A couple years before I answered the call into the ministry, my pastor led us in a study on Evangelism. There were several books we used: “Everyday Evangelism” by Billie Hanks Jr., “The Master Plan of Evangelism” by Robert Coleman, and “How to Win Souls” by (I don’t remember the author. Seems I did not keep it in my library). These books laid out a plan where you knocked on the door, asked someone if they were saved, quoted certain scriptures, and led them to pray the prayer of salvation. As we went through this study, several questions came to mind: “Wouldn’t it be helpful to get to know the person first?” “Wouldn’t they listen more if they knew and respected you?” “Is it possible for this to do more damage than good?” I just didn’t feel like this was the answer! I just didn’t feel like this was me. I just didn’t feel like this is what I saw in the Bible, even though these authors quoted scriptures to defend their positions. There is a time and place for these scriptures, but somehow, pressing a stranger just didn’t seem right!
Our scripture today comes from the Gospel of John. There are four gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the synoptic gospels because they seem to really parallel each other. A lot of what you find in one you find in the others. John’s gospel is different. John seems to march to a different beat. His gospel has been called the maverick gospel. Robert Kysar wrote a book about John’s gospel called “The Maverick Gospel” because John’s gospel seems to stand alone. When you look at something in John’s gospel, you do well to look at what is different from the other gospels and ask yourself why John felt the need to record it differently.
Last week, we looked at the baptism of Jesus account from Luke. This followed the birth account that we’ve been reading throughout Christmas. Before we look at our scripture, notice the birth narratives from John: John 1:1-5 & 10-14. It seems to me that John is more into interpreting what has happened than just recording for us what has happened. It is from John that we learn that this baby was there in the beginning and was with God and was/is God! It is from John that we learn that it is through this baby that we are given the power to become children of God! It is from John that we find some of the greatest theology and understanding that Jesus is God, right here in John’s birth narrative!
Also, there is no baptism of Jesus narrative in John! John is questioned as to why he is baptizing if he is not the Messiah . . . He says “ I baptize with water …. the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” John doesn’t seem to want us to be confused by the fact that Jesus is even baptized by John, so he does not emphasize that. Jesus is so much greater than John; the place of John the Baptist is to prepare the way for Jesus, to introduce us to Jesus. That is his only function in the Gospel of John. John doesn’t even refer to him as John the Baptist, just John. In our scripture today, John tells us who Jesus is, and John isn’t mentioned again except in chapter 3 where John again passes the mantle to Jesus.
So with John the Baptist’s introduction, what does the writer of John tell us about Jesus in our scripture today?
First, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Here is John’s interpretation of what has happened. Jesus is the Lamb of God. He will be that eternal sacrifice for our sins that will take away our sins! Praise God! There will no longer be a need for the sacrifice of a Lamb for sin; Jesus will be that lamb. It is from John that we get this theology of the lamb and the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus!
Second, “I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to
Israel. And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit
descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who
sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit
descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” There is not a baptism narrative, but here
John seems to allude to it. He
interpretes the Dove as being the Spirit descending on Jesus. He sees this as God telling who he is! He says, I didn’t know him, but God pointed
him out to me! It isn’t me, but
God! He is the one I have been called
to prepare the way for! God told me!!
Third, “this is the Son of God.” Here John also wants us to know that this Jesus is the Son of God! He is the Son of the creator God! Again, just like in Luke, John wants us to know that Jesus isn’t an illegitimate child but the Son of God! He is a God/man!
Then, in the following scriptures (verses 35-42) is the beginning of the gathering of the first disciples. John, declares, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” Then the two disciples just followed Jesus! One of these was Andrew, he goes and tells his brother Simon, “We have found the Messiah!” He brings Simon to Jesus. It seems to me that in John’s gospel there is a drawing power to Jesus. People go tell their friends, and Jesus draws them in. The testimony is “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” or “We have found the Messiah!” and people come to see! People are drawn to Jesus! It is in John 12:32 where John quotes Jesus as saying, “and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This is referring to Christ’s crucifiction, but John wants us to know that Jesus draws people to himself. All we have to do is lift Him up!
I like this! We don’t have to pound people with the gospel like in the training I referred to in the beginning. It isn’t about going to strangers that we don’t know, pounding on their door, and pushing them to make a commitment for Christ. It is about going to people we have relationships with. It is about going to people who respect what you say and think. We just need to say, come to one who has made a difference in my life! Come to one who wants to help you through whatever you are going through! And they will come! John Wesley said it this way, “Offer them Christ.”
As we conclude today, we are going to have an anointing of hands. Our part in this evangelism thing is much like that of John the Baptism. Our part is to tell them, here is one who can make a difference in your life! Here is one who can give you a new beginning! Come and see! Jesus will do the drawing to Himself! As we have an anointing of hands, won’t you allow God to use your hands as God’s hands to do this work of introducing the people you know to Jesus?