The First Testimony
Grace United Methodist Church
January 16, 2011
John 1: 29-42 (NIV)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
What do people seek when they follow Jesus? Why do you follow Jesus? Such questions matter for us. If we can’t answer these questions for ourselves, then it seems as if our faith is empty. But our answer to such questions matters for other people too. According to John’s gospel, and the reading we heard just a few moments ago, Jesus’ first disciples followed him because John the Baptist was sharing with them all that made Jesus worth following. John the Baptist recognized in Jesus something so amazing and powerful that he could do nothing less than to encourage others to seek him and to follow him. And when we are willing to talk about why we seek Jesus and why we follow Jesus, it is certain to make a difference in the lives of others as well.
Part of being a Christian is recognizing that we are called to model our lives after the example of Jesus Christ: to live as Christ lived, to heal as Christ healed, to minister and serve, and to love as Christ loved. So much of the Christian journey focuses on seeking God’s guidance through prayer, study, and worship, as we strive to be more and more like Christ. We undertake this challenge knowing that being the weak human beings that we are, we will never achieve all that Christ achieved, but knowing also that this is no less than what God desires for each of us. But this passage from John puts before us another important aspect of Christian discipleship, and that is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others.
Perhaps some of you remember the “What Would Jesus Do?” campaign that was all the rage a decade or so ago. The easily recognizable “WWJD” was displayed on everything from t-shirts to mugs to bracelets. The idea was that by having these bracelets or other reminders nearby, one would always think in every situation to consider what Jesus would do in that same situation, and then to act accordingly. I had a “WWJD” bracelet that I wore for several months during that time, and I’m sure many of you did as well. It was a great campaign, indeed, but such a campaign also presented its problems.
A colleague of mine tells a story of a conversation he had with a high schooler at the height of the “What Would Jesus Do?” campaign. This young woman had been given a “WWJD” bracelet, and while she was wearing it, she was also somewhat troubled by it. After youth group one night, the high school girl shared with my colleague that she was struggling with the concept of the bracelet. The pastor tried to explain to the girl that the bracelet is supposed to be a tangible reminder that we are followers of Jesus and that we are to be guided by his actions in every facet of our lives. She responded that she clearly understood all that. Her problem was that she did not see how it was possible for us even to know what Jesus would actually do in any situation, let alone to do it faithfully! The pastor tried to explain that we have the Bible and the wider community of believers to help us. But the girl’s response was an exasperated, “Yeah, but don’t you see? I am not Jesus! I am fully human, but I am not fully divine. I just don’t think it’s fair to even assume that I could imagine what Jesus would do because I am not God!” She had a point!
While we can and should spend our whole lives trying to be Christ to the world, the simple fact of that matter is that we will never be able to do what Christ did. BUT, we can do what John the Baptist did. We can share the story of Jesus Christ with others. We can talk about all that makes Jesus worth following. We can share our testimony of Christ with everyone we meet! There is no limit to that!
The passage we heard from John’s gospel this morning records the first personal testimony about Jesus Christ. And it begins with a very simple word, “Look!” Twice, John the Baptist is standing among his disciples, perhaps teaching them, or maybe just chatting and laughing. But when he notices Jesus not too far off, he interrupts everything, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Look, the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit! Look, this is God’s chosen one!” All John did was point to Christ and tell his story, why Christ is worth following. It was enough to make a couple of people curious, and so they followed Jesus and spent some time with him. One of those people was Andrew, who after hearing John’s testimony and spending some time with Jesus, went to find his brother, Simon. Andrew says simply and matter of factly, “We have found the Messiah.” And then, the gospel tells us, Andrew took Simon to Jesus and the transformation that can come only through the saving love of Christ began. “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.” The Rock. Christ says to this man, in essence, through me you will have strength and power; through me you will be sure and strong. And all it took was a personal testimony that introduced these people to the God of grace and love. We don’t have to be the ones to save; only Jesus can do that. But we are the only ones who can testify about Christ’s saving love, and if we do that, we can be assured that Christ will work in their lives, just as Christ has worked in our lives.
Everywhere are people looking for something to believe in and hold on to, something important enough to live for, and something big enough to claim their passions. People are looking for challenge and purpose. I think we all know the feeling, perhaps we are there even now. But isn’t that why we follow Christ? Because in Christ is our fulfillment; our life, our purpose, our hope! And if we, like John the Baptist and Andrew, can just be bold enough to say, “Look!” to all those people who are seeking, then God in Christ Jesus will take care of the rest!
The name of John the Baptist is widely known. He holds a prominent role in Jesus’ early ministry. Andrew is not so well known, though a disciple, he is rarely mentioned. But these two men have something in common; they both pointed others to Christ. And that holds significance for us. Andrew could be dubbed the ordinary apostle. He didn’t have any spectacular gifts and he wasn’t a great leader like his brother; but what he had, he used. His greatest gift was to invite folks to come and see this Jesus. Andrew realized that he didn’t have the burden of changing people; all he had to do was bring them to Jesus. That is our calling, too, to enthusiastically invite people to “come and see” who this Jesus might be. Even if it’s just one person at a time.
Years ago, I heard a story about a preacher who went to a small town to preach a series of gospel sermons. His attempt was to evangelize that little town. He preached for two weeks. During the whole time, only one little girl responded to the invitation at the end of one of his sermons. She confessed Christ, was baptized, and turned out to be the only convert during the entire meeting. The preacher judged the meeting a failure, and for years, bemoaned the great effort he had made for such little result. However, he did not have the right view of things. That little girl grew up to be a strong, faithful Christian woman. She married a Christian man, and together they produced several children, all of whom became preachers of the gospel. Those children pointed thousands of unbelievers to Christ.
Do you really think that preacher’s effort was a failure? Obviously, thousands of people were impacted by his work, but it began with only one. Sometimes, even a seemingly insignificant effort on our part turns out to be far greater than we think. All it takes is one at a time.
We do it for our favorite brand names and products, our favorite vacation spots or restaurants. Among some of my friends, I am known for my love of Chacos. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Chaco is a brand of sandals. I currently am the proud owner of three pairs of Chacos, and there’s not a day in the summer that I do not wear them. I LOVE Chacos. And I tell everyone I meet about how great they are. One time I had a friend ask me if I was working for Chaco because I wear them and talk about how great they are all the time. Well, unfortunately, I am not endorsed or sponsored by Chaco, though that would be pretty awesome. But I am always more than happy to share with others how great and wonderful they are.
We have no problems inviting others to try our favorite brands or to share a meal at our favorite restaurant, and the same should be true when it comes to Christ! Any of us can do it! We should tell others why we follow this Christ. We should always be more than excited to share with others the great news of this wonderful and amazing Savior. We should always enthusiastically invite others to encounter him through worship or study or even our personal testimony. We should ever point out to all around us Christ in our midst. “Look!” we should say, “here is what you are looking for! Here is meaning, purpose, grace and hope. Here is love! Look!”
God is alive. God is in our midst. And God in Christ Jesus is calling out to everyone, “Come and see!”