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Behold, The Lamb of God




This is the second Sunday in Epiphany and on this Sunday, we depart from the Gospel of Matthew and turn to the Gospel of John. We hear John giving testimony about Jesus. Witnesses and their testimony are very important to any trial proceeding. The courts rely on truthful witnesses to accurately determine the guilt or innocence of an individual. A witness merely gives the relevant facts to the best of their recollection before a judge and jury. The witness tells what they saw in relation to the issue at hand. As comedian Red Skelton used to say through one of his many characters, “I calls them like I sees them!” I don’t know if many of you remember the Hanes underwear commercials on TV a few years ago where they had this tough looking, drill sergeant type lady who was an inspector of goods that came off the assembly line. She was called Inspector Twelve, and it was her job to insure that every product that came off the line was worthy of carrying the Hanes name. Her line in the commercial was, “It don’t say Hanes until I say it says Hanes. Likewise, in the reading this morning we hear John make the pronouncement that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Nowhere in the other Gospels do we hear of Jesus being given the title of the LAMB OF GOD.


Last Sunday we celebrated the Baptism of Our Lord and commemorated the inauguration of the Kingdom of God in time and history. From the moment we hear the voice from heaven declare, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” all history is changed. The messianic age has come upon the world. We stand on the threshold of a new age, and a new millennium. At the beginning of this age we are in now we hear again the words of the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Behold the Lamb of God!” [John 1: 29-41]


The Lamb of God is a picture of Christ our Passover who was sacrificed for us.


The Lamb of God is a picture of the precious blood of Christ, which redeems us.


“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” [1 Peter 1:18-19]


The Lamb of God is not of men but from God.


“Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?”

Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here, “Isaac said, “but where is the

lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son. “And the two of them went on together.” [Gen. 22:8]


The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world.



“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” [1 Pet 2:24]


“… so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” [Heb 9:28]


The newly baptized Messiah is not the king that so many had believed would come to save Israel from the occupation of the Romans. The Messiah is the Paschal Lamb, the one through whose blood the angel of death will pass by the houses of the faithful. In this we see the plan of God involving sacrifice and suffering rather than glory and worldly praise. The Plan of God involves calling forth and manifesting to the world servants of His that will obey Him and execute His Plan for the salvation of the world. They will answer His call to vocation, to serve Him, to be illumined, to shine with His radiance and glory that He may be made known, be worshipped and obeyed to the ends of the earth. This season of Epiphany, which stands for the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, is the time when the church focuses on the mission and ministry of Jesus. We see how this mission is fulfilled through the life and work of the community of believers in Jesus Christ, then and now. Believers who are called, according to the Plan of God, chosen by Him to be His instruments and His servants.


This morning we will look at the Prophet Isaiah and his calling to be a prophet to Israel and his writing of a Servant who will not only recall Israel to the Lord but will be a light to the nations in order that God’s salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Next, we will look at the Apostle Paul, then at John the Baptist and Jesus. In all their cases, we can see that those who are called forth to be servants of God are chosen by God from before their birth to be His servants. We know this to be true in the cases of John the Baptist and Jesus for the Gospel of Luke recounts for us their birth narratives. In those accounts we hear the Angel Gabriel tell both Zechariah and Mary of the impending births and specifically of the mission and ministry of John and Jesus. So like Isaiah says in today’s lesson of himself, the LORD called them from the womb, from the bodies of their mothers they were named to be His servants. That is an awesome thought, that the Almighty God, King of the Universe, Creator of all that is in existence, has called you. Not only has He called you but He chose you before you were ever thought of, by your parents. We have been called, we have been chosen, we have been selected, and we have been drafted, if you will, into His service to make His name known, worshipped and obeyed to the ends of the earth. That is our part in His plan.


Saint Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth points out to them that he was called by the will of God to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ and that they also were called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of the Lord. We do not have a scriptural reference of the pre-natal calling of the Apostle Paul. We are sure however, that God most assuredly had him selected before he was born to be his servant. That fact that he writes his name Paul indicates that he has recognized his calling from God. He has changed from being called Saul to the new man Paul, called to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God. As he so clearly understood the working of God in his own life, and the complete change that he underwent to become the new creation, in Jesus Christ. He knew that it was only possible through the Grace of God that he had become God’s servant. That is why in this letter and in others to the various churches he says Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is through God’s Grace that we are called to be His servants. And it is through that Grace that we have that Peace which passes all understanding. That Peace which is part of the fruit of the spirit. That Peace which is evidence of the new life in Christ. That Peace which is evidence of the new heart and the transformed mind of the servant that has been called by God. The prophet Jeremiah said to the people of Israel;


“I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord, ‘for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD, for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.” [Jeremiah 31:33-3 4]


The prophet Ezekiel also told the people how God would give them a new heart to live up to their calling:


“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart flesh.” [Ezekiel 36:26]


The new heart that Ezekiel and Jeremiah are referring to not merely the vessel that pumps the blood around our bodies, the heart meant the very core of a person’s being, the center of their existence as a person, their personhood. I am sure that many of us have answered the question, “How much do you love me?” by saying “With all my heart!” I know you did not mean to say or infer “With all my Blood Pump!” You meant I love you with all my very existence, with all that I am, with all the power and energy of my being. This is the heart of a person that the Grace of God transforms when that God calls person.


From Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Jephthah, Ruth, Esther, Deborah, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel in the Old Testament to John, James, Andrew, Peter, Paul and the rest of the Apostles in the New Testament; those who have been called by God have been changed once they encountered the Grace of God in their lives. I heard a story on the radio in the car about how the Grace of God can change even a POW camp. There was a Japanese POW camp in the jungles of southeast Asia near the River Kwai, I am sure many of you have seen the movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and can recall the squalor of the camp and the living conditions portrayed there. Well this particular camp was a filthy, diseased mud-hole where prisoners were dying daily from malnutrition, various tropical diseases, not to mention apathy and brutality from the guards. Within one year from December, 1942 to December 1943, the camp was transformed into an orderly, clean, relatively free from disease, and where all the prisoners gathered for Christmas services to come together for prayer. What caused such a change? The death of one man. One prisoner, who was sick and dying from one of the many tropical diseases that afflicted the men there, besides the shortage of food, still could share his last bit of food with a fellow prisoner, before he died. The rest of the men in the camp pondered what would possess a man to give up his only means of survival in those horrible conditions. While they were burying him, they found in his possessions a Bible. They wondered if the answer as to why he acted like he did was in the pages of this book. So they took turns reading the Bible every day. And as they did, they were changed. They were transformed by the renewal of their minds and their attitudes to the situation they were in. The camp was transformed and by Christmas of 1943 every prisoner was at the services that were being held. The Grace of God had called them forth from the conditions they were in, to a new heart and mind indwelt by the Peace, which passes all understanding. It is God’s Plan to call us forth from the conditions we are in, to a new relationship with Him in Jesus Christ, His Son. In this morning’s Gospel reading John the Baptist declares, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John proclaimed four things about Jesus in this passage:


1. That He is the Paschal Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

2. That He was before all things, pre-existent.

3. That the Spirit of God rests on Him.

4. That He is the Son of God.


The result of these proclamations was that two of His disciples, Andrew and John then followed Jesus. Andrew’s answer to the call of Jesus was to find Simon Peter, his brother, and proclaim the Good News that he had found the Messiah. We too are called to react like Andrew and go and tell our brothers and sisters the Good News that we have found the Messiah when we have been transformed by the Grace of God. As we begin this New Year and face a new millennium, you will hear more and more of how you can fulfill the words of today’s collect. Be ready to answer the call you have received from God and let your light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify your Father, who is in heaven. William Willamon writes;


She works three nights a week at our church's center for the homeless. Three nights a week! No one in the congregation is so thoroughly involved in this demanding evening ministry.


Most of us think that she does it because she is such an exemplary Christian. She really knows Jesus and she knows how to serve Jesus. And that's true.


But when I commented to her about her great commitment to the work, saying to her that her commitment was sign of her great faith, she replied, "Great faith? I don't think so. I don't really have that much faith. That's the point of why I am here. I need all the help I can get seeing Jesus, understanding him, being with him. So I have to keep very close, and keep close very often, to those whom Jesus keeps close to. That's why I'm here. If I didn't have this place to see Jesus, I reckon I'd never be near him."


To be honest with you, that’s the reason I do Kairos Prison Ministry. Since that first weekend in 1986 I learned that I could see Jesus doing his thing in men’s lives. It is an awesome thing to behold God at work. Wherever people are doing ministry, you will see God at work.


You want to see Jesus? Come and see.




DOCTRINAL POINTS:


1. JESUS IS THE FULLNESS OF GOD’S REVELATION BECAUSE HE IS GOD’S CHOSEN ONE. JESUS AND THE FATHER ARE ONE. This revelation is found on the lips of John the Baptist. He is a herald, preparing people’s hearts for the coming of Jesus. He functions wholly as a witness to Jesus. In all things he is inferior to the Word. Although John’s ministry is prior to Jesus’, Jesus existed before John. The water baptism of John is only a preparatory to the Spirit baptism of Jesus.


2. THE THEME OF WITNESS IS VERY IMPORTANT IN THE FOURTH GOSPEL. John gives witness to Jesus’ identity. Jesus witnesses to the Father by revealing his name to his disciples. The disciples in turn witness to the Father and the Son through the Spirit/Paraclete. The purpose of testimony is to bring others to belief in Jesus That they might have life.


3. THE TRUE WITNESS TESTIFIES NOT TO SELF BUT TO JESUS. Although many thought that John the Baptist was the long-awaited one, he does not yield to their expectations of greatness for him but turns people’s attention to Jesus: Here is the Lamb of God, who will destroy evil in the world by taking away the glitter and power of sin. AT THE HEART OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS THE CALL TO WITNESS TO JESUS THAT OTHERS MIGHT HAVE LIFE.



APPLICATION/DISCUSSION:


1. WE ARE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS: God chose us long before we chose him. We try to live as Jesus taught; we make moral decisions based on W.W.J.D. ; and we take our name from his Christ-ians. we too are confirmed in what we are doing by the descent of the Spirit on Jesus.


2. WE ARE HOLY: We know we sin - as individuals and even as a group. We are always struggling as we are on a pilgrimage. We are not necessarily right, but one is always trying. St. Paul insists we are called to holiness. We are a holy people - sharing in God’s fullness of life. The church represents the restoration of the unity that was meant to be, the family of God before the divorce of Eden. Our holiness is a reflection of the holiness of God himself


3. WE ARE TO BE A LIGHT TO THE NATIONS: It is not enough, God says, for Israel just to be a restoration, The people are to be a light shining before the rest of the nations. A beacon’s light must extend outward for it to be a light at all. A candle cannot be hidden under a bushel. The call to evangelize by word and example extends to all of us. How will you today, this week let your light shine?


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