By the Rev. Katheryn M. King
To me, this gospel almost feels like an intrusion from John thrust into the year of Matthew. Yet it is the Epiphany season (until March 4, actually) so this week we see how John revealed the Christ.
Next week we’ll hear Matt’s take of Jesus calling the first disciples –this week we hear from John. So listen up! There are some important differences.
The Gospel of John is a book of “signs” –things, events people who point to something else, necessary in this gospel in order to come to faith. I think that this is the theme and purpose of the entire gospel, “…so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” That’s why John wrote his gospel! This gospel is a “sign” to point us to the Messiah, who is a “sign” who points us to God. The story of Jesus is not a story about Jesus; it is, in fact, the story of God. (O’Day p.524/Stoffregen)
We are told that “John came as a witness to bear witness to the light.” However, John’s first witness is not about the Light, but about himself. In previous verses he talks about who he is not: He is not the Christ; he is not Elijah; he is not one of the prophets. Secondly, he talks about who he is: “The voice crying in the wilderness…”
The first half of our text is centered on John “witnessing” about Jesus with five images: Here is the Lamb of God; who takes away the world’s sin; who existed before John; on whom the Spirit descends; This is the Son of God!
Without “witnesses” we would not know the one who is coming and who stands among us. (Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.) Even John needed the divine witness in order to know who Jesus was. In the other gospels, it is God who declares Jesus’ sonship at his baptism. Here it is John.
The “sign” of the Spirit not only descends but remains, stays on Jesus –very important word to John, e.g. abide. Jesus has “staying power” not like some prophets on whom the spirit comes and goes. The early disciples have this “staying power.” At least at first.
In the second half of our text, John witnesses to his two disciples who then follow Jesus. One of them Andrew, witnesses to his brother Peter. In the next story Jesus finds Philip without a witness, but then finds Nathanael and witnesses to him about Jesus. It seems a witness is needed to help others “see” Jesus. (Who put that Bible in your hands in order to say –Yes, Jesus loves me. Maybe one cannot really follow Jesus without also an invitation to others? Hmm.)
Talk about networking! The essence of our witness is to share what we have seen and believe and then invite others to “come and see.”
For John, faith begins by responding to the invitation to “come and see.” Slightly different words in Greek are uttered by the Samaritan woman to her people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” (4:29)
At the end of this gospel –Mary comes and sees that the stone has been removed from the tomb. Peter and the other disciple come to the tomb and look in and see. The one sees and believes. (20:1,3-8)
Come and see, what could be simpler than that? Probably like discipleship –it may be simple, but not easy. Someone says to another, “Yea, I go to church –wanna come?” I get asked about Grace Church, I’m sure some of you do too. Instead of needing some great theological discourse, how about just answering, “come and see.”
One of the differences that faith should make in our lives is the desire that others –especially those we already know and care about, might also share in the relationship God offers through Christ. I’ve had people tell me about good restaurants, haircutters, dentists; and invitations to join a number of good organizations. Shouldn’t there be that same fervor and encouragement to “come and see” God’s gracious gifts in our worship and other activities? Salvation is meant for the whole world.
Indeed, our Christian faith may be personal, but never private. Remember, the one they are seeking, is the One who is seeking them. No one is here by accident.
Andrew is never mentioned just by himself.
Three times Andrew is doing something in John –and each time he is bringing someone to Jesus: First his brother, Simon, then a boy with five barley loaves and two fish, (6:8) and finally, Andrew (with Philip) go and tell Jesus about “some Greeks.” (12:22). Being the first follower of Jesus may be the first time that Andrew has been first in anything –especially living in the shadow of his more flamboyant brother Simon Peter. Congregations are full of behind the scenes “Andrews.” One doesn’t have to be a “Peter” to be an effective follower and disciple to Christ. The notion that “I can be a Christian all by myself” needs to be replaced with “I need the body of Christ and the body of Christ needs me” for us to live faithfully.
The story is simple, like little Andrew who responded to the invitation to “come and see” and then did his own small part to spread the knowledge of Jesus Christ to his brother and throughout the town to people who carry his message to the end of the earth.
From the beginning of time, God delights in taking little things, things the world decides are nothing –and do wonderful things through them. So our attempts to share faith may feel very small –yet the God who brought light from darkness and raises dead to life wants to –and will do marvelous things through you.