The Second Sunday after Epiphany
The Very Reverend Steve Lipscomb, Dean

John 1:19-41


John the Baptizer is the talk of the town. He’s all the rage, and Andrew, his disciple, enjoys the status of being among his closest friends. John has attracted large crowds with his message of repentance and his obvious devotion to God. He has antagonized the authorities and excited the people. He’s the guy everyone wants to meet. Folks are constantly jockeying for position to get close to him, but his disciples are the chosen ones, the ones in the inner circle.

And Andrew is one of John’s disciples. His friends respect him; some are even a little intimidated. This John might even be the long awaited Messiah. And Andrew has gotten in on the ground floor.

And then, suddenly, something very strange happens. Jesus, a relative unknown, comes by and John, the center of attention, says “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The one who is greater than I. The reason I am here.”

Andrew is disturbed. He wonders for a moment, but then decides not to think about it. Don’t upset a good thing. John says lots of strange things.

But the next day, it happens again. John sees Jesus again, and again John says “Behold the lamb of God.” Andrew is stunned. John, who is quite possibly the messiah. Who has given Andrew a seat of power and status. But now, he keeps calling this new guy “the Lamb of God.”

The Lamb of God. For Andrew, the phrase carries a mix of powerful, potent images. He thinks of the Apocalyptic Lamb, the one who will conquer, who will crush the power of evil in the world. The Lamb of POWER.

He thinks of the Lamb of which Isaiah speaks. The Lamb who will be despised, cursed, pierced, oppressed; who will take Israel’s punishment upon himself, who will be led to the slaughter. The lamb of SUFFERING for the sake of Israel.

Andrew thinks of the lamb of the Passover feast. The Lamb of celebration whose blood caused the wrath of God to pass over the children of Israel so they could be delivered from Egypt. The Lamb of LIBERATION.

POWER, SACRIFICE, LIBERATION: John is saying all that about this newcomer. And what’s more, it’s pretty obvious that John is going to keep saying it every time he sees this Jesus.

With a sinking feeling, Andrew realizes that the status he enjoys as a disciple of John isn’t going to last. He wonders what’s so special about Jesus. What does John see in this man?

Then Andrew does something which will change his life forever. He goes to see for himself. He and a friend follow Jesus. They’re watching him, trying to figure it out. They don’t think Jesus knows they are there.

Then, suddenly, Jesus turns and addresses them. They are shocked and embarrassed, and then transfixed. For Jesus asks them, “What is it that you’re looking for?” but he says it in a way Andrew has never known. It’s a simple question, appropriate to the circumstances, but this man’s eyes. . . . Andrew has never seen eyes like that. He is frozen. Those eyes that see into his soul, his hidden being. “What are you looking for?” Andrew knows he is being asked to tell what he wants out of life. What he wants out of Jesus? What he needs for his soul?

Andrew tries to regain his composure. He mutters a flattering title, calling Jesus “Rabbi.” He is thinking, “Where did you come from?” but he says, “Where you are staying?” Jesus understands. He knows that Andrew has been moved, that
he really wants to know who Jesus is. So, Jesus says, to answer both questions, “Come and see.”

So the two would-be disciples spend the day with Jesus. It is a day that changes Andrew’s life. It is a day that explodes Andrew’s life. It is a day that turns his world upside down! He sees in Jesus the true messiah of Israel. He understands and sees what John saw and understood. He sees and understands that to follow Jesus, you must have faith in Jesus. He sees and understands and knows that this is the Lamb of God. This is the Lamb of POWER. This is the Lamb of SUFFERING. This is the Lamb of LIBERATION. Jesus is the meaning of everything. He is the beginning and the end. All that was, and is, and is to come. The way, the truth, the life. The Lord.

“What are you looking for?” Jesus had asked. Jesus knew. And, now Andrew knows, too: “I am looking for the Lord. The messiah. I am looking for, and have found, the One that I should follow.”

Andrew is so sure of this fact that he is bursting with the news. It is the gospel that must be shared. He finds his brother Simon and shouts to him “WE HAVE FOUND THE MESSIAH. We have found the one that our people have been waiting for, for 900 years. Come and see.”

I’m sometimes envious of Andrew, spending the day with Jesus. Sometimes it’s hard for us, 2000 years later, to hold onto that sense of excitement, of Christ as the ultimate reality, of the news so good that we are bursting with it. “The Lamb of God” has become something we often just say by rote. But Jesus breaks through all the encrustations we’ve put on our faith, and he is still asking us that life changing question: “What are you looking for?”

Two thousand years after Andrew’s exciting discovery, in a small Episcopal church, the Bishop was visiting to confirm candidates who had been preparing for weeks. A young woman waiting to be confirmed had been looking forward to the day for a long time. & when she came in that morning, she could feel how excited the whole church was. The bishop was here. It was time to pull out all the stops. The best vestments. The finest chalice. Flowers carefully arranged. A special section roped off for the confirmands whose families were visiting for the occasion. Everyone was wearing their best Sunday clothes. There would be brunches afterwards. The woman, and, in fact each confirmand would get a Bible signed by the Bishop. It was an event. “And then,” the woman thought, “I will be an Episcopalian—a member of a really tasteful church.” She and Andrew had at least one thing in common; neither minded a little social status with their faith.

As the opening hymn started, she turned her head ever so slightly as she sang. Here came the bishop. His fancy hat. His fancy cloak. His fancy walking stick. She was not disappointed. He was decked out. He was important. This guy knew how to be a bishop. This had to be authentic Christianity; it was done so well. It was all so beautiful. So carefully choreographed. So… old.

The service proceeded. The opening sentences. The lessons. A sermon she was too preoccupied to hear. Finally, came the presentation of the candidates. And the questions: Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil? “I do.” Do you renew your commitment to Jesus Christ? “I do.”” …”Come on. Next question.”

She was startled when the others kept talking. She had looked at the service yesterday (she was proud of not having to look at the prayer book in church), but she forgot that this response was longer. Flustered, she quickly looked to see what they were saying, but by the time she found her place, they had moved on and the whole congregation was reciting the creed. She looked to see what the response was that had tripped her up.

Here we go: Do you renew your commitment to Jesus Christ? “I do.” Now, what’s the rest of it? She read to herself: “And with God’s grace I will follow Him as my Savior and Lord.” She looked at the page. “I will follow him as my Savior and Lord.” Now she stared at the page, not seeing the words. “I will follow him as my Savior and Lord.” All the religious talk; all the preparation for confirmation: It had never hit her like that before.

She knew that the congregation was still reciting the creed, but as she looked up the church seemed silent, like the sound had been turned off on her TV. She stared at all the trappings. All she could hear were the words that kept playing in her mind: “I will follow.”…. my “Savior and Lord.” What does that mean? She knew, deep down, its meaning. It means POWER, SUFFERING, LIBERATION. It means the Lamb of God. She felt tiny. A speck in the universe. She was overwhelmed.

And then it was as if what she had been staring at suddenly turned around and stared back at her. And somehow, in a way she couldn’t describe with words, she knew that she had to answer a question. She wasn’t sure whether it was a question she was asking herself, or whether it was being asked of her. But she knew she was at a crossroad, and that it was a question that asked her who she was, and who she wanted to be. She knew she had to answer the question, “What are you looking for?”

And the answer welled up inside her with an excitement that 2000 years had done nothing to diminish: “I am looking for the Lord. The messiah. I am looking for, and have found, the One that I should follow.” Then she said out loud. “I want to follow Jesus.”

What are you looking for? …. What do you want?

In 2000 years, the question has never changed.
Jesus is asking.
And waiting, for your answer.

In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.