Second Sunday after the Epiphany
If you are above the age of forty, you have surely noticed;
And if you are under the age of forty, you are probably playing along.
We live in a sound-byte culture.
There’s no use complaining.
It’s just the way information works in 2017.
Facts and ideas have to be communicated so quickly,
That you can get learn what you need to before you scroll past it
That’s why most stories are reduced to their headlines.
It’s why CNN offers the world news on Snapchat.
And Twitter allows you 140 characters.
That comes out to about 28 words, give or take a few.
That’s not a lot. I’ve already said 105.
To proclaim the Gospel in 28 words may be tough,
But it doesn’t need to be.
John’s Epiphany sermon is exceptionally short.
Forget 28 words. John only needs 13.
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
That proclamation is as true as it is profound.
And it is exactly what John was sent to say.
That this is God’s Son.
He will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
He is God’s very own, very best Lamb,
Who will be sacrificed to atone for the sin of the world.
It may seem like a sound-byte, like a headline, or a tweet.
But the difference between John’s 13 words and anyone else’s is this:
John’s 13 words are spoken to Epiphany you.
Those 13 words are spoken as revelation, as manifestation,
As presentation of the One Word, who was made Man for you.
The other difference, I suppose, is the follow-up.
As we learned from the wise men last week, Jesus is more than information, and Epiphany is more than knowledge.
And so, John would not have his disciples just hear the headline.
He doesn’t want them to scroll past Jesus on their news feed,
And move on with their day.
Which appears to be exactly what happened.
It’s there in verse 35: “the next day…”
Again, the next day.
John the Baptist, your Rabbi, who baptized Christ in the Jordan,
He reminds you of the Spirit descending,
He repeats the words of the Father who was speaking,
This is My Son, I love Him. Listen to Him.
All that, and they are still here.
13 words may have been too many.
So he gives it another go in verse 36: “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
5 words. Better.
“The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.”
Strangely enough, on a day when we are seeing the benefits of a brief,
Succinct message, it would be unthinkable to stop the sermon here, at 764 words, and this is why:
Things do not end with disciples following Jesus.
Things begin with disciples following Jesus.
Your life as a Christian, as a Child of God, began at your Baptism,
But it did not end in your Baptism.
The life and salvation won for Jesus on the cross were poured out on you there, and this is beyond a doubt.
But, in the words of N.T. Wright,
It turns out that there really is life after, life after death.
You are not lost among the crowds.
Jesus turns and notices you.
He asks you questions: “What are you seeking?”
He invites you to join Him, “Come and see.”
Jesus wants you to have a full-blast Epiphany.
He wants to pull you in completely to His Divine life;
And you would not have it.
You are Jesus’ disciples.
You call Him “Rabbi, teacher.”
But you don’t come to Bible Study.
You say, “teach me to be merciful.”
Only to withhold mercy.
You ask for a generous heart,
So long as it is kept far away from your bank account.
It’s like hearing John’s 18 word sermon,
Seeing Jesus with your very own eyes,
And checking to see what else is on.
That kind of complacency; that kind of indifference,
That kind of a life, if you can call it that,
Is a sin so anti-Christmas, so anti-Epiphany, and so anti-Christ.
That it fills the Jordan river and pollutes it.
John can point to the water and say,
“Behold, the sin of the world, which takes away the Lamb of God.”
That 13 word sermon is incomplete.
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
For you who are His disciples that means a full, Christian life.
It is Church and Bible Study every week.
It is Scripture, Prayer, and Eucharist.
It means giving a real 10%, a thorough mercy, and a winsome witness.
That is what it means to be a disciple.
It is saying what Jesus says,
Doing what Jesus does,
And going where Jesus goes.
Even when you can barely see the point.
However well you think you know Jesus,
There is always more.
As a down payment on that, consider this:
That in about ten minutes, when you sing the Agnus Dei
You would do well to consider the context.
You will be facing the altar,
Upon which Jesus, the Lamb of God is waiting for you.
You will also be making a confession:
That He is not merely passing through,
But has, in fact, come to take away every one of your sins.
Those words you sing, which are not your own,
Are the answer to Jesus’ question, “what are you seeking?”
When you arrive at the rail, you will fall to your knees.
There is really no other way to behold Him.
Finally, you will receive the fullness of John’s 18 word sermon.
It is one Word, the Word made Flesh.
In the manger, in the Jordan, on the cross, and in your own mouths.
This is Epiphany. And it has just begun.