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Date: Epiphany 2a89
Text: John 1:29-42
Theme: What do you see?
What do you see?--HOLD UP 1/2 GLASS OF ORANGE JUICE--Is this glass half-empty
or half-full? What is your first impression? Some psychologists say that the way you answer that question tells us a lot about your personality. A person who sees the glass as half-full has the tendency to be more optimistic and more open to opportunities than the person who sees it as being half-empty. What do you see?
Can you always trust your eyes? When I was younger I went to the optometrist. As part of the eye examination he put up two green squares on the screen and surrounded them with two different colors, one red the other orange. He asked me which green square was brighter. I knew it was an optical illusion and told him so. Well, he didn't like bright ten year olds and told me to answer the question. I told him that the orange one was brighter. But I knew better. Can you always trust your eyes?
We're all familiar with optical illusions. One of my favorites is putting my two fingers close together and bringing them toward my face. You wind up with three fingers, a headache, and now I can see see double double. Can we always trust our eyes? What do you see?
The concept of looking and seeing flows through today's Gospel lesson. Some form of the word "look" or "see" is used eleven times in the thirteen verses of our lesson. Looking. Seeing. It's so important to our life. It's so important to our faith. John looked at Jesus. He saw something. He believed something, and, more importantly, he believed in someone. When you look at Jesus what do you see?
John looked upon Jesus with his physical eyes and he saw someone. John looked upon Jesus with the eyes of faith and he saw someone. He saw someone special. He saw his God and his Savior. He saw, he proclaimed, he confessed that Jesus is for him. But our problem is that not everyone agrees with John. When you look at Jesus what do you see?
John the Baptist tells us what he saw. In verses 29 through 31 of our lesson we learn that John saw Jesus coming toward him the day after his baptism. As John saw Jesus coming toward him he 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.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
John saw Jesus and yelled out, "Look! Look! It's the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." This is the only chapter in the entire Bible where the term "Lamb of God" is used. It doesn't seem that this term refers to a specific sacrifice under the Old Covenant. What John tells us is that Jesus is the total and complete fulfillment of the Old Covenant, with its system of sacrifices. He tells us that Jesus is the only sacrifice that we need for our sins. He tells us that Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for us.
Unfortunately, we live in a world which tries to pervert the Biblical message of forgiveness of sins in Jesus alone. The unbelieving world seeks to down play the importance of Jesus' death on the cross for the sin of the world. The unbelieving world says nice things about Jesus. It tells us that Jesus was a great moral teacher. It tells us that Jesus is a great example for us to follow in showing love for our neighbor. It even pays Jesus the ultimate compliment when it says that Jesus is the son of God just as all good people are the sons and daughters of God. But John was not satisfied with that wishy-washy, watered down version of Jesus. John proclaimed, "Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Look! Here is the full and complete payment for your sins. Look! Here is walking proof that God loves you and will never forsake you. Look! Here's proof that God loves you--you as an individual--you as a person--you as one person among billions. You, singular as well as you plural.
And look at the implication that John's message has for us. We don't have to live in fear of God. We don't have to wonder whether or not he loves us. We don't have to wonder whether he'll change his mind about us. In the midst of the storms of this life, when we are rocked about, when we are battered, when we are knocked down, we don't have to wonder whether or not God loves us, or even likes us, because he sent his one and only Son into our world to bear our sins on the cross and be our Savior. He sent his Son as absolute proof that he loves us here and now.
This flies in the face of the unbelieving world's message about God and about Jesus. The unbelieving world sees Jesus as a great moral influence and example. Gee, it says, if we could all be a little more like Jesus, then this world sure would be a better place. The unbelieving world reduces the message of Christianity, the message of the Bible, to a do good, try your best
philosophy and if everything turns out alright then maybe God will love you. The unbelieving world seeks to reduce Jesus to a new, and improved, law giver. Try your best, live up to his expectations, live the golden rule, then you'll do alright.
Worse yet, the unbelieving world lays the blame and problems of this life upon us and the things we do. The unbelieving world holds that we can be pretty sure of our status with God by the type of blessings we receive. Hey, if you're well-off, or at least not poor, and in good health, and your family is pretty well balanced, then God must be pleased with you. But if there is any hardship, any heartache, any problem you're facing, then it is apparent that God is displeased with you. Or so says the unbelieving world.
That's not what the Bible says. That's not what John the Baptist says. That's not what Jesus says. "Behold, Look, See, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." "Look, there is the living proof that God loves you. He loves you so much that he sent his Son into this world to die on the cross for all the sins you committed." Those sins no longer exist. Jesus has taken those sins and brought them to the cross where he paid their full and complete price.
John the Baptist tells us to look at Jesus and then we will never have to wonder whether or not our sins are forgiven. Ah, you may think, but my sin is too big, too bad, too ugly, too sinful. But hear what John says, "Look, it's the Lamb of God who takes away the SIN of the world." Sin, in the singular, is the great barrier which separates God and humanity. God has removed that great barrier by sending his Son to take all of our sins upon himself. In Isaiah, chapter 53, we read, "He," meaning Jesus, "was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." It's an accomplished fact. It's already been done. Our sins are forgiven. They were forgiven on the cross. Those we consider tiny and of no consequence. Those we consider gigantic and unforgivable. They have all be taken and nailed to the cross with our Savior Jesus Christ. Martin Luther was confronted with this good news and in a sermon he preached on this text he said, "Sin has but two places where it may be; either it may be with you, so that it lies upon your neck, or upon Christ, the Lamb of God. If now it lies upon your neck, you are lost; if, however, it lies upon Christ, you are free and will be saved. Take now whichever you prefer."
We no longer have to live in fear of God. We no longer have to wonder whether or not he loves us. We do not have to try to earn his love by the things we do. We don't have to worry that he will reject us at the last minute. We don't have to worry; we don't have to wonder. For Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away our sin. He is the substitution for our sins.
What do you see when you look at Jesus? Do you see a new law giver who stands over you with a club, trying to whip you into shape? Do you see a really nice guy who has no importance for your life? Do you see a great moral teacher, who has given us great truths to ponder? Do you see a good example to follow? If this is what you see, then you better get an eye exam, because you're going blind. You're blinded by sin to the full message of the Bible.
When the Bible looks at Jesus it sees the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When the Bible looks at Jesus it sees the total and complete forgiveness of all our sins--even those we believe to be unforgivable. When the Bible looks at Jesus it sees proof that God loves us--even when all the evidence says he doesn't. When the Bible looks at Jesus it sees the sinless Son of God who comes to each of us with his word of forgiveness. When I look at Jesus, this is what I see. I see my Savior, my God, my Friend. My Lamb of God who takes away and forgives my sins. Amen.
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