Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42
God’s Self-Revelation to the World in His Son Jesus Christ
John the Baptist, Witness to Jesus Christ
The Lamb of God
If you had to describe Jesus to someone, how would you describe him?
What color is his hair? How tall is he? Does he have a beard or a mustache? How long is his hair? Is he thin or robust? Is he muscular? What color are his eyes? What color is his skin? Does Jesus have dimples? What is his laugh like? What does his voice sound like?
If you had to pick an actor to play Jesus in a movie, who would you pick?
What politician reminds you of Jesus?
What sport do you think Jesus would play?
Do you like Jesus? Why or why not?
What kind of a car would Jesus drive?
If you had to pick an animal to represent Jesus, what would you pick?
John the Baptist is a witness to Jesus. John says he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah until he saw the spirit of God descend on Jesus and remain on Jesus. The Gospel of John does not tell us that John the Baptist baptized Jesus. We know that from Matthew’s Gospel story that we read last week. When Jesus came up out of the waters of the River Jordan, the heavens split open and the spirit of God descended like a dove and a voice from heaven said this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. In today’s reading from John, John the Baptist says that God had told him that whoever the Spirit came upon and remained would be the Messiah. John the Baptist now sees his job as to point Jesus out to people as the Messiah. John the Baptist even tells his own disciples that Jesus is the Messiah so that they turn from following John to following Jesus.
Twice in today’s reading John calls Jesus the Lamb of God. Already from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry we have the foreshadowing of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. John even has Jesus killed on the day before the Passover when the Passover lambs would have been slaughtered. You remember the story from the Old Testament when Moses was trying to get Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people leave Egypt, the Hebrew people were told to put the blood of a lamb on their door frame so that the angel of death would pass over their home without killing the first born of that house. They were to eat the flesh of this lamb so that they would be strengthened for their journey out of Egypt into the desert. This image of a lamb also reminds us of the Suffering Servant from Isaiah who is like a lamb being taken to be slaughtered without bleating or struggling.
We know that Jesus’ ministry will end with his crucifixion in Jerusalem, but we don’t necessarily like the image of Jesus as the suffering servant or the innocent lamb being lead to be slaughtered. Jesus’ own disciples struggled with this image of Jesus. They wanted a strong warrior who would stand up to the Romans and free the Jewish people from their rule. This is certainly a frequent image of God in the Old Testament. Peter rebuked Jesus for talking about being arrested and executed. Judas tried to force Jesus hand by betraying him to the religious leaders. Many people today continue to want the image of a buff, beefcake Jesus, you know, an attractive male with well-developed muscles, a Vin Diesel or an Arnold Schwarzenegger. Over the centuries people have struggled with the idea of the Son of God hanging dead from a cross, the image of a tortured emaciated savior. This year we are going to continue to struggle with who Jesus is and why he is important to us. The images we have of Jesus help us define who Jesus is for us. I encourage you to continue to think about the image or symbol you hold to represent Jesus, to struggle with who Jesus is for you. Amen.