January 16

Come and See

By The Reverend Donna Frischknecht

First United Presbyterian Church


 

John 1:29-42

 

   There’s a commercial running on TV in honor of the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In it are the words of Dr. King who said that, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Faith is taking the first step…

You know, I bet those two disciples were stepping out in faith when they decided to leave John in order to follow Jesus. They didn’t know anything about Jesus until John pointed out to them as Jesus walked by, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

Behold! Here he is, the Lamb of God. Now this was not some idle comment. This was not some flippant remark or a cute phrase. John was pointing out to his followers that the one whom he said would come after him, the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit, while John simply baptized with water, was walking on by.

Now that title John gives Jesus would have definitely piqued the interest of his two followers that day. Being Jewish, the lamb was in fact a symbol of a great conqueror for them. That might be surprising to us for when we hear “lamb” we think of a cute, cuddly animal. But in between the Old and the New Testaments, there were great struggles in which the Maccabees fought, and the lamb, especially a horned lamb, became the symbol of a conquering champion. So John’s announcement of Jesus would have been very interesting to these two disciples as basically John was saying, “Here he is. The conquering champion of God.” Still, they didn’t have anything else to go upon except for faith in what John was saying and so they took that step and left their current teacher, for THE TEACHER. They had no idea of what would be in store for them by following this Lamb of God. They had no idea what they would be called to do. They had no idea what Jesus would ask of them in order to lead others to him. They had no idea what was ahead of them.

Faith is taking the first step…

Often when we talk about Jesus calling his first disciples it is often just that: Jesus CALLING his first disciples. Yet here you have in John’s gospel the very first disciples not being called, but rather going after Jesus.

It got me thinking of how much these two disciples must have wanted their lives to change that they took the initiative to go to Jesus. They must have really been yearning for words of life, words of love, words of hope. I began thinking of John’s announcement, “Here he is. The Lamb of God,” and how people listened and reached out to Jesus. I began thinking of how many times as a preacher I basically say something similar, “Here is the Lamb of God” and yet how many people really have their curiosities piqued and actively seek Jesus out? How many people are hurting and confused and lonely and who wonder what is going on here on a Sunday morning? How many children are losing their way and walk by the church on Friday afternoon wondering what is going on inside at our after school program? How many times do we have to say to people, “Behold…” only to have them shrug their shoulders and say, “Behold what?”

So John points out to them who Jesus is and lets them go and follow him. The disciples are walking behind Jesus, often a sign of respect for a teacher, when Jesus turns around and asks them, “What are you looking for?”

It might sound a bit rude to our ears, but it was a viable question back in Jesus’ time, as many people were searching for great teachers to follow. Jesus probably wanted to know if they were legalists, looking for answers to all the little details of the law, or were they part of a political group looking for a leader to overthrow the Romans, or were they simply men of prayer looking for God?

What are you looking for? There is a beauty not only in this question for us today but a beauty in the exchange between Jesus and his disciples that we cannot miss.

First, Jesus turned toward them and met them half way and acknowledged them. He made things easier for them to approach him. We have here a wonderful example of divine initiative. You see, when our minds begin to seek and our hearts begin to long, God comes to meet us. When we hear the announcement, “Behold!” and we feel something stirring in us and we begin to seek, God will not make it hard for us. He will reach out to us.

I often wonder how I came to where I am right now. Was it I finding God or God finding me that autumn back in 1998 when I began going back to church? Something sure did happen to me. But what and how? After hearing John’s account of Jesus’ first disciples, I realize now it wasn’t me finding God or God finding me, but the both of us seeking one another out and finally meeting face to face on my road. When you begin to seek, expect to find.

The other beautiful part of this exchange between Jesus and his disciple is the question itself that Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?”

            Well, what are you looking for? Why are you here? What do you expect to get out of getting to know Jesus? What are you hoping for?

            As we would probably do the same, John’s disciples don’t answer Jesus but rather they ask him a question. That is, “Where are you staying?”

            They might have stepped out in faith in leaving John for Jesus, but they, like us today, are only human and before we go any further in this walk of faith we want to know what lies ahead of us.

“Where are you staying?” was really their way of asking, “What kind of life can we expect if we follow you? We need a bit more information before we commit ourselves as your faithful followers.”

Show me. And Jesus says, “Come and see.” Come and see for yourselves. I’m not going to tell you but rather you have to come and see and experience it with me—step by step.

            Faith is taking the first step when you can’t see the whole staircase.  As we know, these disciples followed Jesus and invited others to come and see and we know what their journey was like.

 

Faith is taking the first step…I was thinking more of Dr. King’s words and I began thinking back to the many faith steps he took when he really didn’t see what was ahead of him. Like the disciples in John’s gospel, Dr. King didn’t wait for someone to tap him on the shoulder to follow, rather he took the initiative and followed Jesus in doing one of the hardest things a person could be called to do: to fight an evil in society that ripped a nation apart.

He stepped out in faith armed with the teachings of Christ and we know the trials and the troubles and how it ended in his death. Still he kept taking that step not knowing where it was going to lead.

What would happen in our world today if more of us realized that in order to know Christ better, to build God’s kingdom, we all need to take that first step in faith not fearing where it might lead or what it might ask of us? I wonder what would happen if we truly became followers of Jesus and not just people carrying around the label Christian?

I want to share some of Dr. King’s words that he wrote to the local clergymen while in a Birmingham jail, a letter that clearly expresses his disappointment with those who were supposed to step out in faith.  

 

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

 

I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, but as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.  Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silence.

This letter was written in 1963 to those who called themselves followers of Christ. The sad thing is that this letter could have carried the year 2011 for it still speaks of so many who are afraid of taking that first step in faith to a build a better world.

My friends, “Behold the Lamb of God.” No. Really. BEHOLD HIM that died for YOU. Now go! Take that first step in faith knowing that you are walking in Jesus’ direction and great things are indeed. Go.

 

 

November 24, 2017

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Click here for some pictures from the recent wedding of Pastor Donna to Paul Jackson. More photos will be posted soon.  photo gallery 

 

 

 

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