Epiphany 2: “What He Says”
January 19, 2020 – John 1:29-42a
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Talking About Other People
Talking about other people is something we are really good at. You know, asking things like “how’s so and so doing?” or “I heard that that person said…” or “You know, I really don’t get along with that person because…”
If you take a moment to stop and pay attention to it, we talk about each other a lot. In one way it is good because it means we are socializing with each other on at least some level and seem to care about one another. It is also a very small-town thing to do. When there are not many people around, and most people know each other, people are always involved in each other’s lives.
Since being here I’ve even found that I can go from knowing almost nothing about a person other than their name or what their face looks like to knowing intimate, personal, details of their lives in a matter of seconds.
When people talk about each other it can go two totally opposite ways. By talking about someone you can make them greatly respected and loved. Without even knowing someone, or having interacted with them, I can really like them, and have great respect for them, just because of how someone talks about how great of a person they are.
The same goes for the other direction too, unfortunately. I can be really put off by someone because of how someone has spoken badly of them. I can “be warned” about someone’s character flaws and instead of being let down or hurt by them personally and being able to confront them about it, it is almost like the relationship has already been damaged because of how someone else has negatively painted them.
I try to not let the bad that others speak about each other to affect my relationship with each individual person. Sometimes it is not easy; though. Sometimes it sticks. The real problem with this is that there can be a wedge shoved between two people that is not even based on an incident that can be addressed and forgiven because the wedge is founded on a third person inflicting damage on the relationship.
What is my point with all of this? Even if you do not realize it, what you say can do a lot. After all, words were what God used to create the entire cosmos. Words are what make a couple husband and wife. Words are a part of what makes simple bread and wine Jesus’ body and blood, Words are what brings a damaged human into God’s immeasurable forgiveness through the waters of baptism. Words are what is used over and over to create and sustain faith. Words start and end wars. Spoken words do a lot.
James writes, “8no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:8-10).
The tongue is dangerous. Our spoken words about others are powerful.
This is why God has given the eighth commandment to not give false testimony against your neighbour which is about speaking poorly against your neighbour. Luther’s explanation of this commandment reads “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbour, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”
Satan will try to get us to speak poorly about each other constantly. Satan wants to divide us and turn us against each other. Satan wants to make this parish smaller and smaller until it ceases to exist so no one can hear and receive the power of the words “In the stead and by the command… I forgive you all your sins….” Words can do amazing things. Words can do great things. Words can lead us to trust in Jesus.
John the Baptist
Because of the good that God spoke to John the Baptist about Jesus, John was able to speak well to others about Jesus. Without even having met Jesus, people were able to hear about Him, and love Him. John was able to use words to reveal that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Lamb of God? What does that mean? In the second book of the bible, Exodus, God rescued the Israelites from their slavery to the Egyptians by sending an angel of death to kill all the firstborns of those who did not hear God’s instructions to slaughter a lamb and put its blood on the doorposts. The angel of death would pass over and they would be spared. In the third book of the Bible, Leviticus, God gave the Israelites a way to have their sin temporarily forgiven and be able to dwell with God’s presence in the middle of their city. The people were able to slaughter a spotless lamb for the punishment they deserved for their sin and God would accept that sacrifice and forgive their sin. These methods were only temporary and would need to be done over and over so the whole life of an Israelite consisted of providing their own spotless lambs for their sins.
What John is saying here, is that instead of the people needing to provide a lamb over and over again for their sins, God Himself has provided the lamb for the sacrifice. God has provided a lamb so perfect that it could take away the sins, not just of one person, or even a whole nation, but the sins of the whole world for all time.
By John proclaiming that Jesus was this Lamb of God, he was not only directing people to Jesus but to the whole trinity of God and the amazing gift He had given to the whole world out of love. God showed John His gift to the world and used John to tell others, so they might love God, too.
Our Speaking of Jesus
We see John’s positive use of talking about God spread instantly to the apostle Andrew. Andrew then immediately goes and tells His brother, Peter, who He brings to see Jesus. Peter, later goes on to learn from Jesus and tell many others about Jesus – even those in Rome. From there, the people who Peter spoke to about God, told other people, all the way down to Luther and the Reformation. From there people have been talking about God and speaking well of God and bringing others to see the love God has for the world in sending Jesus. People have kept on talking about Jesus who loves us and takes away our sin all the way down to when YOU were first were told about Jesus. Some of you first heard it when you were a young child attending church in the womb. Some at baptism, and some way later in your life. That same speaking of Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Christ, the love of God made flesh, has continued on right up to this morning.
As we heard earlier from James, “no human being can tame the tongue.” Our tongues keep speaking poorly of others. Our tongues keep speaking poorly of God and trying to deny or reject Jesus as the Lamb of God. Our tongues curse God. Our tongues betray us and damn us.
Thanks be to God, God has come to us by His Holy Spirit in the Word and in Baptism so that our tongues are made new. We are made a new creation by the forgiveness of our Sins in the Lamb of God. We speak well to others about God and spread this message of God’s love and forgiveness in our words and actions. We talk about God to others, and people come to love our God. We sing our hymns to thank God for what He has done.
Jesus’ Speaking of Us
Thankfully, it is not about what we say about God that is the most important thing. Thankfully it is not our own efforts to spread His name which truly matters most. Thankfully, it is what Jesus says about us that matters. What does Jesus say about you and me?
He says “You are my beloved child.”
He says you are loved (John 3:16). He says you are His (1 John 3:1). He says you have been redeemed from sin (Eph 1:7). He says you are a light to our dark world (Eph 5:8, Matt 5:14). He says He has made you His ambassador to the nations (2 Cor. 5:20). He says that He has given you a glorious future (Rom 8:18) and hope (Rom 15:13).
Thanks be to God, that Jesus, our Lamb of God, who both knows and takes away all our sin, lovingly speaks well of us.