Seward United Methodist Church
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
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Who Is Jesus?

John 1:29-42

 John sees Jesus coming and proclaims:  “This is the one I was talking when I said, ‘A man who comes after me is greater than I.’”  What’s interesting in that sentence is the phrase “comes after.”  It can just be referring to time.  Jesus is six months younger than John.  His ministry began after John’s ministry began.  

 But there is another meaning to the phrase “comes after.”  It was also used to describe a rabbi and disciple relationship.  A disciple comes after a rabbi.  If that’s the case here, then it means that Jesus followed John for a time.  That’s an intriguing possibility.  Jesus was a disciple of John, at least up until the appointed time, the moment when his identity was revealed.

 John says, “I didn’t know he was the one.”  John knew Jesus.  They were related somehow.  Some Bible scholars think they were cousins, but John’s mother Elizabeth was much older than Mary, so if they were cousins, they weren’t first cousins.  But somehow, they were related.  And certainly if Jesus followed John for a time, then John knew he was.  He just didn’t know who Jesus really was.  

 As Jesus was being baptized, John saw the sign of the Messiah.  He saw the Holy Spirit descending from heaven, like a dove, and coming to rest on Jesus.  The Spirit is God.  The Spirit gives life, brings truth, and empowers God’s people to serve him.  That Spirit came on Jesus, rested on him, and remained on him throughout his ministry.  

 When John saw the sign, he testified about Jesus:  “He is the Son of God.”  That’s the whole point of John’s Gospel, to demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God.  Each of the Gospels has its own unique emphasis, and that is John’s emphasis.  In chapter 20, he writes, “These things are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him, you may have life.”  

 Our decision to follow Jesus is always going to be inseparably linked to our decision about who Jesus is.  

 That makes sense.  Why would anyone follow Jesus if he is just an ordinary man?  Why should we follow one human being over another human being?  Certainly some people have better character than others, a greater vision than others, or better ideas than others.  But at the end of the day, we’re all human beings.  We’re not really that

different from each other, even if we like to think we are.  None of is qualitatively different.  We’re all imperfect and flawed.  Why follow one flawed being over another? 

 If Jesus is just another man, why follow him?  If he’s just another man, he may have had some better ideas than other people, but he was still flawed.  On the other hand, if Jesus is the Son of God, divine, holy, different from all others, then it makes sense to follow him.  In fact, we can follow him wholeheartedly if he is the Son of God.  I don’t think we can follow any other human being wholeheartedly.  Our following of any other person is always going to be within limits.  As a Methodist, I’m a follower of John Wesley, a disciple of his ideas, but not completely.  He wasn’t perfect.  He wasn’t right about everything.  He made mistakes.  Only Jesus deserves our absolute loyalty.

 One of the interesting features of John chapter one is how many different titles or descriptions of Jesus there are in it.  

 In verse 29, John describes him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  What does it mean to say Jesus is a lamb?  

 Well, there were the daily sacrificial lambs, described in Exodus 29.  Every single morning and evening a lamb was sacrificed at the Jerusalem Temple for the sins of the nation.  John knew that well; his father was a priest.  

 Or there was the Passover Lamb.  On the night of Passover, each family killed a lamb and spread its blood on the door of their home to protect them from the angel of death.  Part of the ritual of the Passover Lamb is that its bones were not broken.  And in John’s Gospel, describing Jesus’ death on the cross, John uses those same words, “Not one of his bones was broken.”  

 Or there was the Lamb of Isaiah’s prophecy.  Isaiah spoke of God’s servant being led like a lamb, silently, to slaughter.  

 And finally, the Jewish people used the image of a horned lamb as a picture of God’s conquering champion.  That’s the picture we see in John’s Revelation, a horned lamb who has conquered by his own death.  

 Next John describes Jesus as “the one who is greater than I am, for he existed long before I did.”  The Son of God is eternal.  Jesus the man may have been born at a certain time and place, but the Son of God has always been.

 He is “the one on whom the Holy Spirit descended and rested.”  He is full of the Spirit.  He brings truth to human beings.  He is empowered by the Spirit.  He gives life.

 “He is the Son of God.”

 In verse 41, Andrew calls him “the Messiah” which means Christ.  The Hebrew word Messiah and the Greek word CHRISTOS both have the same meaning.  Both mean “anointed one,” the one chosen by God.

 We didn’t read this far, but in verse 45, Jesus is called “the one whom Moses and the prophets wrote about.”  In other words, Jesus is the promised one to come in the Old Testament, the fulfillment of prophecy.

 And in verse 49, he is called Rabbi, teacher, and “the King of Israel.”  

 Why are there so many different descriptions of Jesus?  I think the answer is because each person is looking for something a little different in the Messiah.  For example, Nathanael is “under the fig tree” when he hears about Jesus.  Now “under the fig tree” could mean that he was sitting under a fig tree.  But the phrase also referred to studying the Scriptures.  So to him, Jesus is rabbi, teacher, the one to open his mind to the ways of God. 

 We are each searching for God in some way.  Some people want peace, a sense of wholeness in their lives.  Others want a sense of purpose.  Others want to know the truth.  Still others want forgiveness for their faults and failures.  And the list goes on.  In each case, the person is seeking for God, and Jesus meets each of those needs.  Whatever we truly need from God, we find it in Jesus.  Not necessarily what we want, but what we truly need.

 Perhaps the very best method of evangelism is simply to tell others who Jesus is and who Jesus has been to you, and then invite them to meet him for themselves.  I think that’s basically what we see in this passage.

 John was looking for the one to come who would be greater than him, who could fulfill the promises that he could only announce and look forward to.  Once he realized it was Jesus, he sent his own followers to go after another rabbi.  That was a very unusual thing to do.  It required great humility.  Our natural tendency is always to point others to ourselves, not to Jesus.  

 Those two go and follow Jesus.  He says to them, “What do you want?”  It’s a good question, because people were seeking different things in first century Judea.  Some wanted a conquering warrior Messiah who would drive away their enemies.  Some wanted political and social revolution.  Some wanted ritual.  Others wanted precision, to know exactly what God expected in every conceivable situation.  

 They answer, “Where are you staying?”  Asking indirect questions was the polite thing to do.  Basically, they’re saying, “We want to stay with you, to hear you out, to know what you’re all about.”  

 And Jesus says, “Come and see.”  That’s his invitation to all of us.  Come and see who he is, what he offers, what he desires of us.  

 They’re satisfied.  The next morning, one of them, Andrew (by the way, the unnamed disciple is probably John, the writer of the Gospel) goes and finds his brother Simon.  If we find something good in Jesus, then we should share him with those we love.  

 Jesus says to Simon, “You will be called Cephas,” which is Petros, Peter, in Greek.  Some think Jesus is changing his name, but I’m not sure.  More likely, his name is Simon Peter, but he goes by Peter, or Cephas, in Hebrew circles.  But it does remind us how sometimes God changes a person’s name to show the change in their life.  

 But there’s plenty about Peter in the Gospels, isn’t there?  I think Andrew deserves some props.  Andrew was a good evangelist.  Every time you run into Andrew in John’s Gospel, it seems he is bringing people to Jesus.  Here it’s his brother.  Later it’s a little boy with five loaves and two fishes.  Later yet, it’s some Greeks who want to know about him.  

 Andrew drew his own conclusion about Jesus:  “We have found the Messiah.”  But more than anything, he brought people to Jesus so they could come to a conclusion themselves.  “Come and see.”  

 Evangelism doesn’t have to be intimidating.  What has Jesus done for you?  What has he been in your life?  Who is he?  Who is he to you?  Can you share that with others?  If the answer is yes, then you can be an evangelist.  

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