Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Spirit and the World: August 6, 2014

the text: John 1:29-42
 The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 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.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 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?’ 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. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). 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).

the ideas
~As much as John chapter 1 wants to make sure we all know Jesus comes from heaven, equally it wants to point out that John the Baptist is pointing away from himself to something bigger, something that “ranks ahead” of him. I am beginning to the think that part of the reason this Gospel was written was to downplay the importance of John the Baptist in the early church. John had a pretty big following early on. This section of scripture has disciples of John leaving to follow Jesus. Again, we read in Acts 19 that there were people who lived under John’s baptism. To this day there are people, called Mandaeans, who reject Jesus but hold John the Baptist’s teaching in the highest regard: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandaeism. What makes this very interesting to me is that John the Baptist doesn’t baptize Jesus in this Gospel. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have John baptizing Jesus. This Gospel skips the baptism and jumps right to JtB testifying about the Holy Spirit descending like a dove (just like the other Gospels). In the other Gospels, John is humble and almost refuses to baptize because Jesus is so much more important. It almost seems as if this Gospel takes John up on the offer.

~Currently, the Church is in the season called Pentecost (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost...). We celebrate many things during this time, not least important is when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church and filled each and every believer (Acts 2). Here we see two things: (1) Jesus has a deep connection with the Holy Spirit – it descends on him like a dove, and (2) Jesus is the one who pours out the Holy Spirit on us.

~This passage has two sections that begin with the “next day” and John declaring the Jesus is the Lamb of God. Day after day John preaches the gospel faithfully. Jesus ministry is a ministry of sacrifice. The Lamb will be killed, but it will have reverberating effects throughout the cosmos.

~In the second half of this scripture we have three words translated for us (Rabbi, Messiah, and Cephas). This tells us something about the audience of this Gospel. Since the Hebrew terms are being translated into Greek, we can tell the audience is probably Greek-speaking. This might explain why this Gospel is more generally focused on the world (“for God so loved the world…”, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, “the light of the world”) and Jesus has more disputes with the Jewish authorities.

the stuff
~Are you baptized with the Holy Spirit? This is the most important question. Some people will say that when this happens, supernatural events happen like weird languages coming from your mouth. The Gospel of John agrees with Romans 8 in that when the Holy Spirit comes into your life the overwhelming feeling is a deep assurance that you are a child of God. Don't worry about the other stuff, has the Spirit testified to your spirit that you are a child of God? Luke 11 says that God gives the Spirit to anyone who asks – so ask. If you would like to pray with someone else, I’ll come pray with you.

~Jesus transforms the world, not just a small group of people, not just the church, not just the rich and healthy, but the world. This Gospel thing is for everyone and all creation. This freedom from brokenness and hurt and everything just screwing up all the time is available to everyone – and its available to you. Jesus is doing something meta. It transcends our selves, our families, our churches, our nation. And, if our eyes are so small we think Jesus blesses me and mine only, we will miss what Jesus is doing. This thing is big and it will touch everyone. Where are your eyes too small? Have you excluded the good news from some people? Are God’s enemies your enemies? Does God bless only those who you want God to bless? If so, your picture of God and the Gospel is too small. You are missing out on what Jesus is doing.

~Andrew brings his brother to Jesus – because when you find something amazing like the Messiah who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, the Son of God, who was before John the Baptist even though Jesus is technically younger, you follow that guy and invite others as well. How could you not?

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