Sunday: January 26, 2020
Jesus Begins His Ministry
Sermon: Come and See
Scriptures: John 1: 35 – 42, Matthew 4: 18 – 23
Let’s go back in time this morning. We are in the early years of the first century A.D. It is 30 A.D. to be precise, the year when Jesus is thirty years old, the age when he begins his public ministry as told in our scriptures. Imagine the setting – we are in ancient Palestine, the area of land we know as modern-day Israel. Inland from the Mediterranean Sea we find a small, inland lake called the Sea of Galilee, and running south from this lake is the Jordan River.
Now, picture Jesus coming to the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River from his small hometown of Nazareth a distance away. He is ready to begin his ministry. But no-one knows him. He’s arrived on their shores a stranger in their midst. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by the prophet John the Baptist, and John testifies that when he baptized Jesus, he experienced a divine vision – he saw the Spirit of God descending from heaven like a dove, resting on Jesus, and John heard a voice from heaven saying: “This is my Son whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” John knows that Jesus is the Son of God. Soon after this event, Jesus comes walking nearby where John is gathered with some followers, and John looking at Jesus says: “Look, here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Two of John’s followers standing there hear John say this.
Now, imagine. You don’t know who Jesus is. You’ve never seen him before. But John the Baptist says these amazing words. And they are amazing. As a Jewish person, you would immediately think: “Take away the sin of the world? Only God can do that. Only the High Priest in the temple offers sacrifice as atonement for the sins of the people. And John our leader is saying that this person is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?” You would look at Jesus in amazement. You would be filled with curiosity, intrigue and awe. John, who has been baptizing people, telling them to repent, and prepare for the coming of a Great One, someone who will baptize not with water but with the Holy Spirit – John is saying this person here in front of me is him? Your interest in Jesus would be immediately focussed and intense.
And two of John’s followers who hear John’s words, Andrew being one of them, begin to follow Jesus. They want to know more about this person, an ordinary-looking man, a mere mortal, who is called the Son of God? Who is this person? What does he have to say? Andrew and the other disciple follow Jesus, and he turns to them and asks: “What are you looking for?” They call Jesus “Rabbi” – meaning teacher, and they ask Jesus where he’s staying. Jesus says: “Come and see.” They spend the day with Jesus. And after this time with him, they are so moved and changed and convinced that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Messiah, that Andrew goes and finds his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus. This is Simon who will be called Peter, for Jesus calls him by this name in our scripture passage. “You are Simon – you are to be called Cephas,” which is translated as Peter.
The next day, Jesus finds Philip, who finds Nathanael and says to him: “Come, we’ve found the one who Moses and the prophets spoke of – it is Jesus from Nazareth.” And later, by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus calls the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James and John saying to them: “Come! Follow me! I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus calls them to join his ministry.
Imagine the questions in the minds of these newly-found disciples of Jesus. Imagine their thoughts and reactions. Who is this Jesus? Where did he come from? What’s he doing? Where’s he going? He is the son of Joseph from Nazareth, but John the Baptist calls him the Son of God. He will give us the Holy Spirit, says John. What teaching is this? Is he truly the Messiah? The long Awaited One? When you’re in his company, you’re convinced that he is. He talks about the good news, the kingdom of God. The time is fulfilled, he says. What does he mean? What’s he talking about? Should we believe? Should we follow him? Where are we going? Where is he taking us?” The disciples didn’t know. They didn’t have all the answers.
These are the same questions we have today. Who is this Jesus? Who is he? What’s he talking about? What is his meaning? The Son of God? I don’t understand. When we encounter Jesus, it doesn’t matter who we are, or where we are, or what year it is, our questions are the same. We find ourselves thinking that we just don’t know. We just don’t know all the answers.
But as the disciples followed Jesus and stayed in his company, many of the questions they had were answered. The longer they stayed in the presence of Jesus, the more they learned from him and about him. They got the bigger picture of who Jesus was, and why he came to earth. He is the Bread from heaven, he says? He came from heaven? He came to save us? To offer us a different way to God? Our religious laws won’t bring us closer to God, but His Spirit will, he says? This is a different way – a different freedom from our sins. We are to follow His Spirit, Jesus says. It is the divine Spirit of God. This Spirit loves us and forgives us. This Spirit will be with us always, Jesus says. This is the good news, the new kingdom of God! We must tell everyone about it!
Jesus chose 12 close disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, James son of Alphaeus, and Judas Iscariot. Why did Jesus choose them? What did he see? Something in each of them which would enhance his ministry. Jesus calls us today to be his disciples. What does he see in each one of us? I can tell you. Jesus sees our potential, just like he saw the potential in each disciple he chose long ago. Jesus honours ordinary people just like me and you to spread his word. Will we tell people the good news which Jesus brings? And like the disciples– the longer we stay in the company of Jesus, the longer we pray to him, and learn about him in our scriptures, the more we find out about him, the more real he becomes to us. “Come and see,” he says. Spend time with me. And then we get the bigger picture of who Jesus is, too. Honour that part of you which is part of the ministry of Jesus Christ. And don’t forget – we don’t have all the answers, either, just like the disciples long ago. It is a journey. We learn as we go. We’re just meant to follow. Love Jesus. Love God. And they will take care of the rest. Amen.