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John 1:29-42

Do you remember when you first met Jesus? Maybe another way this question can be asked is: Do you remember when you first saw Jesus for yourself?

Although born into and raised in a God-honoring and church-life-participating household, I did not ‘see Jesus for myself’ until the summer before my freshman year of high school at a Christian youth camp. It was during the corporate singing of the song “I Am A Friend of God” when I suddenly, for the first time, became overwhelmed with emotion at the thought of God’s desire to be in friendship with me. I was being compelled towards something in a way I had never been before.

Later that night I asked my youth leaders, ‘Does God really want to be my friend?’ Their reply was simple (yet in hindsight, theologically robust!): ‘Yes. Jesus is God, and Jesus wants to be your friend.’ From then on, I was hooked. Having now heard about this disposition of Jesus, and having now seen it - for myself - my life could no longer be the same.

Leading up to that initial moment when you saw Jesus, for the first time, for yourself - what did you hear about Jesus? What did you see?

One of the central themes of the season of Epiphany is Jesus Christ - the light of the world - being revealed to the world. To this very day the Church bears witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is the true light of the world, which shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.[1] Amen.

Included in this week’s Gospel reading is an account of John the Baptist revealing Jesus to a few of his disciples, who, as the Scriptures indicate, become Jesus’ first disciples. I am enthralled with the ministry of John the Baptist, because when it comes to discipleship, we have more in common with him than we think! Of course Jesus had disciples, but Jesus pointed his disciples to himself. I like identifying with John the Baptist because we, like him, are not to ultimately point people to us, but rather, to Jesus.

This 17th century painting titled, ‘The Pointer,’ is Italian artist Ottavio Vannini’s depiction of John 1:35-37, which reads: “The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.”

John the Baptist turned to his disciples and said, ‘Hey. The guy I have been telling you about…there he is.’ And, according to the Scriptures, it appears that is all John’s disciples needed to hear - without any hesitation they followed Jesus.

For me, the ‘big idea’ for this week’s Gospel reading is this: John the Baptist spoke about Jesus in such a way, that when those he spoke about Jesus to saw Jesus for themselves for the first time, they followed him without hesitation.

Who has God given us the responsibility to talk about Jesus to? And, more importantly, how do we talk about Jesus to them? Could it be true that followers of Jesus have a part to play in the reveal-ation of Jesus to the watching and waiting world?

A key detail to Epiphany's central theme is that Jesus is revealed as the light of the world, even to the Gentiles. While I do think it is important for modern Christians to remember that they themselves are [literally] Gentiles (as opposed to Jews), I also find it helpful to consider those in my world today who do not-yet know Jesus for themselves as a ‘type of Gentile.’

This Epiphany, and every season of every year, let the Church ask itself: How are we revealing Jesus to the world? Or, we could pause even longer to ask: Are we revealing Jesus to the world? Are we talking about Jesus in such a way that when we talk about Jesus to those who do not-yet know Jesus, they follow him without hesitation once they see him themselves for the first time?

Where to begin? I am reminded of the historic position taken by the first-century Council at Jerusalem, who decided that Gentiles should not be required to fulfill the entirety of the Jewish custom in order for their conversion to be made complete, but rather be saved by grace.[2]

When we talk about Jesus, does he sound accessible to those who do not-yet follow him, or do we put up roadblocks and hoops to jump through? Do we talk about what miraculous things we have seen Jesus do, or do we just ramble on about what Jesus might do if people do not listen to him?

It is God’s intention that Jesus be revealed through the witness of the body of Christ.[3] May the Spirit of God do a great work in us - to refine our tongues - so that our speech may influence many in our day to follow Jesus, leaving Jesus to ask, ‘Where did you come from?’[4]


[1] John 1:5-9, paraphrase

[2] Acts 15:1-35

[3] 2 Corinthians 5:20

[4] Acts 1:38, my commentary