What are You Looking For?

Sunday 17 January 2021                What are You Looking For?       Martin Baker

John 1:29-42

The Lamb of God

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ 32 And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 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.” 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 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?’ 39 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. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed[b]). 42 He brought Simon[c] to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter[d]).

You may have noticed that over the holiday period I make quite a lot of reference to holiday experiences.

And the risk of course is that I become very predictable because almost all of our holidays are spent not very far from here – just 100 km across the water on Great Barrier Island.  

It is New Zealand’s second largest off shore Island after Stewart Island. It has no reticulated electricity and 70% of it is controlled by DOC. It has no possums, ferrets, stoats or Norwegian rats and is home to the largest concentration of NZ native duck, horchesters frog and NZ dotterels. It has a large population of New Zealand’s native parrot the Kaka. And so on.

One of the fun things about Great Barrier is that almost everyone arrives with a story to tell.

On Tuesday I sent out a picture of our pilot flying us there wearing in part, a Father Christmas outfit.  

Weather you come on the 12 seat Britten Norman Islander or the Cessna Caravan or the Boat. There is often a story.

About once a year we take the boat.   And a typical boat story would include the siting of whales or dolphins on the way to the island. Everyone is sitting on the boat and the captain announces on the loud speaker that a pod of whales has been spotted on the starboard bow. Of course many people have no idea what direction the starboard bow is located - and being good New Zealanders would never admit not knowing.

Thankfully someone yells out ‘there they are’. And all but a few tired old cynics rush to spot these wonderful creatures. All of a sudden other things are happening. Strangers share the knowledge and excitement of what they’re seeing. For a moment this excitement collapses the social distances and the barriers. Come and see.  And secondly the other thing that is happening is that in all the minds of those journeying a story is being formed. We have seen the whales. Last week, we have seen the giant manta rays.

A story which some may even remember for the rest of their lives, and a story that will be eagerly told to those who await their arrival at the wharf.

Our scriptures come back again and again to this image of faith described in terms of  following Jesus on a journey.

So think of these similarities.

You become a traveler on the boat, a pilgrim to the island - and a lot of the time these things happen on the journey.

You see something that gives you a sense of awe and wonder.

You become involved in something where social barrier, boundaries, positions of status are at least temporarily dissolved.

And you have an experience which turns you into an excited, eager story teller. And for the most part it is a story that people enjoy hearing and creates dialogue, comparisons, reflections on other experiences.

And we have a kind of shared liturgy. Everyone has a story about the landing at Claris, the boat trip to Tryphena. Often they’re shared around a dinner table.

I want to think about the Bible story today. Our Bible story tells us virtually nothing of Jesus childhood, his growing up. There are a few verses in the gospel of Luke that tell us of an event in the temple when he was 12,  but then we have to wait another twenty years before Jesus appears on the Galilean landscape.

His cousin John the Baptist has seen his work as preparing for the coming of this Messiah and some of his disciples become the first disciples of Jesus. John identifies Jesus, now a man in his early 30’s, as the Lamb of God.

It is not dolphins that John sees or whales, but there is excitement here.  

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Where did he get this way of describing a man who had just come out of nowhere?

The people hearing John would have been thinking about a few things.

Maybe John is referring to the scapegoat of the sacrificial system – the one that was to take the sins of Israel into the wilderness? The priest would lay his hands on the head of a goat confessing all the sins that the people had committed, and then the goat would be led out into the wilderness and let go taking the sins of the people with him. You can read about that in Leviticus 16:20-22.

Or is this a reference to the Passover Lamb whose blood was to be the mark for the passing over of the angel of death just before Israel left slavery in  Egypt?  In Exodus 12:20-23.

Or is he the one marked by the prophet Isaiah as the servant who was “led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:  That’s a possibility as well.

Or, just possibly, he meant all of those things and perhaps even more. One thing we do know from own experiences is that memory of loss and death and even tragedy provides a kind of defining event for us.

It is tough to talk about it, but upheaval and loss are some of the defining points in our lives.  Personally as a community.  Our response to the virus isn’t just about individual choice but also about who we are together. We will look back at this time and have some deeper understanding of who we are as New Zealanders.  

Christians find their identity in the story of Jesus life death and resurrection.

The story from the gospel goes on to tell us about John seeing Jesus a second time . . . “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples” . . . the two who were with John at the time are so impressed that they make clear they want to know more about this one whom John so emphatically addresses as “the Lamb of God.”

Jesus seems at first to put them off, he asks them what are your looking for? One answer could be, we are looking for you. But the language suggests a deeper question. What are you looking for in terms of significance? What is going to provide fulfillment for your seeking.  What are we all looking for?

The encounter becomes life changing. Andrew is so impressed that he immediately seeks out his brother Simon, excitedly telling him, “We have found the Messiah (that is, the Christ)!”

This much we know: When we encounter Jesus there is something of a movement of what those first Christians came to recognise as the movement of the Holy Spirit that creates a change; We are moved beyond and outside our own self to a new realisation of what life can and does hold for those who follow this man.

So this morning we hear the story that not only brings Jesus out of obscurity and into the front and centre.  But it also brings Andrew and Peter and another disciple out from their backgrounds, and into the front and centre.

It is a story that can define the purpose and identity of all who hear it.

Our Gospel is describing a transition here. This bible journey. From obscurity to significance and meaning. John, Jesus, Andrew, Peter. Nothing, nothing and then, something.

Takes us out of obscurity, provides significance, allows us to see even for a moment what it means to live as God calls us to live.

In his question Jesus asks  ‘what are you looking for’  in his invitation to ‘follow me ‘.

People weren’t being asked to become Christian . They weren’t asked to join a religion. This call to follow was a call to  become fully human, to fulfil the call that God makes on all our lives.  We’ve got our worries and our fears and hang-ups, everyones got them, they are part of the background.

We all have a history and a background.  

For all those who seek to fulfil the call God makes on their lives. There is a moment of decision. There is a need to put aside our fears. There is a realisation that there is something greater than ourselves which makes a call on our lives. There is a need to identify and abandon ideologies and belief systems that are primarily about self preservation. Don’t we still long to find something worthy of giving our lives for. Something that lifts us out of obscurity. That provides purpose, a direction.

All those issues.  The anxiety and fear that can sometimes determine what we say and do.  The face of the deep.  But you become a traveler, a pilgrim and a lot of the time these things happen on the journey. You see something that gives you a sense of awe and wonder. You become involved in something where social barrier, boundaries, positions of status are at least temporarily dissolved. And you have an experience which turns you into an excited eager story teller.  And for the most part it is a story that people enjoy hearing and created dialogue, comparisons reflections on other experiences.

‘What are you looking for?’ Jesus says. Come and see Jesus says. We have found the Messiah they say. There is a journey we can begin, or begin again today.


Martin Baker

Martin began his ministry here in March 2015. Martin has been a minister for over 30 years and brings a breadth of experience in church and community leadership roles.