Sermon 15th January 2023

Readings; John1, 29-42, 1 Cortinthians 1, 1-9


Last year, in this season, we had a series of sermons which dwelt on the word epiphany and its meaning . The revelation to all the world, not just the Jewish nations from where he came, of just who Jesus was and is, first revealed to the Gentile astrologers or kings, then through our readings of his naming and baptism where he is revealed, as John says in our reading this morning, as The Son of God, The Lamb of God , Messiah and Rabbi. A couple of weeks ago, celebrating the naming of Jesus we discovered just how many names are used for him, and how many different aspects of his identity and purpose are revealed in those names.

As we read the gospels, each is unique in the way the good news of Jesus is told, each has a different emphasis partly depending on the audience the writer was addressing, partly depending on the particular aspect of the good news the writer felt important. Matthew, writing to a mainly Jewish audience emphasises the links with the scriptures as he tells the story of Jesus, Mark, writing to a mainly Greek audience seems to miss out some details but his gospel is more like a sermon, a call to action for his readers. Luke,  writing to the next generation of mainly Greek believers is more complex, emphasizing the cultural and social impact of this new way of life amongst the impact of the Son of God on all the world, John, writing to a deeply committed somewhat gnostic Christian community examines the nature of Jesus, the complex Christology and theology behind his ministry, digs deeper to understand more about the triune God.

That’s a very simplistic summary but it’s why all four gospels are there in the Bible, because each reveals more of the gospel, more of the man who is God, the Christ, Jesus. Unless we read and contemplate them all, our understanding is incomplete.

So we come to John’s account of the baptism of Christ. John has already established in those famous first words of the gospel that Jesus was pre-existent, there at creation, the Logos, the Word. The birth was the human incarnation of God, and here at his baptism the Holy Spirit descends and a voice from heaven , as we heard last week, declares Jesus to be the Son of God.

Is it at this point that Jesus the man becomes the divine, is John saying that he is reunited with the Holy Spirit which leads to the declaration of him being Son of God, or is the sign of the Spirit and the voice confirmation of his divinity?

John is absolutely clear as we read the rest of his gospel that this Jesus is not just the Son of God, he is God, and yet we struggle with our limited human intellect to understand the concept of a triune God who is one God, Father, Son and Spirit. John, in some respects doesn’t try to explain it, he lays it out in poetic language in complex theology and leaves his readers with a mystery which he knows they will never fully understand. Much as we struggle to understand how the creator of the universe, the billions of galaxies out there can love every person on this seemingly insignificant planet, so much so as to send his only son to try enable the perfection again of the people created in his own image.

There are some mysteries we might contemplate and debate, but will never understand- it is the very nature of mystery, known, yet unknown, fascinating yet unsolvable. Glorious and awesome.

But in the face of that mystery John points his readers ( and that of course includes us) to some revelations within that mystery. Jesus, Son of God, Lamb of God, Rabbi and Master are the names used in this passage, the way into some understanding. Son of God, yet also God- as we read on in the gospel we come to the “I am” sayings, reflecting God’s words to Moses, Jesus is not just the Son of God but is God.

Jesus lamb of God, not just the sacrificial lamb, but the lamb that reflects back to the Passover when the blood of the lamb was wiped on doorposts so that the occupants would be saved, the judgement of God would pass by, reflecting on the everlasting saving blood of Jesus.

Jesus, Rabbi and Master- words the Baptist’s disciples use as they first encounter Jesus and which lead to them following Jesus to not just to be taught by him, but to eventually know him not just as Master but as Lord.

I want to digress a moment to the introduction to the first letter to the Corinthians. Paul introduces himself as called by the will of God- not his will, and he emphasises that he writes not just to the church at Corinth but to all who believe. But when he gives thanks for the ministry, grace and enrichment of the church there and their testimony of the gospel, he encourages with some interesting words. He says this church, this troubled church he writes to, as we discover later in his letters, with its competing ideas, leaders and theologies which have led to division, he says that they do not lack any spiritual gifts and that God will keep them firm to the end.

So, amongst all the disunity and problems, Paul gives thanks for the complexity and diversity of spiritual gifts they have received from God, give thanks that those gifts are not lacking, but as we see later in his letters, recognising that some are not using those gifts, and some are misusing them. And yet Paul knows, God has supplied them with sufficient gifts that God can keep them firm to the end.

Coming back to our gospel passage there is a tiny but fascinating interchange as John’s disciples first follow Jesus. “What do you want?” , he asks of them, and they simply ask where he is staying. Somewhat strange questions and answer. I suspect the disciples simply want to go and spend time with Jesus, to learn from him for they have just called him Rabbi, or teacher, remembering that they have  recently spent time learning from John, who now clearly directs them to Jesus, the one he would have taught them about, the one who was to come.

And Jesus’ response? “Come, and you will see”

Not only is John echoing Jesus’ words, he himself is inviting the reader, come, read further come and see how this Jesus inhabits the lives of believers, come and see the good news I have to tell. Like Paul, John, the gospel writer knew that his church, the readers of his words did not lack any spiritual gifts.

They had been given in abundance as they had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, yet he knew they still had more to learn, more to understand about this Jesus in order to spread that gospel wide, as Paul intimated, to all people, as well as to strengthen and build the community of faith they had formed and resist the persecution which they encountered.

We are a church blessed, enriched by God’s spiritual gifts, yet, in the world today, as even here in Sark, just like the early church at Corinth, we have a plethora of understandings and theologies that sometimes unite us, sometimes divide us. Like John’s disciples, we too can turn to Jesus for answers, yet perhaps he asks, “what do you want” of us too, yet we struggle to know just what that is?

Perhaps our reply, instead of coming at him with all our problems, misunderstandings, worries about decreasing numbers, struggles with theologies, doctrines, traditions and a multitude of other things, perhaps our reply should be as simple as the disciples; “Where are you staying?”

And perhaps we will hear that simple invitation “Come and you will see”, and as we delve into that place we see Jesus inhabiting in the gospels, the teaching of his words, his good news will be revealed afresh as we receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit in our understanding.

And maybe too, as we are then enriched, as we become better disciples of Christ, and thus when people might see the touch of Jesus’ life on ours and their curiosity is awakened, our invitation to them might also be in Jesus’ simple words “Come and you will see”. For what we have to show them, who we have to show them, will change their lives forever.

Perhaps that should be our challenge for this new year, to reach out with that invitation “Come and you will see” and to have confidence that God has provided all  the spiritual gifts we need to further his church, if only we were to recognise those gifts and have confidence in them.

I finish with Paul’s words, that they might be mine to you all too, and that you all might be encouraged by God’s Spirit;

“I always thank my God for you, because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him, you are enriched in every way.”