2nd Sunday after the Epiphany

by Crossings

John 1:29-42
(Second Sunday after the Epiphany)
analysis by Jim Squire

29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I 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.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When 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?” 39He 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. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

DIAGNOSIS: Adversaries of the message

Step 1 – Initial Diagnosis: Misguided
Instead of seeing John as a messenger, his disciples (v.35), as well as his critics (v.19), give him more credence than he deserves, thinking of him as the Messiah. John knows better, and his desire is to point all in the right direction (v.29). But, interestingly, both disciples and critics are not so inclined to follow those directions. Neither are we.

Step 2 – Advanced Diagnosis: Rejecting
A good part of the reason for this common illness of being misguided may turn on the fact that John proclaims the Lamb of God as the One who brings in a whole new world order, taking away the sins of the world. When forceful messiahs are the messiahs of choice (like John), then there is no room for removing sin except by way of punishing the offenders. Of course, this rejection of the Lamb also fails to acknowledge that we may actually be culprits in the “sin of the world.”

Step 3 – Final Diagnosis: Rejected
It is not only John’s directions that are rejected, but also the One to whom John points. In the cosmic setting of things, we are the ones who can only hear the proclamation of condemnation. According to Raymond Brown, one of the originally intended meanings for the Lamb of God might have been the “apocalyptic Lamb” who comes to defeat evildoers (Anchor Bible, “The Gospel According to John,” pp.58-59). It would be a pity if those evildoers are, in fact, us, standing in the way of the Lamb’s new world order.

PROGNOSIS: Befriended by the Lamb

Step 4 – Initial Prognosis: Taking rejection upon Himself
Fortunately, promisingly, the Lamb of God does not come for us as the apocalyptic Lamb, but as the Paschal Lamb “who takes away the sin of the world” – our sin. That new order brings its own price tag – the identification of the Lamb with rejected rejectors. But that was this Lamb’s baptismal mission all along (vs.32-33). For that, the Lamb will be paschally sacrificed for the sins of the world. But his sacrifice frees us to hear his question, “what are you looking for?” (v.38) not as a word of judgment, but as an invitation to hope.

Step 5 – Advanced Prognosis: Remaining
We, like John’s disciples (and some critics? See chapter 3), may now “come and see” (v.39) what all this Lamb has to offer. He invites us to “stay” or “remain” with him, as he also has chosen to stay with us through our trial. But in the staying, our hopes are enlivened. Indeed, in our exuberance, we may claim, “We have found the Messiah.” (v.41) Maybe better, the Messiah has found us, and has renamed us in this new order – no longer simple Simon, but Cephas, the Rock (v.42).

Step 6 – Final Prognosis: Inviting
Exuberant nonetheless with our new Host, we go back into the world to enlighten those still in darkness. So Andrew fetches Simon (v.41), not by force, but by invitation. Empowered by the sacrificial and suffering-servant Lamb of God, we are sent out as fellow servants for others, winning by the winsome promise of the gospel’s invitation. Force may get you some places, but the gospel keeps you there (“remaining”), because it penetrates the heart. No wonder John points us away from himself, and to the Lamb.


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