Summary: As those who have encountered Christ and been transformed we, like John the Baptist and Andrew, should point to Christ and invite others into his presence.
What do people seek when they follow Jesus? Why do you follow Jesus? Such questions matter for us. If we can’t answer these questions for ourselves, then it seems as if our faith is empty. But our answer to such questions matters for other people too. According to John’s gospel, and the reading we heard just a few moments ago, Jesus’ first disciples followed him because John the Baptist was sharing with them all that made Jesus worth following. John the Baptist recognized in Jesus something so amazing and powerful that he could do nothing less than to encourage others to seek him and to follow him. And when we are willing to talk about why we seek Jesus and why we follow Jesus, it is certain to make a difference in the lives of others as well.
Part of being a Christian is recognizing that we are called to model our lives after the example of Jesus Christ: to live as Christ lived, to heal as Christ healed, to minister and serve, and to love as Christ loved. So much of the Christian journey focuses on seeking God’s guidance through prayer, study, and worship, as we strive to be more and more like Christ. We undertake this challenge knowing that being the weak human beings that we are, we will never achieve all that Christ achieved, but knowing also that this is no less than what God desires for each of us. But this passage from John puts before us another important aspect of Christian discipleship, and that is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others.
Perhaps some of you remember the “What Would Jesus Do?” campaign that was all the rage a decade or so ago. The easily recognizable “WWJD” was displayed on everything from t-shirts to mugs to bracelets. The idea was that by having these bracelets or other reminders nearby, one would always think in every situation to consider what Jesus would do in that same situation, and then to act accordingly. I had a “WWJD” bracelet that I wore for several months during that time, and I’m sure many of you did as well. It was a great campaign, indeed, but such a campaign also presented its problems.
A colleague of mine tells a story of a conversation he had with a high schooler at the height of the “What Would Jesus Do?” campaign. This young woman had been given a “WWJD” bracelet, and while she was wearing it, she was also somewhat troubled by it. After youth group one night, the high school girl shared with my colleague that she was struggling with the concept of the bracelet. The pastor tried to explain to the girl that the bracelet is supposed to be a tangible reminder that we are followers of Jesus and that we are to be guided by his actions in every facet of our lives. She responded that she clearly understood all that. Her problem was that she did not see how it was possible for us even to know what Jesus would actually do in any situation, let alone to do it faithfully! The pastor tried to explain that we have the Bible and the wider community of believers to help us. But the girl’s response was an exasperated, “Yeah, but don’t you see? I am not Jesus! I am fully human, but I am not fully divine. I just don’t think it’s fair to even assume that I could imagine what Jesus would do because I am not God!” She had a point!
While we can and should spend our whole lives trying to be Christ to the world, the simple fact of that matter is that we will never be able to do what Christ did. BUT, we can do what John the Baptist did. We can share the story of Jesus Christ with others. We can talk about all that makes Jesus worth following. We can share our testimony of Christ with everyone we meet! There is no limit to that!
The passage we heard from John’s gospel this morning records the first personal testimony about Jesus Christ. And it begins with a very simple word, “Look!” Twice, John the Baptist is standing among his disciples, perhaps teaching them, or maybe just chatting and laughing. But when he notices Jesus not too far off, he interrupts everything, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Look, the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit! Look, this is God’s chosen one!” All John did was point to Christ and tell his story, why Christ is worth following. It was enough to make a couple of people curious, and so they followed Jesus and spent some time with him. One of those people was Andrew, who after hearing John’s testimony and spending some time with Jesus, went to find his brother, Simon. Andrew says simply and matter of factly, “We have found the Messiah.” And then, the gospel tells us, Andrew took Simon to Jesus and the transformation that can come only through the saving love of Christ began. “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.” The Rock. Christ says to this man, in essence, through me you will have strength and power; through me you will be sure and strong. And all it took was a personal testimony that introduced these people to the God of grace and love. We don’t have to be the ones to save; only Jesus can do that. But we are the only ones who can testify about Christ’s saving love, and if we do that, we can be assured that Christ will work in their lives, just as Christ has worked in our lives.