2nd Sunday of Epiphany John: 1: 29 - 42
I came across a story about a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application form that asked, "Are you a leader?"
Being honest she wrote, "No," and returned the application, expecting to be rejected.
To her surprise, she received this letter from the college:
"Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms for this year reveals our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower."
This morning's gospel introduces us to a follower. Our story begins in the few verses before by reintroducing us to John the Baptist and telling us of events of four consecutive days.
Day one - the priests and Levites come from Jerusalem to ask John, “Are you the Messiah?” John replies. “No. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”
Then the Pharisees come and ask him why, if he is not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor one of the prophets, why he is still baptizing the people.
John’s response is to point to the greater One who is coming.
“I baptize with water; among you stands one who you do not know, the
strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
Day two - My Mother told me it was rude to point, but this is the exception to the rule. For it was John’s purpose to point the way to Jesus. John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared,
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Two of John’s disciples immediately leave him and begin to follow Jesus.
That in itself is extraordinary - they heard and they followed. Jesus turned them, Andrew and John, the gospel writer himself, and asks them, “What are you looking for?” It would appear they have no idea, so they answer, “Teacher, where are you staying?” and Jesus replies, “Come and see.”
So they went with him and stayed with him, and then John adds an interesting detail: I wonder did you notice it in the reading? He writes, it was about four o’clock in the afternoon. I have no idea why that detail is there, but perhaps John wanted to impress on his readers that this really happened - I was there, it was 4 o’clock. The point of this episode is that two followers of John the Baptist have now become followers of Jesus.
John was willing to point away from himself and towards Jesus. Human beings are naturally self-seeking and to point away from ourselves and point to another is not natural.
John had spent his entire ministry urging people to repent and to make radical changes in their lives toward righteousness. But when Jesus appeared on the scene, John’s message changed drastically.
His work, baptizing with water for repentance, is no longer the mission of his life. Now the focus of John’s message is on the One who was to come, the One who would baptize with the Spirit and with fire.
The moment John saw Jesus he recognised him immediately - Jesus was his cousin, - but he also recognised Jesus as God’s son, the long expected Messiah, and without hesitation, John points away from himself and toward Jesus.
Note the first thing Andrew did after finding where Jesus lived was to go and find his brother Simon, telling him, "We've found the Messiah," and immediately led him to Jesus.
Andrew is often overlooked, but he was the first follower, he was the first evangelist and the first missionary. Andrew was the first disciple to spread the word and invite others to ‘come and see.’
The best form of advertising ever invented was word-of-mouth, people telling other people, and that is how the news about Jesus spread. Just a handful of Shepherds at the first Christmas heard the good news from angels. Only a few Wise Men were led by a Star. In three short years
of ministry there were comparatively just a few people who were touched by miracles, but you can be sure they told someone else! Many people who have come to know Jesus Christ have done so because of an Andrew, someone who said ‘come and see.’ Every time Andrew appears in the gospel of John he is bringing someone to Jesus. Andrew introduced his brother Simon, to Jesus. Andrew brings the boy with the five loaves and two fish to Jesus for the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and Andrew brings the enquiring Greeks who wanted to meet Jesus.
We don’t know anything else about him except this one thing - over and over again Andrew introduced people to Jesus.
So what do we make of this morning's reading?
Like Andrew’s example it should be our mission to invite others to come and see, but somehow over the years missionary zeal decreases. We know Christians are not born, they are invited to come and see. When Jesus performed healing miracles he did not go around bragging about what he had done, and often told the ones he healed to keep quiet about it. It was up to those who followed Jesus to spread the news about the miraculous works that were taking place. If the church is going to continue to grow, then what we need is a good Dose of Andrews!
Seeing is believing; that well-worn truism is evident in our Gospels. Many people saw and believed; the disciples beheld his glory, as sight was restored to the blind and the dead were raised. On the Resurrection morning John saw the empty tomb and believed. Thomas would not believe until he had seen, but blessing was promised to those in the future who would believe without seeing. 'Come and see' this morning does not refer to physical sight, but for spiritual insight we call faith. Do not stand far off wondering if this is indeed the Christ, the Son of God, but draw near with faith and feel his presence in prayer, in praise and in the sacrament.
Let us pray:
“Open my eyes to behold your glory and guide my feet to follow where you lead. As you brought the first disciples to see your earthly home, bring me to know your dwelling in me; as their doubt and questioning was turned to certainty, so turn my hesitant faith to assurance, that in looking I shall find and in finding I shall be blessed.”