Second Sunday After the Epiphany

Second Sunday After the Epiphany

John 1:29-42

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Epiphany is the season of the church year immediately following the season of Christmas. During the season of Christmas, we focused on the early life of our Lord, his birth, the adoration of the shepherds and magi, and the flight to Egypt. Today we focus on events that occur at the beginning of his ministry. Today we heard about John the Baptist’s witness of the Baptism of our Lord and the calling of disciples. 

The Gospel text begins with “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him”. Today’s Gospel begins in such a way that one might wonder, what happened the day before. During the day before the events recorded in our Gospel John the Baptist was interviewed by priests and Levites from Jerusalem. The priests and Levites were asking John the Baptists about who he is, and why he is doing what he is doing. Here is a summary of that interaction:

“Are you Elijah?”, “No”, 

“Are you the Prophet?”, “No”, 

“Well then who are you?” “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’ as the prophet Isaiah said”

“Well if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet, why are you baptizing?”

Instead of directly answering their question, John the Baptist simply states, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 

These things took place the day before our Gospel, and from this we can understand who John the Baptist is. He is not the one the priests and the Levites should be looking for, rather he is serving as the messenger of the Messiah, that is Christ. John the Baptist is not the guy we’ve all been waiting for, rather he is the opening band. After these events, the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him. And John said “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This moment was the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s life. All those years in the wilderness, all those locusts and wild honey, the itchy Camel’s hair coat, and all other deprivations he suffered lead to this point when he could point out the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. The declaration of Christ to Israel was the purpose of John the Baptist’s work.  

John continues speaking, it seems that there were people around him, “This is he of whom I said, ‘after me comes one who ranks before me, because he was before me’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel” John continues to speak concerning the Messiah and his relationship to him. The coming Messiah ranks before John the Baptist because he was before John the Baptist. John did not know him, but for the purpose of making him known, or revealing him, John came baptizing with water. When our Lord was baptized, as we recall from the Baptism of our Lord last week, the heavens were opened and the Spirit of God descended and rested upon Jesus and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This baptism of our Lord was the event that John the Baptist was witness to. This is the witness of John the Baptist; he saw the Spirit descend and remain on Jesus. John the Baptist saw this and bore witness of this. 

The following day, John the Baptist, was standing with two of his disciples. Again, as Jesus walks by John looking at Jesus says, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this and followed Jesus. Jesus asked them, “What are you seeking?”, they reply, “Rabbi, where are you staying”. Jesus told them, “Come and you will see.” And they stayed with him that day, for it was the tenth hour. 

John the Baptist again hails our Lord as the Lamb of God. As he is standing there he greets our Lord in a grand way, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” This had quite an effect on the two disciples of John the Baptist that were standing with him. Imagine for a moment, a man who you really respect and admire himself show great respect and admiration to another man. This would cause you to be really interested in the other man, who is he, what does he do, why is he respected? These questions might float through your mind, and very well might have float through the minds of John’s disciples. Their curiosity was peaked and so they followed after Jesus. He turns and asks them, “What are you seeking?” They reply, “Teacher, where do you abide?” Our Lord tells them, “Come and you will see.”

The disciples of John for some reason wanted to know where Jesus was staying. They stayed with Jesus for the rest of the day. The disciples of John knew only a little bit about Jesus and from that they wanted to be with Jesus. They were quite curious about the Lamb of God, who surprisingly was not actually a lamb, born of a sheep, but rather a man. They were interested in what it meant that Jesus takes away the sin of the world. Recall from last week the great and wonderful mystery of the Baptism of our Lord, how the sinless Lamb of God took upon himself the sins of the world. How he cleansed the waters of the world by taking all sin onto himself.  

Liturgical scholar Dom Prosper Gueranger writes concerning Epiphany, “The feast of the Epiphany is the continuation of the mystery of Christmas; but it appears on the Calendar of the Church with its own special character. Its very name, which signifies Manifestation, implies that it celebrates the apparition of God to his creatures.” The Sundays after the Epiphany likewise celebrate the appearing of God to his creatures. The mysterious working of God in the flesh among us is peculiar and worthy of praise.  Christianity is a religion of mysteries. How is it that our Jesus is a man like us, but yet is God? How is it that the sinless Son of God could take onto himself all the sins of the world? How is it that Jesus, the one on whom the Spirit descended and abided, abides among sinful human beings? These are great mysteries. 

When the two disciples of John asked Jesus where he was staying, Jesus invites them to come and see. They abided with Jesus for the rest of the day. It was about 4 o’clock when this occurred. He brought them into where he was abiding and they stayed with him. The hymn, “Lord Jesus Christ, with Us abide” discusses well what it means to abide with Jesus. The hymn was inspired by the disciples on the road to Emmaus who begged Jesus to stay with them, but it is also applicable here. The first stanza is: “Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide, for round us falls the eventide; nor let Thy word, that heavenly light, for us be ever veiled in night.” The Lord Jesus Christ is the revealed word of God. His manifestation among us in the incarnation, the nativity, and the Epiphany is a gracious presentation of God to his poor miserable sinners. In this hymn we pray that this revelation would not be taken from us, but that we would be kept with Jesus, the Lamb of God. The world around us is filled with darkness, and we ourselves are none too bright, and so we pray that Jesus would stay with us. For only then is our darkness illuminated by Christ the Lamb of God. 

The words of John the Baptist’s witness make an appearance in our liturgy. The Agnus Dei, the hymn we sing following the Words of our Lord, is based upon this witness of John the Baptist. Here in the elements of bread and wine our Lord abides with us. O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us. O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us thy peace. Amen 

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