Text: John 1: 29-42
Come and See
There is a passage in the book of Amos where Amos writes, “You cows of Bashan…” On the surface it’s an insult. The reality is that within its context calling a woman a cow of Bashan would have been a compliment. In Amos, it is of course more of a backhanded compliment.
Using animals to describe people and their actions is something that happens quite often. If I were to say to someone, “You’re eating like a pig” you all know what I mean. Similarly, if I say you are ‘bull-headed’, a ‘scaredy cat’, a ‘silly old bat, a ‘chicken’, a ‘rat’, a ‘whale or a ‘worm’. In each of these instances we are using the name of an animal to convey a character trait about a person.
Most often when we use such language we are not speaking positively about the person in question. Nine times out of ten we are speaking negatively. It is interesting to note that in John’s gospel which we read this morning John the Baptist calls Jesus ‘the Lamb of God.’ He doesn’t do it just once, but twice in our gospel lesson.
The image of Jesus as the Lamb of God is one which is fairly dominant. However, it is only mentioned twice in all of scripture, in the two versus we read this morning. That’s it, no where else. No where else in scripture is the phrase ‘the lamb of God’ repeated.
Later in John’s gospel Jesus identifies himself as ‘the Good Shepherd’ and the ‘Bread of Life’. Nowhere does Jesus himself identify himself as the Lamb of God. It is John the Baptist who makes this identification while speaking to his disciples who would later become disciples of Jesus.
It is an interesting phrase. Jesus was to be the Messiah, but the messiah people were expecting was a warrior king. Here we have John identifying Jesus as anything but. When we think of the image of a lamb, we think of something that is meek. An expression we hear is ‘lambs to the slaughter’, summing up just how meek we think lambs are. Isaiah writes the ‘wolf will lie down with the lamb.’
So just what is John the Baptist getting at when he says these words? What is John, whom scholars believe is the unnamed disciple in our passage, trying to tell us? One of the things we do know about lambs is that they were often used for sacrifice in the ancient world. When John says “here comes the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” he is pointing to an event. An event which we know to be the cross, where through the death of Jesus we find God’s forgiveness, love and mercy.
Still it makes for an odd introduction. Both for us as readers today, ancient readers and perhaps for those first disciples. Here is the one who will be slaughtered, be careful if you hitch your wagon to him. Yet, we know the power that comes through the death of Jesus, but this first introduction by John is strange. Why would anyone follow this guy?
Perhaps if we consider some of the other things that are happening in our passage we can make more sense out of it. Think about the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. They are cousins, John is a little older maybe a couple of months and has established himself as an erratic and eccentric prophet out in the wilderness. He’s doing water baptisms, which aren’t very common in those days. He testifies that one is coming who will baptise with the Holy Spirit. So along comes Jesus, who John probably knew. However, until the Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus, John the Baptist didn’t realize his cousin was the Messiah.
This is important. Jesus enters our lives in very unassuming ways. The Apostle Paul, he has his road to Damascus moment, is overcome and decides to follow Jesus. Most of us, we don’t have that. I didn’t have that. I can’t point to one event, to a light bulb going off telling me to follow Jesus. Instead, it has been a multitude of moments which have worked together to inform my faith. Jesus has worked subtly in my life.
All those people around Jesus didn’t know who he was. Today we all think we know what Jesus looked like, he’s found in pictures in churches around the world. The reality is that Jesus was the most anonymous celebrity you could imagine. When Jesus walks by, John the Baptist has to point him out to his disciples. They don’t instantly recognize him.
And then they follow him and when he notices that he turns and asks them ‘what are you looking for?’ Not who are you looking for? You’d think if you were following someone around that perhaps you were looking for that person. No, Jesus asks what are you looking for? It’s like that U2 song, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
Jesus asks what are you looking for and we might do well to ask ourselves that very question. What are we looking for? Peace, love, acceptance, understanding, wisdom, answers to questions. The more I ask that question of myself, the more I realize that the answers I find lead to further questions. That a life of discipleship with Jesus Christ is not about finding answers, but about journeying with God. I realize that the answer to the question what am I looking for is not a tangible thing. What I am looking for is the opportunity to journey with Jesus. To walk the road with him, or perhaps it might be better said to have him walk with me.
But those disciples, we can’t forget about them. The disciples never cease to astonish do they? How do they respond to the question ‘what are you looking for?’ They reply, ‘Teacher, where are you staying?’
They answer with a question, which is a typical rabbinic thing to do. Interesting that it is the disciples doing it here. So Jesus takes them and show them where he is staying. However, John in his gospel never describes where Jesus takes them. We don’t get the narrative piece that Jesus was staying with a friend or in a house on the edge of town or sleeping in the wilderness or if he was still living at home.
We never find out where Jesus actually brings them, only that they spend several hours with him. That afterwards they would become amongst his first disciples. Just where did Jesus and those two disciples go when Jesus said “Come and see”? What did Jesus show them? What did Jesus tell them? What did the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world share with those two disciples that afternoon two thousand years ago?
If I were to speculate I would say that Jesus showed them the kingdom. Not as a vision, but that Jesus spoke to them of God’s kingdom. Of God’s plan for creation, of God’s great love for all people. That Jesus told them while they were busy following him, while they were searching for him Jesus was looking for them.
Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, innocent of all things. He is the one who will take away the sin of the world. He is also searching for you, just as you are searching for him.
He is unassuming and in all honesty most of us probably miss glimpses of him everyday. So perhaps we should stop being so busy asking questions, so busy searching for Jesus and instead allow him to find us. Jesus is searching for you and for me and for everyone beyond those doors. Perhaps we should do as John the Baptist did and point towards Jesus. To share with others, the one who is Lamb of God. Amen.