1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42
January 20, 2002
This image tries to smash together two pictures of the messiah which simply won't fit together.
The image of the Messiah, with a capital "M," brings out a picture of God finally getting in charge of the world and everyone will do what is right because they will have no choice. This ancient image of the Messiah as the biggest Number One there ever will be comes out of a picture of GOD as the rule-setter who cannot be escaped.
Here GOD has an ever vigilant eye, just waiting for you to mess up. Then GOD will judge you and it won't take three strikes to put you away for ever and ever. We are not just talking solitary confinement, but torture for ever -- hell for ever and ever.
This is the result of the Triumphant lamb.
There is something inside each of us which resonates with this picture. This is what we want GOD to do to all those others who don't understand or don't have as good an excuse as we do for bending a rule or two for the greater good. This is the "sic-em" GOD approach. If I were to be dramatic this is the terrorist approach to Christianity.
I don't know how many times I have heard good church going people bemoaning the fact that others just don't live right. The unspoken part of their message is that GOD should come down and put things right, and right now.
Islamic jihad of the sword has nothing on Christian crusades.
The other image of the messiah which is in tension to that flag-bearing lamb is the irony of John the Baptizer when he first announces that Jesus is the Lamb of God.
Out of the prophetic side of religion comes a picture of Moses, the greatest of the prophets in the Jewish tradition. Moses' greatest attribute was that of humility and the final sign Moses brought in the struggle for people to be free was that of the Passover Lamb whose blood would mark the doorways of the Hebrew people as a sign of safety from death of their first-born.
When we hear John the Baptizer naming Jesus as the Lamb of God we are expected to literally gasp.
The Lamb of God who humbly takes away the compulsion we know as the sin of the world!
GOD doesn't just swoop in to set everything right. GOD doesn't just sit back and let everything go on and on and on.
Rather, GOD intercedes in a dramatically non-violent response to a violent situation. This last week we honored Martin Luther King, Jr. and through him the courageously humble Mahatma Gandhi and before them both Jesus, the Lamb of GOD who comes to open our eyes and to invite us to live as he lives -- not demanding it, but opening life to us.
The Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God are two of the clearest images of Jesus there are but they keep getting covered up with our desire to remain as we are. If we were to take these images more seriously we would soon find the fun in religion and the love of life in GOD.
After we hear the announcement from John about Jesus being the Lamb of God we see John's disciples interacting with Jesus. "Where do you live?," they ask.
This is another way of asking how Jesus got to be Jesus and to raise the question of how they might be a part of this new way of GOD -- bringing forth a Lamb and not a King.
The question is still a good one. Where does Jesus live?
If you think about it just a little you will begin to ask about how Jesus spends his time.
Isn't that what we mean when we ask where someone lives? Do they live in their fantasies? at the office? with their friends rather than their family? in a language pattern of cursing? too busy to be present?
Or, do they live in their volunteering? offering a kind word? prayer? paying attention to what people don't say as much as to what they do say? being an encourager or healer?
Well, Jesus spent his time in a number of very specific ways that are instructive to us about what it means to be a Lamb of God.
Jesus spent time alone and in prayer. This wasn't just time to cope with the busy-ness of the day, but was a time of setting agendas and directing himself to the difficult spots of life without cringing.
Jesus spent time with friends. This wasn't just time together sitting around for an hour a week like we do with one another here in church, but was time spent eating and feasting with friends and leading them on and pulling them back from danger and teaching what he knew.
Jesus spent time with enemies. He didn't shy away from a Roman Centurian or a Samaritan Woman or the Pharisees or Sadducees. In fact Jesus seems to have gone out of his way to interact with those who might be considered to be his natural enemies. He couldn't be the one to do away with the sin of the world without engaging that sin on a most personal level. Some have even said that Jesus' most radical command is the one to "love your enemies." This may be the real division line within the church -- those who are willing to love those unlike themselves and those who either simply put up with differences or actively work against their enemies.
Jesus spent time redefining what is important in life. One of his common refrains is, "You have heard it said, but I say to you...." Neither the traditions nor common sense was the basis of Jesus' teaching. One of his great understandings was the importance of community -- Jesus didn't keep the good stuff for himself but shared it with everyone, whether they accepted it or not.
So it is as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "God can be trusted and God chose you to be partners with the Lamb of God."
Let us pray:
Copyright 2002. Wesley White, Pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church. 1022 Caledonia Street, La Crosse, WI 54603.