Come and See
Girdwood Chapel Sermon, 15 January 2017
“Come and See”
Isaiah 49: 1-7
Psalm 40: 1-11
1 Corinthians 1: 1-9
John 1: 29-42
The first recruiting station I ever walked into was a small Army Recruiter just outside the small town where our college was. I was graduating from college in a matter of months and did not have much of a plan of where to go from where I was. I was met with an outreached hand and a broad smile, welcomed with a cup of coffee, and asked to sit and chat with the man wearing a crisp and impressive uniform. Colorful ribbons covered his chest and gold buttons stood out on his dark green blazer. For the next 30 minutes or so, he described the benefits of joining the Army and the prestige that being a member of such a select and unified group of people would bring me for the rest of my life. Then, he told me to sign on the dotted line. Upon signing, I would need to take a quick test and then they could schedule my in processing and basic training within weeks. He encouraged me that I would be well on my way to being part of the nation’s finest before I walked out the door. I glanced around the room and saw posters that seemingly screamed at me to sign on the line and I glanced at the other Army soldiers in the room, and was met with reassuring smiles. I picked up the pen and went to sign the paper, but I noticed a single word that gave me pause. I had walked in asking to be an officer trainee and the paper stated I was enrolling in the enlisted corps. I pointed out the error, and immediately, the climate of the room changed. My comfort was no longer important. What had been one of the longest and most energetic pep talks of my life turned into a guilt trip extraordinaire. My love of country and desire to do what was right was questioned and the smiles that had been demonstrated around the room turned into pursed lips and shaking heads. But, still, I knew that what was being offered was not what I walked in attending to sign up for.
Preparing the Way:
The scripture of John this morning provides an answer to one of the often asked questions of Christianity. Why did John the Baptizer baptize? Most often we hear that well, “he was preparing the way.” But, here, in this passage we hear the answer from John himself, “I came baptizing with water so that He might be made known to Israel.” (verse 32) John’s mission in baptism is to clear the hearts and minds of Israel so they may be prepared to see the revealed Messiah when the time comes. The act of baptism with water is not the act of anointing we experience today, it is an act of repentance, it is act of cleansing. By allowing oneself to be baptized by John, one is saying that I have sinned and through that sin I have been separated from God, so far separated, that I would likely not notice the Messiah that stands in our midst.
But, there is something interesting here, something revealing about John for he states twice that, “Even I didn’t recognize Him.” The same John that has been preparing the way for others, baptizing them with the waters of repentance, and allowing eyes to be open to the coming of the Lord, doesn’t see the whole revelation of who Jesus is without help. The help comes from God in the form of the dove. Now, John declares with certainty, “This one is God’s son”. John’s disciples, his recruits, now see clearly the promise of a new life in front of them.
Jesus’ Unorthodox Recruiting Methods
John preached for days on end in the wilderness. Throngs of people came out to see him and listen to his message. I wonder just how many times someone had to listen to him before they agreed to be baptized? I am sure some entered the water right away, while others waited, listened, debated with friends, and somewhat tentatively allowed themselves to receive the blessing. Others, I am sure, never came around to that side of thinking. Nonetheless, John worked hard everyday to get people to understand that life was going to change and that God’s covenant was going to be demonstrated in a new and glorious way. Recruitment was an important and, I would imagine, difficult business for John.
But, I want you to look at what happens here, Jesus’ whole recruitment package for the disciples is in verses 36 and 37, “When he saw Jesus walking along he said, ‘Look! The Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard what he said, and they followed Jesus.” You know, whenever I read these passages concerning the initial recruitment of the disciples I think to myself that Jesus must have had this magnetism, or this glow or presence, where you just knew something was special and inexplicable or unduplicatable about him. Something that would draw someone in without words or actions, a personal quality. I tend to always think that it must have been his eyes.
Several years ago, I saw this painting. It was in one of my textbooks and I could not take my eyes off of it. I thought, while it seemed so stylized, it also drew me in and brought me peace in some way. I read the story associated with the painting and I was taken back by what I read. A young girl, a child of Atheist parents, named Akiane, began having visions from God about what to paint. When she was only 9 years old she painted this image we see in front of us today. I was amazed that such a young girl, who did not know the story of the Gospel, could not only paint a beautiful portrait of Jesus, but that it could also be so captivating. Very soon, after I saw the painting, Alicia was reading me a book on a car trip as she often does. The name of the book was, “Heaven is for Real”, and it is a story about a young boy who states he spends time in heaven during a serious medical emergency. There is actually a movie about the book now. But, at the end of the book, Alicia read to me a story of how the boy would look at pictures of Jesus and claim that what he saw did not look like Jesus. Then, he was shown this picture by Akiane and he stated, “At last someone finally got one right.”
So, imagine this man, walking the shoreline and being told that this is him. This is the Lamb of God. This is the one I have been telling you about this is the one who changes everything. This is the one who provides salvation. This is the Son of God. Jesus only needs to utter three words in this version of the recruitment of the disciples, “Come and see.”
When we think of our own lives we can be in so many different places with God and with knowing Christ. We can be listening to John on the edges of a rushing river, wondering if we need to prepare ourselves to know Christ through our repentance of sins and the accepting of our shortcomings. Perhaps, we are arising from the waters of repentance eagerly awaiting a relationship with Christ, but not yet knowing Him. There is also the chance that we are standing high on a vantage point looking down with John as he points out our Savior walking by, captivating us with his presence. Then there is the glorious place to be, where Christ turns to us and says, “Come and see.”
We are the disciples, we are the servants, we are the recruits.
My trip to the Army recruiting station all of those years ago was very different than the way Jesus recruited His disciples. In fairness, I walked into the recruiting station desiring something. I wanted something specific and I wanted to be on a positive end of the deal. I was willing to concede some things, like time and safety, as long as I had certain opportunities available. The recruiters, on the other hand, knew the specific needs of the organization they served. It was their job to convince me that I would best serve the Army in a specific manner consistent with the needs of the larger organization. Their concern was not necessarily for my individual wants or needs, but for the purpose of the overall mission of the United States Army. Not feeling that my needs were met, I stood, pushed in my chair, thanked them for their time, and walked from the building.
Jesus, however, did not have to go through these deliberations with his disciples. For upon being in His presence the disciples realized an amazing and wonderful thing. Just like Isaiah states, they were honored in the Lord’s eyes, their strength was found in God, and the completeness of their destiny was fulfilled because even in the womb they had been formed to serve God. The opportunity that Jesus provided was the completeness of who they were created to be. No recruitment was necessary.
I stand in front of you today from the glorious vantage point and looking out and seeing Jesus among us. I see him in our smiles, in our tears, in our celebrations, and in our struggles. I see him in our children and I am see him in each of you. Christ is walking in plain view of you every moment of every day, slowly and patiently, waiting for you to take notice. Open your eyes to this presence and approach Christ in your prayers. Ask Him what He has in store for you, and I am sure you will get glorious chills when He responds, “Come and see.”