Epiphany 2 “Witnesses to Who—and What—We have Seen” John 1:29 And John bore witness--Behold the Lamb of God

who takes away the sin of the world In the Name of Jesus. Amen. You’ve all heard them. Maybe many times. They are the people on the infomercials or Geico commercials. People like Gloria, who swears by her leg toner which she can use even when cooking; or Sammy, who used the special formula to grow his hair back. They are not actors, but real people—or so they claim. I don’t know if that’s true—but I do know that they are all trying to sell us something. That’s the way some people see the Gospel; As a product to be sold. Unfortunately, that perception is shared even by some pastors and Christian people. Slick marketing has become the popular way of Proclaiming the Gospel. Christians, like the people we see on TV, give their testimonies—only to leave us wondering if it is genuine, or if they are just trying to sell us something. What a difference we hear coming from the two men in today’s Gospel lesson. John says, Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and Andrew says We have found the Messiah. Who are they talking about? Who are they directing their listeners toward? Where is the attention placed? On Themselves? No! On Jesus!

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When John says “Behold, the Lamb of God” he is directing the attention of his listeners to Jesus. He is making a comparison between Jesus and the perfect, spotless lamb that was killed at the Passover. You remember the story from Exodus—before the Israelites left Egypt they were to kill the lamb and eat it and put it’s blood on the door posts of their homes—and when the angel of death saw the blood he would pass over them, and their firstborn would be delivered from death. Jesus is the final fulfillment of the Passover. The Only begotten Son of God is to be sacrificed at the Passover for the sake of those in bondage to sin. He is to be killed in place of a lamb—for as we know from the book of Hebrews—the blood of animals can never fully pay for our sins. He is to have His blood poured out on the wood of the cross— This sacrifice of The Lamb of God does not deliver FROM varicose veins nor TO a veritable earthly fortune—rather from eternal death and to the eternal fortunes of heaven. What’s more—there is no cost—no obligation that is connected with this message. It is truly free. Andrew and John are real people, but they are not selling anything—they have nothing to gain from proclaiming the Gospel—in fact, both would lose their lives. The Gospel was for them what it is for us—the only means to be forgiven our sins and be given eternal life. And that is why we hear John the Baptist and the disciples bearing witness. In the NT this term applies to those who saw Jesus. The Apostle John describes it in the beginning of his first epistle: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have
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seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us”. “Oh”, you might be thinking, “If only I could see Jesus. If only I could see Him, or one of his miracles—then my faith would be strong, and I too could bear witness like the disciples.” Dear friends, don’t think like that. For on the one hand our Lord Jesus makes it clear that the ones who are truly blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe. Those are the very words He spoke to Thomas after His resurrection. But in a very real sense, we HAVE seen. We have seen Jesus through eyes of faith that have been opened by the Holy Spirit. Do you know that the word translated as “witness” is actually “martyr”? Where have you heard that word? That is the word given to Christians who suffer and die for the sake of Christ. They were given that title because in their death the martyr bears witness to Christ--and to others--through their death. And in their suffering and death they see Jesus. Do you remember who the first Christian martyr was? Stephen. Listen to this account of his death from Acts 7— Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ Stephen beheld the Lamb of God through eyes of faith. And so did the other martyrs. And I would submit to you that the same holds true for us. Granted, we are not martyrs in the same sense as Stephen, or the other
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Christians who have suffered and died throughout the centuries-- and still give their lives today-- for the sake of The Faith. It is doubtful that many, if any of us will lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel. But we ARE martyrs in the sense that we have seen Jesus through eyes of faith, and therefore bear witness of Him. By faith, we have beheld the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Think about it—where do you hear those words almost every Sunday? Yes! In the Agnus Dei. “O Christ, thou Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” We sing them right before communion. That is no coincidence—for the Lord’s Supper is the Passover that we are celebrating. Through eyes of faith we behold Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away our sins, and the sins of the world. That message has been committed to us, so that we might bear witness of Him. It is a message that convicts the world of sin. For all the world is in sin. Every human being ever born is born into sin—as God made clear to Noah—even AFTER the flood. We know this to be true—not only from the testimony of the Scriptures which speak of the effects and consequences of original sin—but also from the world in which we live. This past week 60 minutes ran a segment on women in the Congo who are victims of the violence of war. It highlighted the plight of one woman who had been raped and had a child as a result. She and her beautiful child—are living illustrations not simply of violence, hatred, and genocide—but of the horrible effects of sin. We know that all the world is in slavery to sin.

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But we also know this-- The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. John the Baptist is here sounding forth the sweet message of salvation; The glorious message of the Gospel. That in Christ Jesus God was reconciling the world to Himself. Think about that. As Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed on the cross He was forgiving you! He was forgiving you for the sins committed as a kid—and now as an adult. As we remember the lives of the millions of babies that have been aborted in this country, we also remember the mothers who made the difficult decision to have those abortions. We must remember those physicians who performed them. We must remember that many are living with guilt—thinking that theirs is a sin that cannot be forgiven. Rather than condemnation or accusation, they desperately need The Gospel-- that in Christ Jesus God has forgiven ALL sins of ALL people. We are no different from anyone else—for we all have lived in the dark shadow of the guilt of sin—It might be an abortion or some other sin that haunts us. You can be absolutely certain of the fact that in Christ Jesus you have been forgiven. But not only you. Jesus has forgiven your husband or wife—who you may have argued with just last night. Jesus has forgiven your parents—who maybe mistreated you or didn’t raise you as you would have liked. He has forgiven your sisters or brothers—with whom you have fought or had a falling out. He has forgiven your in-laws, and your out-laws. But not only your family. He has forgiven your neighbor—the one who blows his snow onto your sidewalk, or lets her dog doodle in your driveway. He has forgiven
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the people you work with—who may be rude and incompetent. He has forgiven your teacher—who gave you the bad grade that blew your perfect GPA. He has even forgiven the telemarketer who calls during dinner or while you’re watching the Denver Bronco game. But not only has Jesus forgiven the people that you know, or who now live in your world--He has forgiven the people you don’t know, and will never know—who live—and have lived—in the whole world. Not just the Christians, or those who will become Christians—but everyone! He was forgiving those who are so unforgivable—the tyrants and terrorists, those who commit murderer and create mayhem, those who live in squalor and those who live in splendor, He was forgiving people in the Congo and Communist China, in Australia and Austria, in Scotland and the Sudan— --even people in Iraq and Iran. He was forgiving all the world. This is something so great that only God could accomplish. This is the unlimited love and power of God poured out in the blood of Jesus Christ. It is the power that is perceived in His death and resurrection from the dead, and received by those who are baptized and believe. It is the power proclaimed in the Gospel—a message meant not just for you or me, but for all the world. But all the world has not heard, nor has believed, in this message. And that is why God has called us to be His witnesses. We ARE real people—not paid actors. We are sinners—but also saints; We have been blessed with Christ’s eternal gifts
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And therefore we are people who have something unique to offer. Do you realize that? (Evangelism committee met this week— excitement. Talking to Jim about it—I said—help them to see how unique and wonderful this Lutheran Faith is. Do you realize that in a very real sense what Luther did was simply confessThe Gospel? That he was bearing witness to The Faith? On the one hand, he had nothing to gain—and everything to lose. On other hand, he had nothing to lose —and everything to gain! And so do we. We are called—not commanded--like Andrew and John and Peter and Stephen and all others who share This Faith--to make the good confession. As Scripture says, to give an answer to the hope that is within us. Sometimes this confession comes with words. Therefore we should know the Scriptures well enough, and be familiar enough with our faith, to simply speak—not try to sell--the Gospel. But sometimes this confession comes with deeds. We think of this in terms of good deeds we do for others. That may be. But there is another manner in which we are given the opportunity to bear witness —one that isn’t so obvious or that sometimes escapes our notice. It is the confession of faith given by Christians who are sick or suffering. This past week I had the occasion to visit with two people who are battling cancer—who are fighting the good fight. One is a member of our congregation that you know well—one is not. But both gave witness to me—and I’m sure do so to others--to the living hope that is within them. The Lord may or may not take away their cancer. But we can be confident that He has taken away the cancer of their sin, and has
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granted them eternal healing, Just as He has done for us. You see, we are all on the same path. Everyone is dying—the only difference is that those who are in Christ Jesus are dying to live—and can be certain that when we die we will be taken to heaven, there to behold in all His glory the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Amen.

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