What is new here? What message do we find here that speaks to us today?
This passage seems to divide in two parts easily enough since there are two days (or more) indicated—v.15-28 and v.29-34. So, that’s the way I’ll preach it.
Verses 15-28: The people of Israel have been waiting for someone to come and save them since the times of Isaiah. That’s about 700 years of waiting (based on traditional dating). They have really been waiting since Abraham was called and the promise given that ‘all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you’ (Gen.12:3)...and that was some 2000 years before this time of John. Isaiah has promised “a child is born...a son is given....” (9:6). Jeremiah has proclaimed words of promise and purpose (Jer. 29). Ezekiel has preached about a resurrection of the people of God (Ezek. 37). [These are references to sermons from the previous series on the prophets.] Over and over and over, I imagine, the people have heard these words of hope and expectation...and many others. So, it’s only normal that the folks come asking John, “Are you the one?” John spends the main part of this passage denying and deflecting—“I am not...no...nope...nyet...” John tells us—and his questioners—who he is not.
Verses 29-34: Everything changes here. We move into the ‘next day’...and focus is all on Jesus. And, what strange or odd proclamations to make. Why not say, “There is the Messiah!” or “That’s the Prophet you’re looking for.” Instead, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Well, this odd...except. Except when we go back to the beginning, to that call of Abraham, we remember why Abraham was called in the first place. God creates the world...sin enters and messes everything up...and God decides to redeem the Creation through this heretofore unknown Mesopotamian fellow named ‘Abram’ (later, ‘Abraham.’) Abraham is called and sent precisely because of ‘sin.’ Through him all the world is to be blessed. Through him, an antidote for sin will come. “Behold the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.” (“Lamb,” of course, a reference to the sacrificial practice of the people of God....)
And, the final declaration of John, “...God’s Chosen One,” rendered in some translations as “the Son of God.” Chosen, Son, Messiah (Annointed)....the one set apart and designated for a particular, important part in the grand story of faith.
In the end, one of the main questions these passages place before us seems to be, “Who is Jesus for us?” Is Jesus one of the great teachers of the ancient world...ranked up there with Buddha, Mohammed, Lao Tzu, etc.? Is Jesus one prophet among many? Or...is Jesus the one who addresses the problem of sin in our lives?? He Jesus the one who can begin to repair, correct, heal and redeem our broken lives, relationships, egos, and floundering lives? As we go into the New Year, will we walk with Jesus as we strive to do things differently or better? Who Jesus is to us and for us can greatly impact our New Year. I think I’ll follow Jesus into this new year and allow his life and light to illuminate my way. May he illuminate our way as a congregation.... Who is Jesus for you?