“What Are You Looking For?”
Sunday, January 16, 2011
In the entertainment industry we are moving into the annual “Award Season.” The Golden Globes, The Tony’s, The Emmy’s, The Oscar’s, and countless other award shows will soon compete for viewers as actors, directors, musicians, and comedians engage in an endless mutual admiration group hug…Have you ever listened to the way they introduce each other on these awards shows?
“Please welcome world-renowned singer, dancer, and actress…winner of three academy awards, two Emmy’s and the Nobel Prize for Pretty…the woman who single-handedly brought sequins back to Hollywood…Miss Sally Sweetwater!”
I mean, really, she’s just a presenter and it sounds like she cured the common cold!
It is funny sometimes the way we make introductions…
Your cousin the doctor becomes a cutting-edge surgeon…
Your son the teacher becomes a full professor…
Your sister who sings solo in the church choir becomes a brilliant musician
Sometimes we exaggerate just a little to make people sound as good as we can;
we tend to think that a person’s image is enhanced by the larger-than-life introduction and their identity is created through what they do.
The problem with this is that we sometimes rob a person of the freedom to be who they truly are as they try to live up to their introduction.
In some ways John the Baptist is like the Master of Ceremonies for our gospel story
His role is to point us to Christ…to introduce Jesus and to help us get to know him
for who he truly is….
While the introduction may seem pretty big – “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; Son of God;” and so forth, there is no exaggeration here.
Let us pray…
May the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be truly pleasing to you,
O Lord, we pray in the name of Jesus.
The passage we read this morning is clearly divided into two distinct sections…
First we hear the testimony of John the Baptist identifying Jesus.
This testimony actually begins in verse 19 when the Jewish leaders confront John, asking him who he is…John tells them that he is not the Messiah, nor is he Elijah, nor is he the prophet.
He tells them that he is the “voice of one crying out in the wilderness…
Make straight the way of the Lord.”
He says that he is not worthy to even untie the sandals of the One who is yet to come.
Then, the next day, Jesus shows up and John points to him and identifies him as,
“the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
There are a couple of things we need to take away from this first section…
1. John says he didn’t know Jesus; well, of course he knew him – they were cousins, they grew up together. What he’s telling us is that it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit appeared that John recognized Jesus for who he truly was. It is this recognition that enables John to testify with authority about who Jesus is.
2. John distinctly uses the singular form of the word sin; he does not talk about the plural sins of the world – the many personal and corporate sins of humanity. The sin John refers to here is THE SIN of UNBELIEF. Jesus has come to take away the unbelief of the world…He has come to point people back toward God and to restore a right relationship with God.
The second section of this reading sets us up to be released from unbelief by helping us to identify Jesus Christ…
You see, our decision to be a disciple is inseparable from the decision we make about Jesus’ identity.
We must understand who Jesus is before we claim a relationship as Jesus’ disciple.
We hear a laundry list of titles for Jesus as the characters in this story point to him…
Lamb of God Son of God Rabbi Messiah
One who ranks ahead of me because he was before me
One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit
The next few verses include:
Son of Joseph from Nazareth One in whom there is no deceit
King of Israel Son of Man
Think about other names or titles that we give to Jesus…
The Way The Truth The Life
Light of the World Light in the Darkness Word of God
Sinless man Redeemer Lord
Healer Comforter Savior
God with Us King of Glory King of Kings
Who is Jesus?
The images from the gospel suggest that the reality of God in Jesus goes beyond any label we can place on him…
Jesus’ own words suggest that he is more than we can ever imagine…
“What are you looking for?” he asks
The disciple’s response of “Where are you staying?” is better translated “Where do you stand? What are you about? Who are you?” These would-be disciples aren’t asking where Jesus lives, they are concerned with his substance – his identity.
Jesus tells them, “Come and see.” Come see for yourself who I am and what I’m about. This calling of the first disciples is a warm invitation to be in a relationship;
it is not a forceful command.
This thoughtful invitation suggests that we cannot know one another by names or titles; rather, we know one another by how we live.
As we get to know Jesus throughout the Gospels, the names and titles will be replaced, reformed, and redefined by Jesus’ words, his actions, and finally his death and resurrection.
The rich variety of Christological images we encounter in Scripture cautions us to keep our eyes open for new and surprising revelations of God.
The church sometimes acts as if it has answered the last question about Jesus’ identity and arrived at the definitive revelation…What about the continuing journey?
We need to be open to new images and new metaphors for understanding Jesus and his relationship with the faith community.
We cannot let orthodoxy and traditions stand in the way of fresh and vital calls to discipleship that reveal new dimensions of the identity of Jesus Christ and the boundlessness of God’s grace.
The list of titles for Jesus is open-ended…
“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks…
“Release from drug addiction,” comes the answer and Jesus is Healer.
“Help me forgive,” and Jesus is the One who Empowers.
“Show me how to do my best,” and Jesus is Guide.
“What are you looking for?” Jesus wants to know…
The message is clear – Jesus is whatever we are looking for;
he is everything we are looking for;
he is all we need.
The “call narratives” in the gospels help us to understand discipleship…
For Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the stories of Jesus calling his disciples are focused on the idea of following Jesus to be transformed; promising a change in the lives of the disciple.
For John, however, the call narratives are about Jesus – about knowing who Jesus really is, developing a relationship with Jesus, and then being able to introduce Jesus to others.
John wants us to see that our call to discipleship is wrapped up in our understanding of the true identity of Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, John wants us to know and to testify that Jesus is everything anyone needs.
“What are you looking for?”
No matter how you answer that question, Jesus says, “Come and see.”