Emmitsburg Council of Churches


Reflections on The Holy Gospel According to St. John 1:29.42

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." 

And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." 

They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed one; [Christ]). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).

The Gospel of the Lord Jesus, The Teacher and Anointed One of God

Jesus, the Teacher of Truth

Preparing a sermon at this time of the church year is like operating the Hubble space telescope. You can tune it in on any one of a billion objects of light. This is like thinking about different aspects of Jesus that are presented in this lesson. The message can be focused, or it can be blurred , like when they found that the mirrors had not been ground properly on the first attempt at focusing the space telescope (this almost happened to me on beginning to write this sermon, when I realized that I left out verse 42!)

. . . Preaching can be a trial and error endeavor! The important thing is that one examines the whole text through the whole spectrum of possibilities. And like exploring with the space telescope the myriad of stars, galaxies and creative forces at work in space, there can be that moment when something happens; one bright object may come into focus, you might witness a new star being born, you might discover a planetary system coming into being!!

In the sermon today, I have found that it is Jesus as the TEACHER of TRUTH that shines like a bright star in the night sky/morning sky. This is the learning that emerges when you study the verses given for today.

One of the aspects of today's lesson that brings about some cloudiness in the story is the number of persons named John in this text . . . is it St. John the Gospel writer or John the Baptizer? Or is it John the Father of Peter?? Or in some cases is it St. John and John the Baptist equally speaking to us the message about God s love revealed in Christ? Fortunately we don't need to worry about Peter's father clouding up the story, but we do focus on the other two Johns. Let us begin by exploring what John the Baptist means when he says, . . . But I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel ."

John is clear about his mission , he was sent by God to preach a message of preparation, so that the people would get ready for the coming of the Messiah. John lives his harsh life in the desert, he observes strict dietary rules and practices a life of self denial, and through his living and by his message he proclaims the coming of the Anointed One . . . . Jesus, who is soon to arrive and to bring an even greater message than John's.

Take care to note here that John, the Gospel writer, is going to special effort in his writing to make it apparent that Jesus , who the disciples call Rabbi, is a special Teacher !! Jesus is going to bring the Light of God into the world by his Anointed teaching. And so when John sees Jesus coming, . . . actually walking by, he says "Behold! Stop everything, Look carefully and observe! Watch this man closely! Here he comes, the Lamb of God, this is Jesus the one of whom I have been preaching about and baptizing for. Do not miss hearing what he says , do not miss seeing what he does . Pay attention, Messiah has come!"

Both John the baptizer and John the Gospel writer are virtually jumping up and down for us to pay attention to Jesus, who is Rabbi , which means Teacher. This is important because the word Rabbi might have been just a respectful title for the master or for a man in authority. But St. John the gospel writer has made it perfectly clear, Jesus is the Teacher, which we should note he has provided a translation regarding this point.

Perhaps you have heard someone talking about a really good teacher at your high school or at the university, or you heard a really great speaker at a banquet recently . . . . if you knew of such a talented teacher, you might go and tell your friends or family members, "Hey, you've got to go out and hear this person speak he's great! (or) I learned so much from her when I took that class!

Some of you have been the teacher, and you have had your students return after many years; they have come to thank you for the role you played in their education or personal development. As you may know all too well, the most important lessons we gain from our teachers usually go beyond academics. The most dramatic lessons deal with the heart.

My first memory of a great teacher was when I was a little boy in the first grade. Mrs. Powell was our teacher. To tell you the truth I never knew her well„„I could not tell you one thing about her personal interests or where she lived, but what I remember about her was that she made me feel welcomed into her class . That was an important feeling for a first grader who had just moved to a new school.

Being new, I did not immediately have a group of friends and, not only was she a kind person, . . ., but it must have been Mrs. Powell who taught me how to write . . . (you might wonder about this when you see my handwriting!! The next teacher who I think of as standing out in my memory was my fifth grade science teacher, Mrs. Manley, an African American woman who later got married and became Mrs. Sights. Once again, its not that I knew her well, but it was her kind demeanor. She taught us how to write up detailed lab reports. She also seemed to take a personal interest in her students.

I remember how we were quite caught up in investigating what happened to sugar as it was heated by the flame of a Bunsen burner . . . . Now it's amazing how many observations that an11 year old can make about sugar as it first turns into a honey, like liquid and then turns into a black carbon stuck on the bottom of a Pyrex beaker. I'm not sure if I learned the right lesson from this experience as well, which you would see if you saw my burnt pots and pans at home!!

Actually I have learned to be a pretty good cook, so maybe the finer points of caramelizing my onions and garlic can be attributed to this early scientific endeavor. You never know when you will meet a great teacher in your life, and you cannot predict how their teaching style or mannerism may prove to be as valuable as the subject matter itself. We live a life of learning and we know that it is vastly important to have good teachers.

One of my high school teachers was Mr. Mate' who was also an English teacher. Mr. Mate had a gift for appealing to his students and facilitating interaction among all the students in the classroom. He had especially caught our attention when he had the class work on trying to understand the poetic lyrics of a popular rock song of that time (the late 70's). The questions and class discussion dealt with many issues that were relevant for teens, from racial issues to addictions to religious issues or occultism . As the class worked together on this project, barriers seemed to fall away. Mr. Mate' allowed each student to share their own understanding of the good or the bad message that was contained in the song there was an atmosphere of mutual respect in that classroom.

And yet, the students had not really recognized what a good teacher he was until he was gone. Unexpectedly, Mr. Mate' died later during that school year.... today's lesson Jesus is entering into his ministry and there is excitement conveyed by John the Gospel writer. We feel this excitement by the manner in which John the Baptist introduces Christ to Andrew and the other disciple. John says that Jesus ranks ahead of him! This must mean that Jesus' teaching is going to be above and superior to the teaching that John the Baptizer was bringing. Adding more to the sense of awe comes John's next statement when he says, "Jesus was before me."

Here, John points to the eternal significance of Christ Jesus' is not just a wise teacher who has come from among the people, Jesus has come from God!! Jesus has come from Before!! This statement about Jesus being before reminds us of the Genesis story, where Moses asks God what he should tell the people about who God is, and God says "I AM!" When John the Baptizer uses a similar type of description for Jesus, saying "He was before me" we are led to understand that Jesus' life and Teaching have eternal beginnings and eternal significance for all time to come . Jesus brings Divine Teaching to the world!

Our Challenge is to Learn. And so here we are, a people who call ourselves by the name of Christ. Today we are disciples like Andrew and Simon Peter and the others . . . and today John's message about Jesus, the Son of God is reflected onto our lives. We are challenged to hear and read the teachings of our Lord Jesus with fresh ears and with enlightened eyes. Through the Teaching we have received we carry out the ministries and witness of this church. W e continue to convey the message of Christ to the community around us. But what will the people hear? What will they see? How does the ministry of St. Paul's direct people to look and listen for Jesus Teaching?

Before you or I answer this question, we should carefully consider John's own admission that he has not known Jesus, in fact twice the Baptizer says, "I myself did not know him." Now this sounds peculiar, how could the prophet who was sent by God to proclaim Jesus the Messiah be openly admitting that he did not know him, surely something is wrong with this statement. After all, there are many Christians today who speak for Jesus, or who will tell you exactly what you have to do in order to know Jesus as though there is a precise formula for knowing our Lord . . .

I think that John's admission of not knowing Jesus is there to assist us in humility . John, the Gospel writer, has included this admission twice in order to remind us that Jesus' ministry and teaching are not readily knowable : That is, once you think that you have understood the gospel, a new dimension or encounter with the living Word of God will send you in another direction.

 Much as I was describing at the beginning, when I talked about the Hubble telescope, you can never see the whole picture of the universe, and if you ever claim that you have, you are committing blasphemy! God cannot be and should not be placed within our limited limited understanding. A good Teacher never reveals the complete teaching to his/her students, but allows room for experience. Even failure is part of learning so that the deeper essence of truth will be revealed and the lessons will not be learned superficially. The most important truths that Jesus reveals to us cause us to return to his feet, this is the place of honor, this is the place of learning, not busying ourselves with formulas or recipes for salvation as though we could earn it in the kitchen like Martha! 

For Christ has accomplished salvation for us, h that is all the truth we need to recognize as our creed. But We are led to more truth by the lessons of the Spirit, which cause us to come together like my English class under the direction of Mr. Mate' or like the finding of the common language at Pentecost Christ is Messiah Christ's teaching makes us understand that we are children of one family, the Family of God. WHAT?

Like any teacher who knows human nature, Jesus challenges his would be disciples when he asks, "What are you looking for." When I first read this passage I wondered if he meant to say, "who are you looking for?" This question seems like it makes more sense. After all we would think that the intention of these disciples was to meet Jesus. But then their reply throws us off, "Rabbi, where are you staying? " This doesn't sound like a direct inquiry about who Jesus is, but rather it is a practical matter, like asking a stranger, "what hotel are you staying in?" So maybe the disciples were getting a little off track or just didn't know what to say to the man that the Baptizer had spoken so highly about. . . Returning to Jesus question, "What are you looking for?" brings things back into perspective.

Jesus question indicates that he believes that they desire something from him. Or maybe it is more accurate to say: Jesus knows he has something that he can give to them . . . . WHAT is it all about?? The WHAT is about Jesus the divine Teacher, the Son of God who Teaches and speaks words about forgiving and loving one another in a world of misunderstood applications of the law and religion. 

The WHAT that is sought after can be found when Jesus goes about performing acts of healing and kindness in an injured and sometimes unkind world. Jesus teaches us and His words speak of being true to ourselves, being true to others, and being true before God, who longs to be gracious and who longs to be understood by all. The truth that we are to live is our recognition that we don't always have all of the answers , we don't always even know what questions are relevant. But seeing Jesus and to truly knowing Jesus are matters of faith and discovery in learning.

Earlier I spoke of John the Baptist's recognition that Jesus was descended from eternity into the present. Remember how John's gaze was fixed upon Jesus. He was not just looking at Jesus passing by, but John was staring intently at Jesus. John was contemplating the Man who came from God, John was taking in the eternal nature of Christ, trying to understand who Jesus was. For the baptizer this was the moment . of epiphany. 

No longer will he say that he does not know who Jesus is. But now both Johns will proclaim, "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. He is Rabbi, the Teacher, Listen to Him. May we also recognize the divine lessons our Lord teaches and may we experience his Peace and Light softening our lives and brightening our days both now and forevermore.


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