Word of mouth
My family and I have a bathroom renovation project underway and when I was looking for someone to do the work I did as I usually do and asked Dad. After that I asked my friends on Face Book for their opinions of and experiences with different contractors. Similarly, when our washer died I put out a request for comments on top load washers versus front load models. In fact on any given day you can find requests for advice on road conditions, where to go to get things, and whether or not a movie is worth seeing. None of these things are likely to change our lives but are examples which show that we place greater value on the experience and opinion of our friends than on the advertisements which would have us believe that every product is better than all the other products which in-turn are also better… So what about spiritual questions, things that will change our lives? What would you seek and whom would you follow?
In our Gospel reading today John must have been ‘wired for sound’! He had just experienced what he knew was the highest point of his ministry, he had fulfilled his destiny. It was not his own accomplishment, it wasn’t that he would be thinking what a great job he had done, but it was still a great day. If it had happened today he might immediately get out his cell phone and tweet something like, “Best day of my life, baptized Son of God, heard God’s voice and saw the spirit, time to retire, can die happy!”
In the other Gospels this is where the baptism story ended and they moved away from the Baptist and the area around the Jordan, one immediately, to the temptation of Christ and the beginning of his ministry. John chose instead to continue the narrative of Baptist’s activities. In a sense the author gave him time to tweet and for people to respond to his news. While the other Gospels gradually reveal Jesus’ identity, John front loads the story with details of Jesus’ true identity. In very short order he identifies Christ by several of the titles which had been ascribed to him by the church over the years; Lamb of God, Son of God, Rabbi, and Messiah.
Last week we read of the baptism itself and today, the actual baptism itself is not narrated in John, we take up the story on the next day. John the Baptist saw Jesus and told all who are in the area just what had happened and how important this man was! In a tradition in which sacrifices were made for thanksgiving, for atonement of sin, etc. it would have caught people’s attention when the Baptist referred to Christ as, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” It may have brought out memories of the Passover lamb whose death and the painting of its blood protected the people in Egypt. For us, and indeed for the early readers of John’s gospel, this speaks to his crucifixion and resurrection, his atonement for the sins of the whole world. At the time of the Baptist, however, it may have brought to mind Abraham who said God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice. At the least it would have indicated his purity but oddly would also carry a picture of weakness; important because of the role of the unblemished lamb in sacrifice, but weak because a lamb is helpless to defend itself from death on the altar.
The Baptist had been out in the wilderness preaching and calling people to repentance, but never taking credit or making himself out to be important. In John’s gospel this event followed a scene in which the Baptist was questioned by religious authorities. He had denied being Elijah, being The Prophet (Moses), and being the Messiah. He had in fact always been saying, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” He had never made much of himself but pointed ahead to that man. He explained that he had been baptizing with water in order to reveal the man to Israel. He related the sight of the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remaining on Jesus, and that God had told them this would be the sign of the man who was coming. He made a statement worthy of a court trial, “I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
It is likely that most people who heard him talking about Jesus considered it to be at least a bit far-fetched and perhaps attributed it to John’s strange ways. “After all, he lives way out here away from people and doesn’t eat properly, he was probably delirious with hunger, or maybe he is going mad. A spirit came and settled on a man and this is the big news? Hardly!”
The next day, then two days after Christ’s baptism, two of the Baptist’s followers were there when again he saw Jesus. Again he identified Jesus and he testified that he was the Lamb of God. These two men then left John, up until now their spiritual leader, and followed Jesus. Jesus asked them what they were seeking and told them to come and see. Before he had taught them anything they called him Rabbi which means teacher. They went to where he was staying and spent the day with him. Only one of the two is named in this account, Andrew the brother of the man known to us as Simon Peter. Andrew ran off to find his brother and passed on the exciting news, “We have found the Messiah.” When they got back Jesus identified him by name and says he will be called Cephas’ or Peter.
So following the line of information
God tells John of his mission
God tells John how to recognize the one to come after
John witnesses the sign Lamb of God
John tells all who are around Lamb of God
John repeats this to two of his followers Son of God
One of the followers, Andrew, goes to tell his brother Messiah