The Lamb of God

John 1:29-39                The Lamb of God                 January 16, 2011
We live in an old house and we love it!
It’s got it’s quirks, for sure, but we’ve learned the language that comes with a quirky old house.
You don’t say something is broken down or in need of repair: instead, you say it’s got character!  The way the floor creaks in certain spots–that’s character.
The light switches that we still haven’t figured out after almost 4 years, and the way some of the doors don’t quite latch right; the mystery tube that’s sticking out of our attic floor; it all just adds to the character of our old house!
…Our house was built before the rise of television.
But it’s only been recently that I’ve connected that fact to some of it’s character.
We do have a TV, but if you come to our house you won’t find it in the living room, where you might expect it to be.
It’s partly because we made the decision not to have it as the center of our living space; but it’s also because there’s not really a place to put a TV in our living room.
It has too much character for a TV!
Our living room is full of windows and open doorways, so there aren’t many walls that you can put stuff up against.
It makes the most of the daylight, which makes sense given when it was built; but the only real focal point of our living room is the fireplace.
You couldn’t pay me enough to cover that up with a TV.
Our house was built back when families sat around the fire in the evening during the winter.
Maybe they talked or played games or made some kind of music.
I can imagine that It’s where they bonded and created meaning with each other.  So it makes sense that our fireplace is the focal point of our living room.
I’d love to have a fire going in our living room on these cold winter nights.
The problem is that our chimney isn’t safe to use.
It’s got enough character to make it unsafe!
So we don’t use our fireplace.  We can get by without it.
After all, these days a functional fireplace is more of a luxury than a necessity, right?
We live in different times than they did when they built our house.
The function of our fireplace has been replaced by central heat and our TV.

See, it used to be that stories were shared and meaning was created around the fire.
Today that function has been relegated to TV land.
In our world, stories are shared and meaning is created more often by Hollywood, Netflix, and Playstation than by Grandma and grandpa, or mom and dad.
But that’s another sermon.
We don’t use fireplaces much anymore in our culture.
But what’s that got to do with John the baptist, his disciples, and this Jesus they chose to follow?
We heard the story this morning that tells of the time when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, and he says “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
And the next day, John was there again with a couple of his disciples, and he again sees Jesus passing by, and again he says “Look, the Lamb of God!”
And just like that, both of his disciples left John and started following Jesus.
I don’t really get it.
It’s kind of an odd story.  It doesn’t quite make sense, especially when you think about who John the Baptist was, and the imagery he uses to describe Jesus.
John the Baptist was a rugged, rough-and tumble, locust-eating, camel hair wearing, desert-dwelling prophet who was afraid of nobody.  He challenged kings and princes.
It tells you something about his disciples, doesn’t it?  You can imagine the kind of person who would choose to be discipled by John the Baptist.
What did they see in this “Lamb” that made them turn their backs on that?  John the Baptist seems more like a Lion.
From what I’ve been told about lambs, they’re followers; not leaders.
They’re weak and defenseless.
They’re not exactly symbols of strength, resourcefulness, or cunning.
It’s hard to understand why these two disciples of John would choose to follow Jesus instead, you know?

…And if I follow that line of thinking to my own situation; it makes me wonder why we choose to follow Jesus today!
If “the Lamb of God” is an adequate metaphor, and if we already know the end of the story; that he went like a lamb to the slaughter as an offering for our sins; then why do we want to follow him?
Who wants to follow a lamb, anyway?  Give me John the Baptist any day.  There’s a leader.
Well, believe it or not, I think the reason these rough and tumble disciples of John chose to follow Jesus has something to do with their living room and the fireplace they had.
It’s hard to wrap our minds around it today because our world is so different; but it starts making sense when we think that back then their form of evening relaxation was watching the stars.
They didn’t have TVs, and they probably didn’t have fireplaces like we have now; so after dark when all the work was done, they’d go lay out on their roof or in the field and they’d look at the stars.
They’d find different constellations and tell stories about them; stories that had been passed down from one generation to the next.

And there’s a constellation we call Aries, which is a male lamb; or you could call it a Ram.
Across numerous traditions in the ancient world, this Ram was pretty important.
One first-century astrologer called Aries “the leader and prince of the constellations”.
Aries the divine Lamb was the ruler over all the other constellations.
He was like the starting point from which all the other stars were mapped.  You could say this lamb was something like the beginning and the end of the heavens (and the earth?)
Now that’s probably not real interesting to us.
But for the people who were walking around at the time of Jesus, this ram would have been a pretty obvious symbol of new beginnings, stability, power and authority.
It’s hard to know what to compare it to today, because the symbols we know best are symbols of division, violence, and coercion.
The point is, that when John the Baptizer says, “Look — the Lamb of God,” he isn’t talking about a mild, meek, and gentle creature who exists merely to be led to the slaughter or fleeced for comfort and warmth.
Rather, he’s proclaiming a hope and dream that spanned multiple cultures in the ancient world.  He’s announcing that in Jesus there is power, power that would rise above the other powers in the sky, power that has been present since the beginning, power to make all things new.
That’s what he means when he says “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.”
Andrew and his companion are drawn to Jesus not because they found some fault in John or his teaching; rather they found in Jesus the fulfillment of John’s teaching and way of life!
John the baptist found himself in Jesus.
His life’s work brought him to the point of recognizing Jesus as the Divine Lamb of God; the ruler of the heavens and the only hope for earth.  So he pointed his disciples in that direction, which is the only fitting response, after all the sum of his teaching was right there in front of them.

But let’s look for a minute at what the disciples did, because for those of us who are presumptuous enough to call ourselves disciples of Christ, it matters.
The disciples basically left one teacher and started following a different teacher.
That’s not a real big shock to us, because we’re pretty used to people picking and choosing their leaders according to whatever whim strikes them at the moment.
We pick our leaders like we pick our clothing; by trying them on to see if they fit.
And that’s the problem.
John’s disciples weren’t driven by their own personal preferences as to which teacher was ‘right for them.’  They weren’t looking for what was best for their family, or which teacher was the most dynamic.
They didn’t shop around for the best fit before they signed on to the program.
No, John says “Look, the Lamb of God!  The hope of the heavens!  The One who is Greater than Myself!  There he is!”  “This is the Lamb of God!  The beginning and the end!”
And that’s all it takes.
The disciples trusted their teacher, and they didn’t second-guess him.
They heard what he had to say, and it excited them to the point that they committed themselves with no reservations and no hesitations.
They trusted what John had to say and they acted on it.
And you know, I don’t think there’s anywhere in any of the four gospels where we hear about Andrew telling Jesus “well, you know, John used to do it this way”.  🙂
They signed on and didn’t look back.
But there’s more to the story.  They start to follow Jesus, but he turns around and says “what do you want?”
I want to go out on a limb here and suggest that’s a question you should answer pretty quickly after you commit to much of anything.
What do you want?
A job, a marriage, a church… any commitment that’s worth making can only benefit from asking yourself that question before you get too far into it.
What do you want?
On one hand, it’s a question we’re used to.
We’ve been spoiled rotten thinking about what we want.  Whether it’s a Christmas question or concerning our breakfast at McDonalds, we’re used to being asked what we want.
But when it comes to real life issues, we’re not real comfortable with it.
We’d rather spend our time talking about and proclaiming what we DON’T want.

We don’t want this particular kind of music to be sung in church.
We don’t want this particular preacher telling us how to live.
We don’t want a small church.  We don’t want a large church.
We don’t want to be crowded when we sit.
We don’t want pews.  We don’t want chairs.
But I’m pretty sure Jesus isn’t all that interested in what we don’t want.
He turns and finds that he has disciples, and the first thing he says is “what do you want?”
Of course, he’s not asking it so he can give his disciples what they want when they want it.
It’s more like a question of motive.  It’s a question of vision.
They respond wisely by asking him where he’s staying, and he invites them to come and see.
It’s an invitation that’s still open to would-be disciples, “come and see!”

The rest is history.
Jesus is the Lamb of God; but if what you’re interested is just the comforting warmth of a fleece-lined blanket you might want to reconsider.
He is the Lamb of God; the beginning and end, the world-changing power of servant love, mercy and grace who saves us from our sins and redeems the time.
All Glory, Power, and Honor be to the Risen Christ the ruler of heaven and earth.
What do you want?

 

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