When I think about people being called to follow Jesus, my mind is filled with marvelous moments. Fishermen on the sea of Galilee are astounded by a catch of fish. They fished all night and came up with nothing, but now their nets are overflowing. Amid that wonder, they hear the call to follow Jesus. Matthew, collecting taxes at his booth, is suddenly and surprisingly called by Jesus. Out of conversations of commerce he enters the dialog of discipleship. Zacchaeus climbs a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus, but Jesus sees him and asks to enter his home.
These moments are marvelous and miraculous… and that is the problem. They begin to form a pattern in my mind. God will work in wondrous ways to bring people into relationship with Jesus. But the reason this is a problem is my life is not filled with the marvelous but with the mundane. I live in routines. Day after day, I generally encounter the same people in the same places. Rarely does anything momentous happen. So, for me, mission seems distant from my life; it is something happening somewhere else, in more interesting places of the world.
This is what makes the reading from John so frightening and yet so exciting. Notice how Jesus appears. Not in miracles, not in marvels, but in relationships.
John is standing with two of his disciples and Jesus walks by. John says to his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and they move into a relationship with Jesus. Before these two people were disciples of Jesus, they were disciples of John. There was a relationship there. They were listening to him preach and participating in his ministry. Then from John they are led to Jesus.
If you missed the importance of relationship there, you see it again as the story unfolds. Andrew was one of these disciples and the first thing he does is find his brother Simon and bring him to Jesus. The familial and familiar becomes the place where conversations about Jesus happen and, from a relationship with Andrew, Peter is led to a relationship with Jesus.
When mission occurs in marvelous moments, we can live without fear. God will do what God needs to do to bring people into His Kingdom. If God is at work in a person’s life, we will certainly see it. And when we see it, we will know how to respond. We become very reactive in our missional mindset. We will wait until we see God do something extraordinary in a person’s life and then know it is time for us to speak.
When mission occurs not in marvelous moments but in real relationships, however, life becomes both more frightening and more exciting. Any relationship has the potential to bring others to Jesus. Your co-worker, your neighbor across the hall, or your friend from a fitness class, from a relationship with you, God can bring about a relationship with Jesus.
How does this happen? When you share with others what is so meaningful for you. Casual conversations become sites of sacred speech.
In our text, John points to Jesus as the, “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” For years, I have sung those words as I approached the altar to receive the body and blood of Jesus. So, to me, those words draw me closer to Jesus. They proclaim what is happening when Christ comes in His body and blood to take away my sin. They give voice to my heartfelt prayer as I come, a sinner, seeking forgiveness at my Savior’s table.
John the Baptist, however, turns my relationship with these words on its head. Rather than speak these words in the sacred spaces of worship, John uses them out in the world. It would be as if, instead of singing the Agnus Dei as I came to communion, I were to sing it as a I walked away from the Lord’s Table and went out into the world. What would it be like to enter work with that song on my lips? Or to sing the Agnus Dei as I entered the gym to work out with friends?
God’s love for me in Christ is a love which is for the world. It is something He shares through me with others. My relationships with others are sites of His missional mercy. Not because I wait for something marvelous to happen but because God has this way of sharing with others the meaningful work He has done in my life.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching John 1:29-42.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach John 1:29-42.
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Charles Gieschen of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through John 1:29-42.