+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +
Text: John 1:29
Theme: The Lamb of God
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
God accompanies us through the volatilities of life. Yet the necessity of faith remains.
The significance of some things can only been seen in hindsight. Predictableness in life will always be elusive. God plans for us wonderful surprises. “We have found the Messiah,”1 said Andrew to Simon Peter. It was a magnificent find; an unparalleled discovery. Of course it wasn’t really the result any exhaustive search on their part. The advent of Christ in historical time revealed them as chosen witnesses. The grace of God is always more fully appreciated in retrospect.
Epiphany continues today with a transfer of disciples from the baptizer to the Redeemer. John will now diminish and Christ will increase. Epiphany is about radiating, unveiling, and illuminating Christ in and to the world. It spotlights the unveiling of Christ’s holiness for humanity. His holiness is revealed not as a motionless quality of divinity to be adored, but as the dynamic and transforming presence of the Son of God in the world. Christ is the lover of humanity. He doesn’t sit statically on our altars demanding gifts to pacify Him. He lives and works and moves among us. Wherever and whenever the Holy Spirit convicts and crucifies, revives and vivifies through the Holy Scriptures- Christ is active.
At the peak of his ministry, John the Baptist now utters his most momentous words, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”2 With these words the Messiah prepares for His journey to the altar of the cross where His blood was shed. With these words we prepare- as Christians have done for centuries- to approach His holy altar where that blood is received. And in our reception we have the benefit of hindsight. We receive in actuality what John could only speak of prophetically. We receive the medicine of immortality; the antidote for sin’s poison.
How did people receive the Lamb of God as He walked along the Jordan? The appearance of Christ in the flesh challenged people to immediately consider how they saw their status with God and assess their priorities in life. How do you go about assessing the value of your life? What are your criteria for significance? Which things are indispensable? Do these resonate with what God decrees as essential? Are you living in the world in such a way, that in the end you concede death its victory, as long as you can savor your bit of glory? Do we want our headstones to glorify our achievements so that our legacies might be remembered? Or do we daily die to the fleeting indulgences of the world knowing that in the end we will be crowned with life? Tombstones mark the places of the dead not the achievements of the living.
The more you delight in your indulgences; the more you cherish your materialism; the more you seek solace in your successes; the further you stray from the sacrificial life to which you are called and the more irrelevant is your witness to the world. Now God certainly wants us to enjoy the fruit of labour and glorify Him in gratitude. But a graciously received gift is not the same as a selfishly prized idol. The lips are a long way from the heart. They often deliver praises the heart has not conceived.
God is not a passive companion. He changes us; sometimes in preparation, sometimes in chastisement, sometimes out of pure compassion. Could Peter and Andrew have envisioned how radically their lives would be changed? Could John the Baptist foresee his gruesome demise? Life is full of vexing and inconvenient questions? We must learn to live with uncertainty. Sin limits our capacity to understand. It doesn’t do justice to this problem to simply say God or Jesus has or is the answer. Of course! But such attempts are trite and patronizing. They do not well serve the body of believers in their life-long journey of appreciating the mystery of divine revelation in Christ.
We learn to grapple with questions biblically. Pilate said, “Behold, the man!”3 John said, “Behold the Lamb!”4 Pilate asked, “What is truth?”5 Jesus said, “I am the truth.”6 Satan queried, “Did God really say?”7 The Spirit replies, “The Word of our God stands forever.”8Sometimes Jesus answered questions with another question9. In doing so He moved the formulator from a position of control to an encounter with truth.
You see, we only hope to get all the answers we want when we formulate the questions. We tend to construct the questions so that God is seen to be agreeing with what we’ve already determined to be best for us. Doesn’t God always want me to be healthy, gratified, and free from struggle? Yet that is precisely what we’re not allowed to do. How often have you asked the question, “What does God want me to learn from this hardship?” Or, “What can I sacrifice to help those more vulnerable than myself?” Pilate’s question about truth is not simply cynical; it is irreverent. It is dismissive of the idea that there is an ultimate truth to be known, engaged, or believed.
By all means, use the Bible as the answer-book for your questions (the catechism is certainly a distillation composed with this mindset), but better still feed on it like you do wholesome food and breathe it like you do fresh air- lest the forgiveness of sins and your relationship with the Lamb diminish to minor importance. If we do not breathe the air of His absolution we will suffocate.
Dear friends, the greatest import of Christ’s epiphany is our altered relationship with the Father. Faith puts us in a most blessed position. By faith we live in forgiveness not under legality. The law is not inoperative; it is fulfilled. The law continues to convict us and guide us but it promises no hope of reparation. Christ alone accomplishes that. The Holy Spirit lives and moves within and among us. Of what good is the command when the desire to do what is commanded is already present? What need is there to command the famished person to eat? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,”10 says the Saviour. What need is there to demand that the eager lover cherish the beloved? “We love because He first loved us,”11 says the apostle. The law commands the defiant not the willing; it convicts the recalcitrant not those who yearn to be forgiven.
Each day you stand at the coalface. You may not be bubbling over with enthusiasm for the kingdom at every moment, but the believer nevertheless desires God’s mercy and seeks His will even in the midst of the greatest temptations. You are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. You embody a confession of truth. You are clothed with a blood-bought decorum. The Saviour designates you to be of inestimable worth.
Some things are costly because nobody likes to do them. Underground coal mining isn’t high on many job seekers lists. Other things are costly because few are capable of doing them.
Brain surgery isn’t for those with average skills. The disciples of Jesus would pay the greatest price. Their lives would be forfeited for the sake of the gospel. Yet only Christ is matchless in His domain. No one else was capable of bearing the sins of the world. Only His life was precious enough to recompense the debt of the human race. He doesn’t relieve us of all volatility but He does accompany us with integrity. His crucifixion shattered the power of evil. His resurrection secures the vigor of life. He is both the slain Lamb and the Shepherd and you are His flock. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
1 John 1:41 2 John 1:29 3 John 19:5
4 John 1:29 5 John 18:38 6 See John 14:6
7 Genesis 3:1 8 Isaiah 40:8 9 See Mark 11:27-33
10 Matthew 5:6 11 1 John 4:19
Second Sunday After Epiphany
19 January 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt