Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (A)
January 20, 2008
Text: John 1:29-42a

“What are you seeking?” (John 1:38; ESV), Jesus asks John’s disciples who are following Him. John had pointed them to Jesus declaring, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (v. 36). “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (v. 29). The disciples follow Jesus because they are seeking the one, perfect, all-availing sacrifice for sin. They are sinners, and they know it. They came to John the Baptist in the wilderness confessing their sins and being baptized in the Jordan River. Now the prophet John has pointed them to the one and only source of forgiveness, the Lamb of God to which all the sacrificial lambs and all the other sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed. John points his own disciples away from himself to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Two of John’s disciples, including the soon-to-be apostle Andrew, follow Jesus seeking satisfaction for their greatest need: the forgiveness of sins.

So, dear Christian, what are you seeking? What have you come to this church building to see? For what kind of Savior are you pining? Are you perhaps seeking a designer Jesus, a custom built Messiah? Are you seeking a nice Jesus who fits in a nice box of your own creation? Are you seeking a Jesus who makes you feel good about yourself? Are you seeking a Jesus who satisfies your felt needs? Are you seeking a Jesus who makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Are you seeking a Jesus who not only accepts you just as you are, but affirms you for who you are? And why did you come here this morning? Are you here because this is where your friends congregate? Are you here because going to church is what respectable people do, where they come to see and be seen? Are you here to be entertained? Repent. If you came for any of these reasons, if you seek any of these Jesuses, you have come to the wrong place and you are seeking an idol. Jesus is none of these things, and the Church, which is His body, is none of these things. But dear Christian, if you are seeking a Savior from sin, along with His gifts, including the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, peace with God, and the grace and blessings of Almighty God, you’ve come to the right place, seeking the right Savior. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. There is no other Savior here. This building exists for no other purpose than to proclaim this Jesus and distribute His gifts. John points you to Him this morning. Likewise Andrew and the other disciples. And if any preacher, be he prophet, apostle, Christian pastor, televangelist, or even an angel from heaven, proclaims a different Gospel or a different Jesus, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9).

Andrew and his companion were seeking the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John had faithfully pointed them to that blessed sacrificial Lamb. “What are you seeking?” Jesus asks them. “‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see’” (vv. 38-39). The disciples followed Him to His dwelling and stayed with Him all that day, undoubtedly transfixed by His every word as He taught them. As they heard His Word, they knew this could only be the long awaited Messiah. The Holy Spirit brought them to faith. And they then pointed others to the Lamb. Andrew found his brother, Simon Peter, and declared, “‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ)” (John 1:41). He then brought him to Jesus (v. 42). And so the Kingdom of God has spread throughout the world. Those who come to know Jesus by faith proclaim Him to others, and bring these others to a place where they, too, can meet Jesus, and see Him for themselves. They bring them to the Holy Church.

A great deal of time and money is being spent on evangelism these days. Some programs and movements authored by church bureaucrats are better than others, and at least they recognize the importance of the Church’s task of confessing Christ to a world lost in sin and death. And hopefully they recognize that there is only one paradigm left by our Lord for doing such evangelism, that recorded in Matthew, the 28th Chapter, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (vv. 19-20; emphasis added). But the reality is that real evangelism doesn’t require a program or a movement, as helpful as these things may or may not be. Real evangelism requires the disciples of Jesus, you and me and our brothers and sisters throughout the world, to point those we know and those with whom we come into contact to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ. And then bring them to the place where they can meet Him for themselves… the Church! Invite people to church. It’s really that simple. This is where they will meet Jesus. Do as Andrew did for his brother Peter. Bring them to Jesus, here in the midst of Jesus’ body, the Church, where Jesus will speak to them through His Word, and, God-willing, bring them to the saving waters of Holy Baptism, instruction in Christian doctrine, and the blessed Supper of our Lord’s own body and blood.

But of course, when the Church confesses Christ to the community and to the world, she must be clear about who this Christ is. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. There is no other Christ. There is no other Savior. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). That means we must be faithful to His Word in our proclamation of Him. We must not resort to gimmicks. We must not allow the world to set our agenda or determine our practice. We must not cater to felt needs. Jesus does not come to us on our terms or on the terms of those we bring to Him. He comes to us on His own terms. So you see how misguided and sinful it is to pander to the base desires of those who only want their itching ears scratched, or to pander to our own base desires when we don’t like what the Word of God says. It is so tempting sometimes to compromise God-pleasing doctrine and practice for the sake of bolstering church attendance and the bottom line of the Sunday offering. We could fill these pews to overflow if we were willing to compromise the Word of God. But if we do so, we do so to our own eternal peril, and the eternal peril of those brought into the building by our lies, but never brought into the one, holy, Christian, and apostolic Church.

We must always be clear about which Jesus, which Savior we confess and proclaim here. We confess and proclaim the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and no one else. There is no other Savior. There is no other proclamation from this pulpit. Itching ears must never be scratched here. The Church is a hospital for sinners. It is where the medicine of immortality is distributed through the means of grace. It is a place for sinners to be slaughtered by the Law and resurrected by the Gospel. It is the place for mortification of the flesh and new life in Christ. This is the place for an encounter with Jesus, personally, in the flesh, by means of Word and Sacrament, in order to receive real forgiveness for real sins. What are you seeking? What kind of Savior do you desire? Because you will only find one Savior here. You will only find one Jesus here. He is a friend, but He is not a buddy. He is a counselor, but He is not a psychologist or psychiatrist. He is meek, but He doesn’t wink at sin. He is the Jesus who calls upon you to repent of your sins and believe the Good News of forgiveness and life in Him.

And that is why we do evangelism. We do evangelism to faithfully point sinners to the only Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That is also why we give money to support missions here and abroad, so that missionaries in other places can faithfully point sinners to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We don’t do evangelism and missions for any other reason. We don’t do evangelism and missions for the sake of the offering plate, even though we sometimes sinfully talk and think as if we do. We don’t do evangelism and missions to promote ourselves. Rather, like John the Baptist, we point those who hear us away from ourselves to Jesus. We are interested only in the command of the Lord of the Church: making disciples of all nations for Him by baptizing and teaching, bringing sinners to Jesus so that their sins can be forgiven, that they might know Him for themselves and believe in Him, and believing, have eternal life.

But again, what about you? What are you seeking? Why are you here this morning? You may not know it, but you are here this morning because the Holy Spirit, in His grace, brought you here for an encounter with His Holy Word, the Word concerning Jesus. Regardless of the earthly circumstances that may appear as though they brought you here this morning, it is really the Holy Spirit who brought you here, to kill you by His Law and raise you to life by the Gospel of Christ. He brought you here to expose your sin and eradicate it with the blood of Christ. He brought you here so that you could meet Christ for yourself, as you meet Him every time you hear His Word and receive His Supper. Regardless of the Jesus you think you want, the Holy Spirit brought you here for the real thing: the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice, that takes away your sin. And the Holy Spirit also works within you by His Word, so that you desire and trust no other Jesus. May He ever keep you in His Word and faith. All thanks and praise be to God. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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