Epiphany 2 – John 1:29-42a – “What Are You Seeking?” – 1/19/14

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“What are you seeking?” It’s hard to know what to do with a question like that. Where do we begin? The temptation is to create a list. “Let’s see, I’m seeking employment, and financial stability, and a cure for cancer, and attention from my spouse, and appreciation from my children, direction for my life …” Where does a list like that end?

Jesus asked the two men who were following Him, “what are you seeking?” Their response is both comical and sad. “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Really? That’s your interest in me? That’s why you’re following me? “Where am I staying?”

Seems like they don’t know what to do with this question any better than we do. How would you have answered Jesus? Why are you following Him? What do you want from Him? Is it your desire to know where Jesus stays? I don’t think it was theirs either really.

Later, Jesus will make this offer, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Mat. 7:7-8). What are we supposed to do with an offer like that? What should we ‘ask’ for? What are we missing that we should be ‘seeking’? What door are we supposed to be ‘knocking’ on that it may be ‘opened’ to us?”

We’re not at all sure just what to do with an offer like this? And it shows.

How many things do we ‘ask’ God for because we don’t know what we should ‘ask’ for? How much of our life is spent, ‘seeking, seeking, seeking’ and either NEVER ‘finding,’ or ‘finding’ only to discover that what we were ‘seeking’ is a total disappointment and we’re right back to ‘seeking, seeking, seeking’? How many ‘doors’ have we bloodied our knuckles knocking on that either never opened to us, or that did open to us and we did enter in and then the door closed behind us and all we want is for that door to open up again and let us out.

“What are you seeking?” The fact that we’re not at all sure what to do with a question like that tells you something about us doesn’t it? We don’t know what to ‘ask’ for. We don’t know what we’re looking for. We don’t know what ‘doors’ we should be knocking on. We really are lost aren’t we?

We know that we’re hungry for something. But if you ask, ‘what would you like to eat?’ ‘I don’t know. Food, I guess.’ ‘Can you be any more specific than that?’ ‘No, not really.’

We’re ‘seeking’ something, that’s for sure. We know that there is something we’re missing, something lacking, something’s not the way it’s supposed to be. There’s a void, a pain, a regret, a loneliness, a fear, a guilt, a disappointment in us. These things make ‘seekers’ out of all of us. We’re just not sure WHAT we’re looking for, let alone WHERE to find it.

I can still remember the words of one of my professors at seminary who said ‘you can’t preach a great sermon every Sunday.’ And I am well aware that over the course of time, I have proved those words to be true. But this morning, you are going to hear a great sermon. In fact, it may be one of the best sermons you will ever hear. It’s not mine. It’s John the Baptist’s sermon.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” This is one of the finest sermons you will ever hear.

John does what every preacher is supposed to do in every sermon that he preaches. He points his finger at Jesus and says, “Behold Him.” “Look at Him.” “Look at what He does.” He “takes away the sin of the world.”

Whoever believes this is a Christian – whoever does not believe this is not. Whoever believes this has the weight of their sin and all of the guilt and shame attached to it, “taken away from them.” Whoever does not believe this continues to carry his sins himself.

It sounds like a pretty simply sermon doesn’t it? A 13 word sermon. But there is more here than we will ever be able to comprehend let alone appreciate.

Sin is the source of every ‘wrong’ and ‘bad’ and ‘not good’ that there is and has ever been and ever will be. It is the source of every trouble and problem that we have. Every disappointment, every illness, every disease, every pain, every failed friendship, every broken marriage, every unfairness, all loneliness, every death. Sin is the source of it all. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

I’m afraid that all too often, we think too narrowly about the incredible width of this simple sermon. Too often, our view of THE WORLD is no bigger than ‘my little world,’ and ‘my little life.’ We fail to comprehend the width and the depth of this sermon unless we hear it directed, not only to my sin, and the way that my sin has injured me, and the way that my sin has injured others, but to the sin of the WHOLE WORLD.

It may not be “my sin,” and I may not have had a hand in it, but its there, and it causes suffering and sorrow and pain death, and it eats away at the infrastructure of God’s creation. The same sin that affects each and every one of us individually, effects the entire creation.

Sin is the source of every hurricane and earthquake and drought and tsunami. Every famine and epidemic, every riot and war, every child stolen for sex trafficking and every fetus aborted, every act of terrorism and oppression and homelessness and poverty. There is so much that you and I might not ever think of because it may not touch our lives directly or affect us much personally. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Here is something so much bigger than anything we had ever thought to ‘ask’ for, or to ‘seek.’ Here is a door that we never dreamed we should knock on.

We all know the elusiveness of that ‘personal peace’ that I know is given to me when I hear those words that do just what they say, “I forgive YOU all of YOUR sins.” I know that God loves me and that I am forgiven and that MY guilt has been lifted from MY shoulders.

But I still live in the world, and the SIN OF THE WORLD surrounds me and I cannot escape it. And as long as I live in the world, I will be threatened by the SIN OF THE WORLD. And even though it may not be from my hand or because of me, as long as I am aware that there are so many people who are suffering and dying because of the SIN OF THE WORLD, how can I enjoy this peace as I long to? “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin OF THE WORLD.”

He TAKES AWAY your sin and my sin and the sin of every person from the first to the last that causes us to all to suffer and die. But He also TAKES AWAY the sin that corrupts the whole creation, and causes the crust to break and the seas to revolt and the skies to withhold the rain or to rain too much and the land to dry up or be washed away. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin OF THE WORLD.”

What else can this mean but the restoration of the entire world? Every spec of sin rooted out from every nook and cranny of the universe and from human being. Holy and sinless people living in a holy and sinless world. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:3-5)

“What are you seeking?”
Who would have ever imagined that we could dare to seek such a life, such a world, such a Savior as this?

I think that you have to hand to Andrew and the other disciple with him. They didn’t know what to do with this question any more than we do. But after listening to John’s sermon, they knew that whatever it was that they were seeking and searching for, somehow, it was all wrapped up in this man whom they were following.

“Where are you staying?” They just want to be with Jesus. If they are with Him and He is with them, that’s enough. They’re satisfied.

And the gracious reply of Jesus is, “come and you will see.”

“So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.”
It would have been so nice if John, who was probably that other disciple with Andrew, would have told us something about what happened during their visit with Jesus. But he tells us nothing.

But whatever happened, Andrew is so excited, that the first thing he does is to find his brother Simon. “We have found the Messiah.” Andrew didn’t know exactly what it was he was ‘seeking.’ But now, he is quite sure that he found it.

“And he brought Him to Jesus.”
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

“What are you seeking?”

You should know that even though we may not know what to do with a question like this, the Lamb of God does. “Jesus, what are you seeking?” “I am seeking you.”

Like a woman seeking her lost coin and a shepherd seeking his lost sheep and a father seeking his lost son – He is seeking you. From Zachaeus’ dining room table, Jesus declares, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10).

He knows the hole in each of our hearts and He wants to fill it with Himself. He knows that we are hungry and thirsty, and He finds us and says, “Take and eat – this is my body. Take and drink – this is my blood. It takes away the sin of the world.”

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