It might be friends they need. Or a church for their wedding. Or an encouraging word. You may be – or know where they can find – what they’re looking for… But, far more than that, no matter what they seek, you already have what they need

It’s Andrew’s words, “We have found the Messiah!” As Luther said, it probably would be more words than that… “Do you want to hear some wonderful news?  John, our master, preached about this man, telling us that He is the Lamb of God and the Messiah. And it turns out, that very man to whom John has pointed and declared that He was the Messiah – He is! Come and see!” 

Your words might not sound like that either. More likely, “You know, I do know a friendly place where you can hear an encouraging word… come and see.” “Well, I do have something that comforts me when I am worn out… can I tell you?” “I’ve learned the greatest thing – it’s got nothing to do with me being good or worthy or anything like that… it’s God’s forgiveness of sins which he just freely gives away in his Son, Jesus… to people like me… or you.” Or…maybe it’s not words at all, but service or kindness… Or, it’s words at length and 200 discussions over three decades… To be frank, you probably know better than I do how it ought to sound with those you know in the places you are… God put you there, after all…

Look, let’s agree… If you come here, we – we will call your attention to one thing more than anything else. We, your pastors will say, “Look, the Lamb of God!” And, actually, the message that Jesus is the Son of God who takes away your sins – it may be old and familiar, but it’s exactly what you need to hear. It’s the one thing that empowers you like nothing else can – for business, for parenting, for friends, for life… And, the more we hear that, the easier it will be, with all those who have the same basic need as all of us, to tell. To simply tell about him, our teacher, our Lord, the Christ – our Savior and theirs…

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