Sermon notes 01-19-20 What Are You Looking For?
John 1:29-42 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
It is not my intention to badger you with questions, but you probably noticed this is the second week in a row when my sermon title is a question. Last week it was, “Who do you think you are?” That was about not letting the world or our sins or our circumstances or even our own desires define who we are, but rather claiming our identity in Christ, as God claimed us in our baptisms. This week is another question, but it’s not my question. It’s the question from our Gospel reading that Jesus asked Andrew and the other unnamed disciple who were following him: What are you looking for? Jesus turned and saw them following him, and so he asked them, “What are you looking for?” It’s a question that applies to all of us.
I bet you can complete the line from the verse in the Eurythmics song:
Sweet dreams are made of this.
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world and the seven seas.
(Everybody’s looking for something).
Everybody’s looking for something.
Kim and I drove by the church on Friday and she read my sermon title on the sign and she said, “I know what you are looking for: your car keys, your wallet, your phone….” She said that because I am notorious, the world’s worst, at losing things. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that I have spent years of my life looking for things I have lost. My poor wife must get so tired of hearing me say, “Sweetie, have you seen my … ?”
(As the Eurythmics sang), Everybody’s looking for something. So what are you looking for? Jesus asked that question of those who he noticed were following him. So the question is more specifically, what are you looking for that you hope to find by following Jesus?
I am pretty sure we would all agree that Jesus wants everyone to follow him, right? But Jesus also wants us to know why we are following him. I want to suggest that the question Jesus asked Andrew and the other disciple was not for Jesus’ sake, it was for the disciples’ sake. And it was not just for those disciples; it is for us as well. Friends, I believe you are here in worship this morning because on some level you either are, or you want to be, or you are thinking of becoming, a follower of Jesus. So I ask you, however closely or distantly you might be following Jesus, what are you looking for? Why, specifically, are you following Jesus, or why are you following Jesus specifically? I believe that however we might answer those questions, we are all invited to do what Jesus in this passage invites those two disciples to do, Come and see. Come and see what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
You might have noticed that the disciples respond to Jesus’ question with a question. When Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?,” they respond by asking, “Where are you staying?” I gather that the disciples respond to Jesus’ question with a question because they don’t really have an answer to his question. They probably don’t know exactly why they are following Jesus, other than that they know who he is.
John the Baptist had just identified him as the Lamb sent by God to take away the sin of the world. We can be sure that at this point Andrew and his companion have no idea and could not possibly imagine what following Jesus will mean for their lives. But because they know who he is, they make up their minds to follow him.
And as it was for those original followers of Jesus, so it is for all of us today who choose to follow Jesus. The truth is, while we know that following Jesus leads to life in his presence for all eternity when our life on this earth is over, we do not know where following Jesus will lead us in this earthly life. But we follow him because we know who he is: the One sent by God to save us and redeem us.
We have to acknowledge, however that some, and perhaps most of Jesus’ first disciples were following him at least in part because of their hopes that he would be a political Messiah who would lead with political power. I even wonder if Jesus might have asked Andrew and the other disciple what they were looking for because he wanted to know if that is what they expected of him? We know that one of Jesus’ twelve closest followers betrayed him because Jesus refused to be the political leader that people wanted him to be. And some followers of Jesus today are still trying to make a politician out of him.
I saw a church sign the other day that had the words on it: Vote Jesus in 2020. If only Jesus were running for office! I think we can all agree that the incumbent and every single candidate for the presidency are all a far cry from Jesus. If we are reading our Bibles, we should also agree that there are some positions in the platforms of both major political parties that would not hold up well to the teachings of Jesus. If we are looking for a politician, or any political outcome to save the world, we are going to be sorely disappointed. Jesus refused to be the political leader that the people wanted him to be when he walked this earth, so we can probably assume that he would not be drawn into our politics today. It would be pointless and fruitless to follow Jesus with the hopes of political gain in mind.
But back to our Gospel story. We might wonder why the two disciples ask Jesus to show them where he is staying. I don’t think it’s because they want to check out his crib. ‘Where are you staying’ likely means, we want to see how you are living your life. We want to watch what you do and follow your example. And Jesus invites them to do just that. He says, “Come and you will see.” In other words he is saying, ‘Follow me and I will show you a new way of living.’
But how do we do that today? Jesus is no longer walking the earth as a human, he is no longer here in a physical human body staying in a physical place we can go to and see. But we can be sure that Jesus is still working and moving in the world, and he is still guiding and directing our lives when we seek to follow his leading. To come and see means to learn and discover and observe how Jesus wants us to live our lives. In order for us to do those things today, in order for us to follow Jesus’ example and his leading, we must seek him out in the Scriptures. The only place where the teachings and words of Jesus are recorded and where his life is documented is in the Bible. The only reason we are able to know what Jesus said and did and taught is because his words and deeds and teachings are written in the Bible. So the Bible is the only authentic, trustworthy place for us to go and see and learn how Jesus wants us to live, but more importantly what he came to do. He came as John the Baptist said, to take away the sins of the world.
Jesus Christ came to be one of us to restore to us something we had lost, something immeasurably greater than any wallet or car keys or phone or homes or fortunes or any “thing,” something far greater than any material possession. He came to restore to us the life with God and the relationship with God that we had lost when humanity fell from grace in the Garden of Eden. God’s intention in creating us was to be in relationship with Him and to enjoy his presence forever.
We were not meant to die, but to live forever with God. We lost that life with God through our disobedience.
Only God could restore to us what we had lost. So God sent his Son to do just that. Jesus became one of us, God with us. He came to be our Savior, to take away the sin that separated us from God. Christ left his place in heaven to restore to us our relationship with God, to reopen the gates of paradise and give us access to that life with God that will never end.
Because of Christ we have been given back what we lost. Jesus would say elsewhere (Mt. 11:28) in a universal invitation to discipleship, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is an invitation for all, every one of us, to trust Jesus personally, to receive from him freedom from the guilt of our sins and of the burden of trying to be good and earn salvation on our own.
Sisters and brothers, as we enter into this yet very new year together, this is good news for us. Jesus sees us and knows us, in all of our shortcomings and failures. He knows we are not who we want to be, who we try to portray ourselves to be in certain company, on our resumes and our Facebook pages. Jesus also knows how it grieves our hearts when we fall so far short of who we want to be. Jesus knows that and sees that … but he sees beyond all of that. He sees who we can become, and he invites us to come and see the far greater things that he can do in our lives when we follow him.
The Lord is still speaking to us in some way, probably not with an audible voice, but we hear his call nonetheless, calling us to follow him. He doesn’t force himself on us, but he beckons us to come. When we finally come and follow, our Lord works to do far greater things in our lives than we could have ever imagined. And by the power of the Holy Spirit we become what only the Lord could have seen in us. So I ask you again, what are you looking for? Why are you following Jesus? I hope we are all following Jesus for the reasons those first disciples followed him. They followed him primarily because they knew who he was, and they wanted to learn how to live their lives for him.
Jesus is no longer here on this earth in a physical body, but we can be sure he is still guiding and directing our lives when we seek to follow his leading. What does the Lord have in store for you in 2020? What is he calling you to do and to become? What things will he show you when you hear and follow? All I know to tell you is, Come and see.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Amen.
Let us pray.
Thank you, Father, for sending your Son Jesus, the Lamb of God to give us freedom from the burden and guilt of our sins. Help us to listen to your voice and follow where you lead in 2020 and always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.