Yielding

Jan 19, 2020 by

Sermon by Garry Blinch

John 1:20-42

29 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).

Miss Cornelia is a character in the Anne of Green Gables novels (not in the TV series). She is a devout, church-going Christian. One day, she asks Miss Susan about the health of a mutual friend. Miss Susan replies, “Oh, I’m afraid she’s going to have to rely on the Lord now.” Miss Cornelia replies with horror- “Oh no, surely it isn’t as bad as all that!”

For all her piety, for Miss Cornelia to entrust her friend to God feels like a last resort for an otherwise lost cause.

To yield ourselves and all the situations and challenges of our lives can feel like a last resort, after we’ve tried everything else.

But for John the Baptiser it was the attitude of his whole life.

The gospel I just read follows on from Bob’s passage last week. Jesus has been baptised and John points back to that as he expounds a new message of great importance: “Here he is- the one I have been speaking about.”

This passage is about a transition; from John to Jesus. The first 8 verses are about a hand-off. In football, it refers to an exchange made by handing the ball to a teammate. And that is a common metaphor: to hand the ball off, or pass the baton. It really is a giving up of the glory. Who are you watching in any team sport? The person with the ball, or the puck. They now have the chance to score and get the accolades of crowd and team alike. How many times have players at all levels of competition been unwilling to yield the ball for that very reason? “I want to be the hero, the MVP.”

There is no hesitation in John that we know of. He was crystal clear from the start about his role and where it was going.

So, in these first 8 verses we hear him clearly say over and over, “That’s the guy over there- that’s the one you should be going to. That is why I came”.

Three times John says, “I myself”. The word could also be translated “even I, this selfsame I”. Twice he says, “I did not know him”.

31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” …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.”

 

Why this emphatic declaration that it is he himself?

I think it’s because what he is now saying about the one he is pointing to he now refers to in a very different way. What was he saying before Jesus came?

Luke 3:

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

 

Wow. That, along with his fiery call to repentance and his fearless rebuke of religious leaders.

What’s the picture? This next guy is going to be really scary!

But what does he now say, now that Jesus came and was baptised?

“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Lamb of God? Does that sound anything like the first picture? Take away sin? I thought you said he was going to take people away, judge between them and  burn the sinners like chaff?!

I wonder if John had a revelation when he baptised Jesus. I’m not saying John had it all wrong. He was the last and greatest of all Older Testament prophets, and like the prophets he may well have expected the kind of judging that was common in days gone by. Those prophets, too, were often saying things that worked out differently than they expected, that judgment was for another time.

Remember that John said, “you come to me?!?! I need to be baptised by you!” What if, in that moment, he had a revelation? An epiphany?

The humility and yielding of the Son of God to fulfill all righteousness completely altered his understanding of the inscrutable plan of God.

He now sees enough to say, “Behold”- not the fire-starter, not the grim reaper- “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

And so, he makes his declarations with, “I myself-    even I- this selfsame I”. And…”I did not know Him”.

Verse 37 is a transition. Like a scene in a screen play we literally follow two disciples leaving John and joining Jesus.

Transition made, the last 5 verses are about Jesus. The hand off, the transition, the acceptance/beginning.

Jesus asks the newly following disciples, “What are you looking for?” What sounds like an evasive response is likely right on: “Rabbi” means teacher. So, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” says, we want to be with you as a teacher; we want to learn from you. It was also a practical question. They had jobs and families to go back to, so without cell phones or 411 or address books they needed to know where to find him again.

It was 4 in the afternoon. Likely, they had come to see John after the fishing was done and the nets were mended and they had stowed their gear safely for the night. They stayed to get a feel for their new spiritual mentor.

It’s not clear if Andrew went to get Peter before or after staying the afternoon, but when he went, he was already convinced that Jesus was the Messiah.

I said that John had an epiphany- I had to use that word, this being the season of Epiphany- the light to the Gentiles. John had his own epiphany- the light came on as to who Jesus really was, the kind of person the saviour of the world was meant to be.

Richard Rohr wrote this:

 “Because Jesus did not directly attack the religious and institutional systems of his time until his final action against the money changers in the temple, his primary social justice critique and action are a disappointment to most radicals and social activists. Jesus’ social program, as far as I can see, was a quiet refusal to participate in almost all external power structures or domination systems. Once we have been told this, we see it everywhere in the four Gospels. Jesus chose a very simple lifestyle which kept him from being constantly co-opted by those very structures,…”

 

Jesus the unexpected. Jesus the disappointment. Jesus, the epiphany to those who are open to receive him as He is, not as we want him to be.

Jesus and John are the example of how humankind can know peace and Eden again- the pattern humanity was meant to imitate. It’s in yielding, the self-surrender to the will of God. A hand-off to the loving Creator, making it a pattern to humble ourselves in relation to each other as well.

We are not merely creatures that need to be improved; we are rebels that need to yield our bent to rule so that God can flow through us. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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