Sunday 19th January 2020 - Llanos
Isaiah 49. 1-7, 1 Cor 1. 1-9, John 1. 29-42.
May I speak in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This is the second Sunday of Epiphany, and the scriptures we have heard are again full of signs and wonders which reveal Jesus as the Son of God. Epiphany means a Revelation. The Bible is a little like the clues on an amazing Treasure Hunt, leading to the greatest treasure that God could ever give, His Son. We may not always see them or understand them, but the signs are all around us and we have Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth.
It is an exciting adventure. Isaiah was a major prophet, known to and chosen by God even before his birth, like Jeremiah and John the Baptist. Their calling was always to serve the Lord. They were ones chosen to read the signs and tell others. Isaiah was living 700 years before Jesus was born and his prophecies, like the one today, applied to his own time and experience as well as pointing to Jesus. It is called The Servant Song. Isaiah repeats several times that he was known even in his mother’s womb and that he was chosen. He has a mission to Israel, to bring his people back to God, but felt he had failed and had been rejected by them, so the mission of servant and those he represents now becomes a mission to all nations. The work is moving on and Isaiah’s prophesises point to another Servant, one identified with Israel but who will be a Light to the Gentile nations. He is identified by Isaiah as Immanuel, God with us. Isaiah is responsible for revealing many of the clues in the treasure hunt and signs of Jesus birth, ministry, death and resurrection. He speaks too of the wonders Jesus will perform during His earthly ministry. The clues are there, the signs follow.
We have been studying Paul’s letters to the Corinthians in our house group. They are powerful, emotional letters, Paul is, like Isaiah, laying down the facts and trying to teach the wayward Corinthians that they have all the signs before them and that they found the treasure! The Cross marked the spot where the Treasure was revealed. Now they are going off in all different directions and Paul doesn’t hold back in pointing them in the right direction again. He starts with “Paul, chosen by God”, those are all the credentials he needs and he highlights what God has done for the people who find the Treasure. Very clever! Look what you have achieved, now, why are you so wayward and misguided? Look at his words, carefully chosen to tip the Corinthians back into the wonders of God’s gifts, not their own. Words like “wonderful gifts given to you”, “helped you”, “every grace and blessing”, “every spiritual gift is yours”, “guarantees”, “freedom from guilt”. “God will surely do what He says”, “a wonderful friendship”. These are strong signs of God’s love and salvation, proven true and enjoyed but we see as the letters progress how their culture and society put pressures on them which led them down dead ends and blind alleys. The signs became misused by them, the gifts became personal and competitive. Paul, like Isaiah and like Jesus, was rebuffed and rejected, his words questioned.
John’s account of John the Baptist and his testimony that Jesus is the Son of God is a really touching story. Jesus was John’s cousin; he too was called by God even before his birth for a very special mission, to prepare the way of the Lord, by teaching repentance and baptising those who wanted to return to God’s ways. His whole life was dedicated to listening to God and his faithfulness was rewarded when God made him recipient of a very, very special clue in this hunt for the Messiah, God’s treasure. He was told of a sign which God would give to let John know, without doubt, that Jesus was His Son, the Holy Spirit in the form of a Dove. And John says, “I saw it happen to this man, and I therefore testify that He is the Son of God.”
When John looked at Jesus, he saw more than the man walking in the region of the Jordan. Twice he called Him, The Lamb of God. What he identified in Jesus was a huge clue. He saw in Jesus one who would give His life in sacrifice for all. A Lamb, provided by God, through Jesus, so that all may inherit the treasure He pointed to. John’s heart must have soared but the language he uses, must have also given him pangs of sorrow that such a sacrifice was necessary. His job was nearly done, he had read the signs, untangled the clues and now those who followed him, left to follow Jesus, the man revealed as Messiah by this faithful, holy extraordinary man, John.
When Jesus turned and spoke to John’s two disciples, they were really taken aback. And you can imagine their awkwardness. “What do you want”, asks Jesus. “Ooo-er, what do we say? Um! Oh where do you live?” Jesus must have smiled at these tongue tied, maybe a little awe struck men. But having spent some time with Him, the men were convinced of the truth of John’s words, they were in the presence of the Messiah. They had followed the clues and found the treasure. And Andrew wanted to share it with Peter, his brother.
And here, Jesus looked beyond the obvious, this rough and ready impetuous fisherman, with his earnest open face and willingness to see, He saw a Rock. Something firm, strong, reliable and constant. It reminds me of when God addressed Gideon, as “Mighty Soldier.” He was a poor terrified farmer, threshing his wheat in a pit for fear of attack from the Midians, Gideon was totally non plussed but through faith, he believed God could fulfil His promise and he became as a great military leader, judge and prophet, who defeated the Midians and freed his people. Peter must have felt a little taken aback too, but Jesus’ Word was fulfilled in this wonderful, down to earth man whose faith helped build the Church we are all part of today. I wonder what Jesus sees in us that we don’t see, what name would He give to each of us?
Show picture of seal.
What we see and hear influences our perceptions and we all see things from a different perspective. Jesus saw more in Peter than many others, and John knew Jesus was more than just an ordinary man. Like the Corinthians, our culture and society norms impact us. They can skew our ability to read the signs, to pick up the clues of who Jesus really is and what that means to us. The great clue decipherers of the Bible were ordinary people. Like you and me. Called by God to know His Son and through faith, believe the signs and wonders and confess Jesus as the Son of God. There are signs all around and within us, God doesn’t skimp on clues. His joy is to reveal His Son and His greatest desire is for us to believe and become part of His family. Having found the Treasure, and for us a CROSS really does mark the spot, hold it fast but in our joy, always share it with others. Finding treasure is life changing, what God has given is not hidden; it has been foretold for millennia. It all depends how we look at it, and whether we see the signs and wonders as the perfect Epiphany, a Revelation of Jesus, our Lord and Redeemer. Amen.