The Shape of Evangelism: 2 Epiphany, A

January 15, 2017

 

 

John 1:29-42

 

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward 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). 42 He 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).

 

 

 

Today St. Matthew’s will hold its Annual Parish Meeting. This is a time to reflect on the past year of parish life, thanking and praising God for the good things we have received, and striving to repent (turn around) where we can do better. Some things to focus on will be unique to a given context or to a specific time in a parish’s life. But on the other hand, some Christian practices are so central to the faith, and so challenging, that we’ve got to come back to them year in and year out.

 

One of those themes is Evangelism. Christianity is a fundamentally outwardly-focused religion. Yes, our God cares for us in our inner life and spirituality. God is there in the quiet moments and in our community of prayer and worship. But God also gave the Church a mission through the Word of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit among us.

 

We are all familiar with the Great Commission, the final words Jesus said to his disciples before he ascended to heaven:

“[Jesus said,] All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20)

 

This work of making disciples through baptizing and teaching is core to the Christian faith. We cannot be a healthy church community without growing and expanding. This might not mean that our church attendance shoots up dramatically. But it does mean that we are remembering our call to be ambassadors for God’s Kingdom anywhere and everywhere we go, with anyone and everyone we meet.

 

So it is really fitting that our Gospel story today is from first chapter of John’s Gospel. Because before the commandment to go and make disciples, Jesus and his apostles showed us how to do so with their lives. Jesus is a Good Leader who doesn’t ask us to do things he hasn’t done himself. This story has within it an architecture, or a model, of good Christian evangelism.

 

  • Hear [akouo] testimony about Jesus

  • Follow [akoloutheo] Jesus

  • Remain [meno] with Jesus

  • Lead [ago] loved ones to meet Jesus too

 

Hear. Follow. Remain. Lead.

 

This passage starts with John the Baptist (or Baptizer) giving his testimony about Jesus. John the Baptizer gives us the famous words, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He has seen Jesus and testifies what he knows about him: that he is Lord, that he is Messiah, that he is God’s Chosen One to save the world and free us from our sins (cf. Luke 1:67-79).

 

Then we jump to the next day and find John the Baptizer watching Jesus once again, but this time with two of his disciples. John witnesses to Jesus again: “This is the Lamb of God! This is the one who will rescue Israel and save the whole world. Follow him and listen to him!”

 

The two disciples hear the testimony. They hear the sincerity in John’s voice. They know that John’s life has been transformed by his encounter with Jesus. They are intrigued by this life-changing Messiah, Jesus. John points them to Jesus by telling them how Jesus has personally affected him, how Jesus has affected his family and community. John testifies to who Jesus is and how he has been transformed. The disciples heard this story and investigate for themselves.

 

None of us was born a Christian believer, no matter how pious our family may have been. Christians are not born. They are made.

 

Each of us heard the story of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ from others. Our priests, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and family friends told us about who Jesus was and how he changed their lives and their community. For a lot of us that formation and education happened in this very building.

 

But the point is that evangelism begins with your own conversion. You have to hear and receive the Gospel message yourself before anyone else will hear it from you.

 

Hear. Follow. Remain. Lead.

 

After hearing John’s testimony, the two disciples followed Jesus (John 1:37). They tried Jesus for themselves. They tested the waters. They sought after Jesus and wanted to know where he was staying so they could hear him teach and preach. They wanted to know more about him. They became curious and took the posture of students.

 

This is like coming to church occasionally, with an open, but cautious spirit. You want to know more in your own walk with Jesus. You want to see what all the fuss is about. But you’re not 100% committed yet. You don’t know for sure whether you want to be fully immersed in the Christian life.

 

Hear. Follow. Remain. Lead.

 

But after they found where Jesus was staying, “they remained with him that day” (1:39). This is the key turning point. John’s disciples could have visited and politely left after the first cup of coffee. They could have backed away from deeper engagement with their host. But they made a different choice. They remained. They stayed with Jesus and committed to be with him. They were ready to move from being known as John’s disciples to Jesus’ disciples.

 

This is where each of us makes a decision for ourselves to follow Christ with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. You can be a passive member of a Christian community and never take this next step in commitment, but you probably won’t spread the Gospel with much fervor. How can we share a message that we don’t believe deep down in our souls?

 

The choice to remain with Christ provides fertile ground for inviting others into God’s good life. We don’t just share the Good News out of a hollow sense of obligation to God. We share the Good News with others because we have remained with Christ and experienced God’s Good News. We know God’s love for us given in Christ and realized for us in the Holy Spirit. We receive the gift of God’s embrace into the Trinitarian life. We have these great blessings of love, peace, kindness, and patience. Our lives are changed by the decision to remain with God. And when our lives are changed, those who are close to us will notice.

 

Hear. Follow. Remain. Lead.

 

So finally, Andrew goes home to find his brother Simon. He tells him that he has “found the Messiah” (1:41), the Savior of Israel, and the one who will lead their people into New Life. Then “he brought Simon to Jesus” (1:42). Another way to translate “brought” is “lead.” Andrew “leads” his brother to Jesus.

 

St. Andrew is an excellent model for us in our evangelism. Andrew does not point to Jesus passively. He does not tell Simon to do something he hasn’t done himself. Andrew does not harass him with Jesus, or guilt him into following Jesus. He doesn’t hit his brother over the head with a Bible or tell him how sinful he is and why he ought to repent.

 

No, Andrew leads Simon to Jesus. He tells his brother what Jesus means to him and then goes along with him to meet Jesus. This is a kind, personal, relationship-focused approach to evangelism.

 

Hear. Follow. Remain. Lead.

 

We lead others to Jesus because that is God’s approach to us. God did not call the world into himself from afar. Rather, God always interacted with people and sent messengers. Until finally, God cut out the middleman and appeared among us in the flesh. Jesus walks alongside us and knows our struggle against sin, even while modeling the greater way of love. Jesus leads us into new life, by showing us how it can be done.

 

In this same manner, we are called to lead our family, friends, and neighbors into a closer walk with the God of love. We do this by letting our actions be consistent with our words. So when we say our God is love, we must act loving. When we say our God is merciful, we must act mercifully. When we say our God stands up for the poor and needy, we too much stand up for the poor and needy. And when we lead lives of kind, humble love, lives that remain with Christ, we will be equipped to lead others to the same Lord who gives us New Life: Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Davis, D. Mark. "Watch! Seek! Behold! See! Witness!" Left Behind and Loving It. Published 8 January 2017. Accessed 12 January 2017. http://leftbehindandlovingit.blogspot.com/2017/01/watch-seek-behold-see-witness.html. 

 

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