(An Inductive Sermon)

(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Scripture: John 1:14-18, 29, 35-52 (NIV)

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'"
16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.
36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"
39 "Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.
41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ).
42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me."
44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.
45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
46 "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."
48 "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you."
49 Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
50 Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that."
51 He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending

My question is this - What has changed? What is different - today from then?

The story is simple. John, the Baptizer, the fire and brimstone heart tugging desert preacher had seen something - the spirit coming down like a dove on a person being baptized. He saw something - the end of his ministry was at hand. John said: "I came to baptize with water - he who comes after me will baptize with the Holy Spirit." All he did was see something apparently no one else saw. He knew his ministry was coming to an end.

And so on the next day, in the middle of teaching two disciples, when he saw this dove stooped man, John stopped, turned, pointed and with convinced thrill, admiration, wonder said "Look, the Lamb of God!" Lamb, the title, was laced with layers of meaning. In Israelite thought this was a title for a victim, someone who was gullible enough to be taken advantage of, plotted against, like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter, like Jeremiah not recognizing the plot against him until it is too late (Jeremiah 11:18ff), like the ram caught in a thicket not realizing it was stuck there to take the place of a son named Isaac (Genesis 22:8), like a lamb before its shearers is dumb (Isaiah 53). In today's language we might call him a sucker, one who falls for the plot without defending himself.

Now there were more overtones to the title Lamb because for John and for every faithful Israelite, there was the sacrificial lamb, the lamb that takes away sin, as John had mentioned the day before "Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" But on this day, there is no mention of sins, just "Look - the Lamb of God." Trembling words rolling of an orators coarse tongue. And the two disciples turned and followed him.

All they heard was a title, all they saw was a man and the two disciples turned and followed him. John the baptizer now left alone wiggling his toes in the sand mumbling "the one who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me..."

What has changed? What is different - today from then? They heard the name Lamb, they saw him, they followed.

Answers seem to come easy. These two disciples were already disciples! Andrew and John were dispositionally quick to follow, all to eager to trust the next religious guru. We are more careful today, we have so many more rational tools to make good decisions about the rest of our lives, that's why we're so reluctant to follow!  That must be the difference - or is it?

What follows is a cascade. One day of being with this man called the Lamb of God, the one who falls for the ploy, and Andrew goes and finds his brother Simon. Simon is a driven man - not to follow but to fish. Fishing is his career, its in his character. He has invested in the boat. His hands are calloused and cut from hauling and repairing nets. He knows the places to drop his nets, he gets there before the morning light to catch his haul. This is no disciple! Simon is a business man with considerable skills and investments as any water faring fisherman among us would well understand. A boat is not called a hole in the water into which you endlessly pour money without a reason. But Simon seems to know when to fish or cut bait - he walks away from his boat, his investments, his skills. He follows.

What has changed? What is different - today from then?

Parents and Career counsellors would shake their heads. Bad decision!   That young man's future is gone. Is Simon Peter deranged? Why leave all and follow? Such sacrifices at such an early age, think of your future, your career, don't be so stupid Simon...

What has changed? What is different - today from then?

Simon was not the only one.

Jesus went and found Philip and he said to Philip "Follow me." This time there is no introduction, no title "the Lamb of God", just a command - Follow me! And Philip follows! No resume required. No credentials shown! And on top of that, Philip does what he will do for the rest of his life so naturally - he runs and tells Nathanael "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote - Jesus of Nazereth, the son of Joseph." Upon meeting Jesus, he has already turned into Philip the evangelist, something that he would continue doing throughout the book of Acts till the end of his life.

What has changed? What is different - today from then?

Today to say to our neighbours; "We have found Jesus!" - many of us would prefer to voluntarily pull our teeth. We need a degree in theology. We need to grow more in our faith. We'll have more time in an imaginary tomorrow. Our excuses for silence are piled high. What has changed? What is different - today from then? How is it that Philip upon simply hearing the command turns immediately into a witness?

Maybe we are just much more sceptical than these young men were, or are we? Nathanael's first response to Philips message was "Can anything worthwhile come out of the garbage town Nazareth." This is skepticism - but his skepticism is broken by one thing

"Come and see!" In coming to see, Nathanael discovers that Jesus saw him first, under the fig tree. His life was changed. "Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel."

What has changed? What is different - today from then?

All of these lives, one after another, turned in a radical different direction and all they did was see Jesus, the Word become flesh, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth." The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And their lives were changed.

Oh - that must be the difference - they could see Jesus, that was 2000 years ago. This is 2000 years later, we can't see him any more! Or is it....

All they saw was Jesus - the man at the very beginning of his ministry, they turned and followed.

We see so much more! Take the scriptures, see his miracles, his compassion, see the truth through his words, in this Lenten season, see Jesus turn his face to Jerusalem, intentionally become the Lamb led to the slaughter, hear judge Pontius Pilate proclaim him innocent, hear those with deceitful schemes call him guilty, and he willingly falls for the plot, a Lamb before his shearers dumb, watch the whip, then the nails, behold him raised up, glorified on the cross, cry out "It is finished!", the sky is dark, the earth shakes, graves are ripped open - we see him - the Lamb of God, dead, buried, into the 3rd day the silence of the tomb, then the silence is broken "He is not here, he has arisen!" Death is conquered, graves no longer final. We see this clearer than the first disciples did. Yet we seem so reluctant to follow, follow radically, expensively, with lives changed in earnest repentance, with evangelistic zeal that certainly can be irritating. What has changed? What is different - today from then?

Is it that we do not see? And we don't see because we don't look? Is our reluctance because many of us don't look into the scriptures, don't research diligently to see the Lord of Glory? Are our lives to distracted by keeping our fish nets mended? Are our eyes turned away to entertainment, to the future, to stocks and bonds, to the bright lights of our culture? Have our accomplishments blinded us to the Light of the world just as city lights blind us to the glory of the stars above?

All these first disciples did was Look - they saw Jesus, the Lamb of God, they turned and followed. What has changed? What is different - today from then?


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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