John 1: 43-51 (Epiphany 2 - 2018)
“Epiphany Light Connects People to Jesus”
In Advent we heard the phrase: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2). The Israelite types who took the promises and prophecies seriously were watching for that light that would shine on their shadowy images of the Messiah. They knew to be looking and waiting while studying the Scriptures. Like a dimly lit room they could distinguish certain things. The people walking in darkness were about to see the Light.
With the help of John’s wilderness sermons, and the arrival of a Baptized Jesus, the light was getting brighter and brighter. In Epiphany we hear the repeated phrase: “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” As John shines the light of God’s word on Jesus of Nazareth this Epiphany season, we see the people connecting with him, becoming his disciples, placing their trust in him for salvation.
The message of the Bible is a related string of history that leads to Jesus. Because of that the Bible and the ministry of Jesus is encased in people connecting to people and people connecting to Jesus. The whole first chapter of John’s gospel introduces people encountering God through the man from Nazareth for the first time. “He came to his own and his own did not receive him.” (John 1:11) For a fulfillment of that truth fast forward to the people of his childhood town to see a people who despised him and wanted him thrown from the cliffs.
The encounters become more specific: Cousin John at his baptism; Thomas; Peter who was Simon; Philip who told Andrew. Most of these people were Israelite types who had at least some interest in Hebrew prophecy, faithful temple worship, and now the messages of the man in camel’s hair named John. John was doing his job and doing it well. His job was simple: prepare the way for the Lord. John knew that his disciples were to become Jesus’ disciples. We know it was working because Andrew, disciple of John brought his brother Peter to Jesus. Philip a disciple of John, brought his friend Nathaniel to Jesus. People were connecting people to Jesus.
As Jesus got into the swing of ministering we see this person to person thing repeat: the people at a wedding, a man climbing a tree to get a better look, and a very guilt ridden woman at a well in Samaria. Peruse the book of John and it continues that way: a royal officer with a broken son, a paralytic and a then a new home town where a tax collector and some fishermen (Matthew, James and John) are called. In Capernaum crowds eventually hoard to him by the thousands. The Light of the Gospel draws people to Jesus.
Imagine the people who actually met him. What would have been unique about him? We get clues that his teaching was with authority, having clear wisdom and divine power. We know that he displayed miraculous powers; water to wine, healing hurts and commanding storms. Look closer. What did people notice when they encountered God through this Jesus from small town Nazareth?
Teenagers meet a strong, healthy 12 year boy who never bullied them or speak ill of his parents and teachers. Church leaders interact with this same boy who treated them with dignity and respect. A vulnerable woman, hoping to hide from the judgements of snooty people, meets a man who acts like a true gentleman. Perhaps he was the first eligible bachelor she encounters who doesn’t treat her like a piece of meat or make her feel like a tramp. Parents with children meet an actual person who doesn’t turn the other way when he sees their children with crutches, speech impediments, and mental challenges and obvious demons. A burley Roman official is given permission play his role as father, yet bend his will to trust only in the Word of a man from Nazareth named Jesus when it came to fixing his broken son! People connected with Jesus.
John meant for Andrew; Peter; Philip; and Nathaniel; to follow this man from Nazareth. He meant for them to leave the wilderness and go to Galilee to see Jesus as the promised Messiah, their true master and only Savior. Jesus then made his disciples into disciple makers “I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). He trained and qualified them to be people who connect other people to himself. In the lesson for today we see that there are various kinds of people connected to Jesus.
There are humble preachers like John. There are the Thomas types who guess at things one minute and next in cool confidence confess Jesus the next, even talk about Jesus with their brothers. There are Peters who go from innocent bystanders to loud spokesmen and Bible men for Christ. There are quiet learners and followers like Nathaniel in whom there is nothing false. There are brave souls like Philip who introduce a close friend to Jesus and later boldly teach his His word to a perfect stranger in a chariot (both of which are not easy). But the Word and ministry is about connecting people, of all kinds, to Jesus.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. What is the darkness like? When and how often do you and I live and walk in the darkness of our sins and shames. How often in each day our sins of pride and self-reliance disconnect us from that Light! How often our sins of choosing the darkness of sin pull us further away from life giving light! Walking in that kind of spiritual darkness has us on a path to eternal darkness and condemnation. Isaiah warns “your sins have separated you from God.”
Epiphany Light connects us to Jesus. Peter wrote in one of his letters of Scripture: “We have the Word of the prophets made more certain a light shining in a dark place.” The Light of Epiphany, the Word of God, draws people to Christ. The Words of the Gospel connect people to Jesus. We are people who have encountered Jesus, in his Gospel lessons, in our Baptism, and at his table of his Supper.
That light brings us to this Man from Nazareth. The good that came from there is a man with no sin, no lies, no fear; in him there is no darkness at all! The Light of the world scatters the darkness by encountering the darkest of dark in the middle of a Friday afternoon on Golgotha! In the midst of that darkness he fulfilled his own prophecy: “I will draw all men to myself.” In the midst of that darkness he gives you the Light of peace with God and sins wiped from the slate of his memory.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. What was it like in that darkness? Take a moment and think and pray. Is there someone in your circles that is walking in that darkness? Is there someone in your life hurting over their own brokenness, spiritually or physically? I want to you think about a person in your life who is littered with guilt, paralyzed by fear, dealing with pain, or facing death. Is there a person in your life who would do well to have you introduce them to Jesus?
Is it fair to say that the kinds of people who encountered Jesus are the kinds of people that we encounter today? Is it reasonable to pray that in us they encounter people who have his Light living in them? Is it reasonable to pray and strive for us to exude a bit more of his light. You don’t have to be a Philip, Nathaniel, Thomas, or Peter. You only need to be you. Everyone is different. But it is fair to pray “Let them through me see Jesus, who saved and served us all” (CW 557: 4).
Do you have that person (s) in mind? Take that open door! Connect people to Jesus by connecting them to the Means of Grace: bring them to the Word. Bring them to a Bible class or worship service. Bring them to a Font for the life giving Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Find out their Bible questions and get help finding the Bible answers for them. If you need help from a parent, a friend, a pastor, a teacher, ask for help. Introduce a person you care about to the best good that came from Nazareth: Jesus our Savior. Amen.