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It’s said that the best form of advertising is word of mouth, and I think we all know why. After all, how did you find your mechanic? And how often do you try a new restaurant that none of your friends recommend? When someone we trust points us in a direction, we trust they’re looking out for us. I tend to trust that people around me are more experienced in basically everything, so I really value the recommendations of others. And you can’t get a much more forceful recommendation than John the Baptist made for his disciples to look to Jesus.
See, all four of the gospels set up John the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus’ ministry. They all agree that John paved the way for Jesus, that he baptized him, that Jesus was superior to John, and that in a lot of ways their ministries overlapped. But in this gospel, John’s role as the one who prepares the way for Jesus is emphasized like none of the others. John’s entire ministry—baptizing people in the Jordan—is shown to have one purpose: to reveal the Messiah. He exists to point people to Jesus.
So point people to Jesus he does. And he does it loudly. I feel like every time John speaks in this gospel he’s shouting, even when people are right next to him—but that’s how important what he’s saying is. This isn’t just some ordinary rabbi—this is the Lamb of God! So when he sees Jesus walking by, he loudly proclaims who he is, like an involuntary outburst, and two of his disciples get curious. They decided to follow Jesus to see what all the fuss was about.
And after a while, Jesus asks this deeply profound but extremely straightforward question: what are you looking for? Now that they’ve started to follow the Messiah that John recommended, Jesus asks them to think about what they hope to find. What are you looking for? What are we looking for? Think about that for a moment. We all come to this place to experience Jesus, but what are we looking for? What longing in us needs to be fulfilled by encountering Jesus? What transformation are we hoping for when we come to Jesus? What need do we look to Jesus to supply?
For the disciples, they wanted to know where Jesus was staying. It sounds like a weird off-topic question, like they were caught off-guard by Jesus’ thoughtful ask, as if they blurted out the first thing that came to their mind, but look at it more closely. “Where are you staying?” is about where they could expect to go as his disciples. “Where are you staying?” is a question not of idle curiosity, but of forward thinking, planning, hedging bets. “Where are you staying?” is the disciples making sure that they knew what they were getting into, setting their expectations, getting a feel for just how real this person was that John had recommended. If they were going to follow him, they wanted to know where they were headed. And Jesus gives the ultimate response.
“Come and see.”
Three words that have launched a thousand sermons. With all of our creeds and catechisms and theological hymns, we have a lot to say about Jesus. And sometimes it can seem like this faith is about understanding what those words are saying about Jesus, and to fully accept those words. But with three words, Jesus points us in a completely different direction. It’s about experiencing. It’s about coming and seeing what Jesus is up to. When we respond to Jesus’ question of what we are looking for by hedging our bets, by trying to figure out where this train is going so we know whether or not we should get on, Jesus nods his head and tells us to come along and see what happens.
Because Jesus isn’t just some rabbi who will teach us how to live a good life. He’s not just some wise man who gave us instructions on how to build a community together. He’s not even just a sage giving us wisdom to make the world a better place. He is what John said he is: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And in a world inundated by sin, overwhelmed with brokenness, lost in the mire of self-centeredness, the Lamb of God who takes away that sin is nothing short of a world-breaking.
So come and see how Jesus, the Lamb of God, has knit together this congregation out in rural Beldenville into a mission shared by two billion people around the globe. Come and see how Jesus, the Lamb of God, has gathered a people who would willingly feed strangers in a world that demands we trust no one we don’t know. Come and see how Jesus, the Lamb of God, has strengthened the faithful to seek justice for the oppressed despite a world of winners-take-all. Come and see how Jesus, the Lamb of God, is laying deep foundations of goodness and righteousness with a thousand small acts of kindness. This faith is about experiencing the reality of how the Lamb of God really does take away the sin of the world.
And so we listen to the recommendation of John the Baptist. He points us toward the one who will transform the entire world by saving it from sinful brokenness and leading it to the wholeness in God. And we follow that one, because we’ve seen the ways that he has made a difference in the world. We’ve seen the way, slowly but surely, he has dismantled the power of sin and death around us. And we follow him not because we know where we’re going, not because he’s given us a clear answer of where he’s staying, but because he has invited us to come and see.
Thanks be to God. Amen.