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First Presbyterian Church, Nashville

Dr. Todd B. Jones

January 19, 2014

Come and See

Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42

            Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Scottish physician, in 1887.  (This makes Sherlock Holmes almost Presbyterian!)  Doyle wrote four Holmes novels and fifty-six short stories about his detective hero.  Sherlock Holmes forever has found his way into our consciousness wearing his familiar deerstalker hat.  Some even call it a “Sherlock Holmes hat.”  You know how it looks: It has a bill in the front and back, with flaps for the ears carefully tied at the top.  All you need to do is pull out a deerstalker hat and people instantly associate it with Sherlock Holmes.

            But did you know that Holmes’ deerstalker hat is never mentioned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?  It was, instead, an illustrator named Sidney Paget who created Holmes in the signature hat for a short story, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, which appeared in the Strand Magazine in 1891.  That illustration became so iconic that in many ways the hat has become better known than the Sherlock Holmes literature.  Now any actor who would try to play Holmes would have to wear the deerstalker hat.

            In the same way, the Church has come to think of Jesus as The Lamb of God.  Countless works of Christian art and iconography in ancient churches portray Jesus as The Lamb of God.  In our most ancient communion liturgies, we pray to Jesus as “The Lamb of God, who takest away the sin of the world.”  And Handel’s Messiah includes an unforgettable section in which Jesus is praised as The Lamb of God.  Yet Jesus never once called himself The Lamb of God.  He calls himself The Son of Man, The Good Shepherd, The Son of God, The Light of the World, The Bread of Life, but never once The Lamb of God.  Instead, it is John the Baptist who refers to Jesus as The Lamb of God two times in our text in John this morning, in John 1:29 and John 1:36.  As such, John the Baptist served as the illustrator of Jesus, who would forever thereafter be known in art and music, in poetry and hymns, and surely in Christian theology as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

            But John the Baptist did not set out to be Jesus’ illustrator.  John makes that clear in his Gospel’s opening verses: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.”  John the Baptist came to be a witness to Jesus, to testify to what he had seen and heard and experienced through Jesus, who began His public ministry by being baptized by John in the River Jordan.

            John came to be a witness to Jesus, and testified that Jesus was “the Son of God.”  Of course, this is what we all are called to be.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus said, “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”  This was John’s calling, and it is our calling as well.  We are called to give testimony to what we know of Jesus.  It is not the calling of some Christians, but the calling of all.  We are not all called to be preachers or teachers or evangelists or missionaries.  But we are all called to be witnesses, to offer testimony to what we know of Jesus.  And the first thing we know a good witness is to do is to tell the truth.  It is fine if you don’t know everything there is to know about Jesus.  (I sure don’t!)  What we are all called to do is to tell the truth that we do know about Jesus, to share the truth we have found in Jesus.  I am the first to admit that there is more truth and life in Jesus than I have ever found.  But my calling is to share what I have come to know.

            Jesus invites encounter.  This is clear in our passage this morning.  Andrew and another disciple hear John’s testimony “and they followed Jesus.”  Jesus turned and saw them, and asked, “What are you looking for?”  I love this moment in the Gospel of John!  Jesus invited Andrew and his friend into a deeper conversation.  “What are you seeking?” might be another way to phrase Jesus’ question.

            We all come to Jesus seeking something.  We all come from different places in coming to Jesus.  And Jesus meets us all wherever we are and says, “Come and see.”  It is an invitation to a deeper relationship.  It is an invitation to seek, to ask, to question, to be honest to God.

            We often think we are searching for God, or for answers to our deepest questions, or for help of some kind when we come to Jesus.  But here in the opening chapter of John’s Gospel, we also see that Jesus is searching, looking for us!  “What are you looking for?” He asks.  It is a good question: What are you looking for?

            We all come to this place for our own reasons, don’t we?  Some of us are here because we have to be, because our parents made us.  That is why and where I started, and looking back, I am really grateful my parents didn’t give me a choice.  I am grateful they didn’t put it up for a vote.

            My life has been forever deepened and enriched by Jesus, and I am not sure I would have gone on my own, if I had been given the choice.  Some of us are here because we are interested in living better lives.  We wonder if God will help us in doing this.  Some of us are here as much for our doubts as for our faith.  And some of us are here because we could not imagine not seeking weekly worship, a chance to encounter Jesus and to worship Him again.

            The point is that Jesus meets all of us wherever we are.  Jesus asks an open-ended question, a question that invites a deeper relationship: “What are you looking for?”  And He bids us, “Come and see.”  Andrew and his friend did just that.  They had no idea what they were getting themselves into!  They did not know then that they would end up leaving behind their nets, their boats, their homes, their everything in order to follow where Jesus would lead them.

            When I first heard Jesus say, “Follow me,” I had no idea where it would lead.  We never do.  I have an old friend who loves to sing.  His father was a federal judge, and he became a lawyer to support his family, but his real love was always singing.  And Paul has an incredible voice.  He started going to church, he told me once, because he loved to sing in front of people, to share his incredible gift with admiring people.  He said, “It isn’t show business, but it was the next best thing for a lawyer who loved to sing!”  Then he started noticing the power of the words he was singing.  And he started paying attention to the hymns.  One day he realized he was singing them to God, and not just to the congregation.  Then he became aware that the rest of the service was making a claim on his life.  He even found himself being engaged by the sermons, looking forward to them.  One day he showed up in my study, and his story just tumbled out.  He was not at all sure about who he thought Jesus was, but he heard Jesus calling him, saying what he has said to countless disciples over the centuries.  It is what Jesus says today, here and now: “Follow me.”

            Paul said to me, “Todd, I know you believe this stuff is true.  I’m not sure what I believe.  But Jesus has gotten into me.  I feel myself being drawn to Him.”  “Can we speak honestly about this?” he said.  And it began one of the deepest, most candid and life-giving friendships I have enjoyed as a pastor, or rather I should say, as a witness.

               That is all we can ever be.  It is all we have to be.  We are called to testify to the truth we know we have found in Jesus, who is always seeking, always looking for us, saying, “Come and see.”  It is an inviting word, a word of hospitality from Jesus, the Great Host at the feast called life.

            Diane Komp is a pediatric oncologist who was treating a little girl named Anna for leukemia.  Anna would respond to treatment, only to go out of remission again.  At the age of seven, Diane had seen too many cases like hers, and she knew that Anna was facing the end.  In the room with her were her parents and a hospital chaplain, who was more interested in psychology than theology, offering therapy rather than God.  Komp described herself at this point as a “pragmatic post-Christian agnostic.”  Komp writes, “Before she died, Anna sat up suddenly in her bed and said, ‘The angels – they’re so beautiful.  Mommy, can you see them?  Do you hear their singing?  I’ve never heard anything so beautiful!’  Then, she lay back down and died.”  Anna’s parents felt they had been given a precious gift.  The chaplain left the room rather quickly, leaving the agnostic oncologist alone with Anna’s parents.  “Together we contemplated a spiritual mystery that transcended our understanding….  For weeks, the thought that stuck in my head was, ‘Have I found a reliable witness?’”  To which, Jesus would surely say, “Come and see.”

                                                                                     Amen.

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