Scripture: John 1:29-42
How many of us have ever been exhausted? Just stretched to the near breaking point feeling as if one more thing going wrong just might make you snap. Where the stress is so great the only thing you really want to do is to sit down to cry, or lay down to sleep for a day straight. I know many of us are at that point, and if you are not currently you have been there. In those dark days of exhaustion we do not always act in a manner we would normally wish to act, we may not think as clearly as we would like, and at times our mouth may start speaking before our brain chooses the proper words.
The problem with this state of mind is that we tend to add more to our plate. The stress may be the result of a lost client so we work extra hours attempting to replace the lost income, or we seek to work another job. We end up adding additional stress to alleviate the stress. We have to do these things because it is an issue of survival. But if we do not have a good way to relieve and release the stress, we are walking about like pressurized balloons drifting and bumping along only to pop when we least expect it.
The first century Palestine is one of those pressurized cultures stretched thin and ready to explode. What is causing the pressure? Many things really; there is the political tension of very different cultures living in one place, there are the religious debates over what the correct interpretation or teaching of the Hebrew Law, there is the continuous threat of war as the Romans have a military presence stationed throughout the land because it is the eastern edge of the empire, historians could probably continue listing off various factors that were putting pressure on this small province. But what we do know is that the pressure continued to build and it eventually snapped into all out war that has affected the region for nearly two millennia.
It is in this culture that the evolution of faith emerged. It is in this pressurized and tense situation that everything changes, so much so our calendars and history reflect the distance from this particular era. Last week we spoke of John the Baptist and today this same man again is mentioned. This one man’s ministry stood at the fork of history and faith, it stood as a signpost that marked two paths. The paths were similar in many ways yet altogether different.
“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!’” This is where the pathways diverge, and this is where the evolution of faith that I spoke about earlier is first seen. It revolves around on small three-letter word, sin. Notice that this is a singular word. John did not say sins of the world, but sin of the world. How many of us have recognized that point? Of the two pathways at which John stands guard, one lane focuses on the plural sins where the other focuses on the singular sin. As I contemplate that point I am reminded of the passage in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The yoke in this passage is the teaching of the rabbi. Jesus says that his yoke is easy, where the others are heavy. As Jesus taught, he critiques the religious leaders saying, “they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to life a finger to move them.” This critique is saying that they are focused on the plural sins, instead of the singular sin.
What exactly is the difference? The plural form looks at the symptoms where the singular looks at the cause or the disease. One is looking at the outside, the other internal. Mankind once lived at peace with God in the Garden of Eden, but they were tempted. That temptation was to become like God, and they ate of the fruit and have since lived trying to control their own lives and that of others, instead of living in relationship. Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
Lamb of God is the second statement that sticks out to me. This statement goes back to the formation of Israel, linked to the Passover lamb. This particular lamb is a sacrifice, but is different than other sacrifices. This lamb was the sacrifice that freed the tribes of Israel from bondage, and also prepared and nourished their bodies to begin their journey to the land of promise. Those with the blood of the lamb on the frames of their doorways were protected from the wrath of God that hovered over Egypt claiming the first born of all living creatures.
Sin entered the world and that sin affects relationships between God and humanity and between mankind. Adam and Eve immediately became ashamed of their nakedness and began to hide themselves from each other and God, they covered themselves bound themselves from knowing one another. They became a slave to sin because they could no longer trust, and could only rely on themselves. Here is the Lamb of God, who will free us from the sin, or sickness of the world. Here is the Lamb releasing us to love and trust once again.
The teachings of all the other rabbis focused on the symptoms or the effect of sin. The books of law contain 613 commandments. There are 613 symptoms that point to the root cause of sin, but treating the symptoms does not cure the disease. Trying to keep these laws is like trying to cure a brain tumor with Excedrin. It may relieve the pain for a time but the reason behind the pain remains. Every day more pills are taken, at increasing amounts just to cover the symptoms, and that individual would have to constantly keep a bottle of pills with them just to be able to function. These rabbis command each person to keep the laws, but they still have issues with sin. So they add teachings, and define what the laws mean and what constitutes sin. All the while they continue to wrap their bonds tighter, until they chock out the very life of their faith. Here is the Lamb releasing us from that bondage.
Two of John’s disciples heard these words being said. They were like many of us tired and exhausted, stretched to their breaking point, and John is telling them, “That guy is the one that will release the tension.” For two days they heard this and they decided to follow. Jesus turns to them and asks, “What are you looking for?”
These men are tired of the constant struggle, tired of the trying, tired of the lack of trust and love between everyone around them. They are tired of keeping track of the sins of their life and just want released. And Jesus asked them what are they looking for? Everyone is looking for something. We live in a world that is more connected than ever before. We can instantly converse with people on the other side of the world, we can play games with them over the Internet, but we are also the loneliest we have ever been. What are we looking for? Acceptance? Hope? Release? Everything that we do is done for a reason, that reason may be well planned out or spontaneous but everything we do is done to full some need we are seeking. We may not even know what the reason truly is but we are self-medicating our sins hoping that somehow we can numb the sin.
The men answered Jesus, “Teacher, where are you staying?” The translation, “staying” does not really paint a clear picture of the conversation. Their question alludes to the pitching of a tent, or abides. Or to be clearer, where do you find relief from life’s struggles? Come and see is the answer.
Jesus does not only want to give them some grand teaching or interpretation of the law, he instead wants them to come and see. He wants them to join him so he can show them what life with God is truly supposed to be. Come and see, not listen and do, but come and see. There is a distinct difference between the methods of teaching. One is dictated to others while the other is a hands’ on approach with them. Come and see, walk with me, listen and observe, and let me show you and then watch as you practice.
We live in a scary, dark, and lonely world. Every day we shake our heads as we hear reports of violence. We have divided our nation up into political groups where we have different philosophies how to answer the same questions, and yet we do not trust the other. We stretch ourselves out with work, and attempts to alleviate the stresses that are around. We attempt to control as many factors of life as we can in an attempt to turn things around. And yet we feel as if we have just been spinning our wheels. We look to leaders to give us the answers, yet those leaders are just like us exhausted, stretched, stressed and about to pop. We are asked what we want and all we want is a little release of the pressure.
Jesus is saying to us all come and see where I stay. He took those men out to the place where he physically rested, and Jesus taught them and showed his life. Come and see. Jesus showed them how to enter into a spiritual rhythm that would fulfill all law. He showed them love and acceptance.
We look out at our community, states, nations, and world and often we are overwhelmed, but Jesus is calling us to first come and see. This is what caused George Fox’s heart to leap with joy, this is what prompted Ignatius to start the Society of Jesus with his companions, and this is what prompted every major movement in the church. All had a strong desire to find rest and release from the bondage of sin within them.
We are each on a journey together as we walk with Christ. But we are not the only ones looking for answers. Everyone is looking for something, and we like Christ should help them discern what they are seeking, and then walk with them as they too come and see. We each walk the path, and we each are being watched. Are we showing those around us asking questions what life with God is like or are we instead binding them deeper in their sins.
I began today speaking about being stressed and tired. Our stresses are constantly going to be around us. But we can find rest in Christ. We find it as we adjust our lives to reflect his, as we walk with him in a life of Prayer, worship and ministry. By becoming a people who are Loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others. When we are able to live that rhythm we will begin to see how we can better encourage those around us in their own walks, without binding heavy burdens on them.
As we enter this time of open worship let us contemplate on the question, “What are you looking for? And the answer come and see.” Let us look to Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and let us seek to show a lifestyle where we are free to speak and encourage others to come and see the hope that we have.