To read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below.
Sermon based on John 1:29-42
Our lesson from the gospel of John is one of several reports of the testimony of John the Baptist about the role of Jesus Christ. John had been given the task of preparing the way for the Messiah. It had been revealed to him that he would know his task was finished when he saw certain signs. He had now seen those signs. Accordingly, he declares that the Messiah has come: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”With this testimony, John Baptist completed his assigned mission. John the Baptist is among the last of the great prophets of Scripture. He proclaimed the message of God in the face of stubborn resistance. Along the way, he gathered a significant following. Disciples were drawn to him, and now in this passage we see him telling them to follow someone else. From now on, John must, in his words, decrease. And Jesus, God’s Messiah, must increase. John the Baptist in essence, had worked himself out of a job.
As John’s ministry decreased and as he became less significant, we learn how his testimony concerning his relationship with Jesus is an important characteristic in sharing our faith with others. Too often we are less than enthusiastic about sharing our faith. Even for pastors, the use of personal testimony has decreased as an effective means of outreach and evangelism for fear of offending others. One of my hobbies I hope to participate more in this year is golf. I really enjoy the friendships that are created and the fellowship among golfers just as much as I do playing golf. Over the years on the golf course I often would find myself involved in conversations about religion and faith. I remember a playing partner from my days living in Wilmington where our conversations often turned to the subject of faith and forgiveness. Often our conversations turned to some of his struggles to accept God’s forgiveness in his life. This person had served many years in the military as part of the Delta Force and he was struggling with some of the things he was called upon to do while serving in the military. Delta Force is an elite special operations unit of the United States Army. It is used for hostage rescue and counterterrorism, as well as direct action and reconnaissance against high-value targets. On those occasions when he requested that we ride together in the golf cart, I knew that day I was not going to have my best round on the course, but my purpose was to share my faith and be a good sounding board for someone searching for answers about faith.
Sharing some of our own personal experiences and sharing things about our relationship with God can have a dramatic and positive effect upon others. No example represents this best than the one of John the Baptist sharing his encounters about Jesus with his disciples who in turn became disciples of Jesus. One of the first two disciples of John to decide to follow Jesus was Andrew. In verse 39, we learn that Andrew spent the entire day with Jesus. The story of the beginning of Andrew’s life with Jesus is introduced with the pointed question from Jesus, “What do we seek?” That same question I ask today, “What do we seek? Better yet the question, “What do we seek should be changed to, “Whom do we seek?” Some might say that our society and nation must seek God more intentionally. There are many who feel that our culture is being devoured by the power of sin and we must grow closer to God in order to be freed from the power of sin. As Christians, one of the ways we grow closer to God is by becoming closer to His son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We seek Jesus because we do not wish to be overcome by sin. We seek Jesus because we want to be the people God created us to be. We want to be people who are filled with promise and potential. The only way we will ever approach that goal is by, and through, the grace of God. For Christians, the grace of God is most perfectly embodied in Jesus. In the work and person of Jesus, in the sacrificial love of Jesus we can begin to grasp the grace of God as real and present in our lives. As the ultimate expression of God’s grace, Jesus took our sin and the sin of the whole world, and destroyed its power over us in one dynamic act of love, in his sacrifice of himself, on our behalf, upon the cross. When we consider the magnitude of what God is offering through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; it is hard not to wonder why the world is not beating the doors down to join Christian churches in fellowship and worship. God offers us freedom. God offers us peace. God through Jesus offers us salvation. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
For Christians our source of salvation comes through Christ. One of our responsibilities in following Jesus includes the important step of sharing His message of salvation with others. Andrew displayed this step without fanfare, fuss or feathers. It appears that Andrew wasted no time. He had known Jesus for less than a day when he went to his brother Simon Peter and said to him, “We have found the Messiah”. There’s nothing fancy in this straightforward statement of faith. It was a statement of faith that for Andrew was uncomplicated. Although Andrew was the first of Jesus’ disciples to bring someone to the faith, it would be the last time Andrew would ever be first. Through out the rest of the Bible, Andrew was known as “Simon Peter’s brother.” Andrew we see was willing to be second fiddle. He just wanted to bring others to Jesus. The Kingdom of God needs more people like Andrew, quiet, unassuming; people not seeking headlines or recognition for their acts of service. The Kingdom of God needs the kind of people who simply share their faith with others. Another characteristic of Andrew’s testimony that we would do well to incorporate into our own life was that he began this process with those who were familiar with him. He started at home. He went and found his brother.
Often the greatest test of our faith and sharing our faith is in the home among those who know us best. One of my professors in Seminary used to say, “If you can be a Christian at home, you can be a Christian anywhere!” We don’t know how many other people Andrew brought to salvation. But the record on that first one is crystal clear. Simon Peter became one of the dynamos that powered the early church. To truly be a follower of Jesus, to be a real disciple involves actively seeking others and bringing them to know Christ. We are called to bring others into God’s Kingdom. In becoming better evangelists, it will be helpful for us to remember that we are all here by invitation. Each one of us is in the church because of someone else one way or another. Many of us are here as a result of our parents bringing us. Many of us are here however because friends cared enough about us to invite us to a worship service. Many of us are here because we responded to an invitation and found ourselves a church home. Outside at this very moment, there are strangers who need an invitation to come here on Sundays. These people will always remain strangers, until one of us invites them to join us. It’s interesting to note that Andrew is considered to be the first evangelist for Christ’s ministry. He in fact is a patron saint of Scotland and of countless congregations throughout the Episcopal Church. That’s surprising because we know very little about him.
We only know one thing about him for certain, but that one thing brought him to sainthood. We know that when Andrew was called to follow Jesus, he turned aside just long enough to bring one other person along. Somehow, that would seem to be enough. Somehow the act of bringing one other person to the Good News of Jesus Christ and into the Christian community would be as high an honor as any Christian could crave.
During this upcoming week invite someone to join you in worship here next week so they too, can learn of the great love of the Lamb of God!
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
January 15, 2017