June 11, 2010 David Balzer

John 1:19-51: In the presence of greatness

I saw two famous SHORT people over the holidays. The FIRST one was when I took the boys to the cricket at the SCG. We were playing cricket out the back of the Member’s stand during a rain delay. And I saw this short, stocky, middle-aged guy with glasses and a HUGE mo’. He looked ANYTHING but an elite sportsman.

And I said to the boys. “Do you know who THAT is?” They didn’t recognise him. “It’s David Boon”. He’s a BIT taller in real life than the Boony doll. They were too nervous to go up and talk to him. To be honest, I was too. He looked a bit busy anyway.

The OTHER famous short person I saw was at Terrigal. He was standing in front of the surf club talking to someone. He had a business shirt on, with shorts and slip-on leather loafers. Like he couldn’t work out whether to be casual or formal. It was Morris Iemma. So I said to Caron – there’s Morris Iemma.

How do YOU react when you see someone famous? When you’re in the presence of GREATNESS? I tend to play it cool – pretend I haven’t noticed them. I’m sure they just want to be out and about, enjoying the day like everyone else without getting bothered.

And most Aussies are pretty casual – like me. No big deal. No point the celebrity getting a big head. Something about the Aussie tradition of keeping our tall poppies cut down to size.

In America they tend to treat their celebrities a bit differently. They’d be MOBBED. Fans would go all silly, and scream. Or just STARE, too nervous to say anything.

And, though I hesitate to draw the comparison between Jesus and David Boon or Morris Iemma, we’ve got a similar situation here in our verses from John 1.

A whole range of people who meet Jesus. A man we’ve already discovered fits in the category of GREATNESS better than anyone else.

How will THEY react in the presence of greatness? Because it’s a much more important question – how you react to meeting JESUS – than how you react to meeting a celebrity. In fact, it’s a matter of life and .

Day One: John

The action takes place over four days. And I reckon there’s a deliberate and obvious progression in the plot as each day passes.

First up. Day 1. It’s about John. Now don’t get confused here. This is John THE BAPTIST. Who’s a DIFFERENT guy to the John who wrote the BOOK.

We’ve already met him. In the first verses of Ch 1. Like v7. That talk about how John came as A WITNESS. Someone to point people in the direction of Jesus.

But notice the important distinction there in v8.

8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

John wasn’t the MAIN ACT, he was only the back-up band. He wasn’t the star, only the public relations consultant. The signpost. The spotlight.

Which is something the Jewish leaders get wrong over in v19. John’s no shrinking violet himself. He’s out in the desert and people are flocking to hear him. He’s loud and rough. He wears clothes like Elijah – a camel hair jacket with a leather belt.

And he eats whatever he can find – wild honey and locusts – which are SORT of like honey king prawns form the local Chines – but not as nice.

He’s preaching all sorts of sermons. About the coming judgment. And the day of the Lord. But he hasn’t got the theological degree. So the Jewish leaders send out the inquisition. Who are you?

Now, we’re not TOLD this. But I’d like to imagine that John’s answer is, “Who am I? I’ll give you three guesses.”

And so they take guess number one. Are you THE CHRIST? God’s anointed ruler. The one he’d promised to send to rescue his people.

Bump-bow!! Wrong. V20.

20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am NOT the Christ.”

Guess number two. What about Elijah? ANOTHER of God’s promised leaders. From Malachi 4:5. Wrong again, says John.

Final guess. The prophet. Yet ANOTHER of God’s promised leaders. From Deut 18. STILL wrong! By this stage they’re getting a bit frustrated. They’d used up their three guesses, and they still had nothing to tell their bosses. V22

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

And John says, I’m NOBODY. I’m just the advance party. Getting things ready for the MAIN event. V23.

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'”

I’m just a road worker, getting the road nice and smooth for the main attraction.

You might remember before the Sydney Olympics all over the city roads were re-surfaced, footpaths paved. All getting ready for the arrival of the Athletes. John says, I’m not a World Champion runner, I’m just a Council worker.

And he makes the point again down in v27.

27 He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

The one who’s coming – I’m not even worthy fit to scrub his boots. He’s the BIG man. I’m the shoe shine boy.

That’s day one. “Get ready – he’s coming”

Day Two: Jesus and John

Then Day Two – Jesus ARRIVES. And John continues with more of the same comparisons. Jesus and John. John is NOTHING. Jesus is EVERYTHING. V29.

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes AFTER me has SURPASSED me because he was BEFORE me.’

We’ll come back to the Lamb of God verse in a minute. But just for the moment. Look at the comparison. The man who comes AFTER me has SURPASSED me because he was BEFORE me.

Compared to Jesus, John is LITERALLY a “Johnnie come lately.” Only been around for 30 years. But even though Jesus hadn’t been INTRODUCED yet, he’d actually been around for a whole lot longer. Remember how the Chapter started out? “In the BEGINNING was the Word.”

When John was nothing more than a twinkle in HIS FATHER’S EYE, Jesus was THERE, PUTTING the twinkle into the stars.

Have you ever thought about where you were before you were born? What it meant to NOT EXIST, when OTHERS were walking and talking?

Occasionally when we’re looking at old family photos, Elyse will call out “But where am I?” She can see Alex as a curly haired pre-schooler, or Lachlan as a chubby cheeked toddler. Or Daniel as the bouncing baby. But Elyse is NOWHERE. “Where am I?”

Well, you’re not in the photo yet, because you weren’t BORN yet!”

It’s a bit weird thinking about it, isn’t it? Where were you before you were born? Jesus never had to worry about it. Because he was with the Father. From the dawn of time. Long before john came into the picture.

Every other human came into existence at the moment of their conception. But Jesus simply took on flesh. Put off immortality, and put on mortality. Like changing clothes at the start of a new day.

And that’s why he SURPASSES John.

But that’s not the ONLY comparison John draws. If you look down to v33. John was baptising with WATER. Messing around with THE OUTSIDE. Making it clean.

A symbol of trying your hardest to be GOOD and SEPARATE and DIFFERENT. A sign of turning over a new leaf.

But that’s nothing, says John, compared to what Jesus would do. V33.

The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will BAPTIZE WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

That’s change FOR REAL. Change that LASTS. Jesus giving you the Holy Spirit to wash you clean and make you new ON THE INSIDE. And that’s something that only THE SON OF GOD can do.

(pause) Which brings us back to that verse we skipped over before. V29. It’s HOW Jesus is able to wash you clean.

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

It’s a little hint of things that get clearer and clearer as the story develops. That Jesus came to TAKE AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD.

But Jesus is able to deal with our sin – not by destroying enemies or conquering cities. But by offering himself as a sacrificial lamb. To absorb the punishment WE deserved.

The picture may be of the Passover Lamb in Ex 12. When Israel was leaving Egypt. A lamb Jewish families killed. And who’s they over the doorpost, so that the wrath of God would pass over them. That by the of ONE, MANY would be spared.

Or it may be the picture’s from Is 53. God promises to send a suffering servant.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed…

7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; HE WAS LED LIKE A LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

A king who lays down his life for his people. Who dies that they might live. The son of God who baptises with the Spirit of God to make us clean. To make us new.

That’s the greatness of the Jesus John is pointing towards.

You don’t see that sort of greatness in politicians or sportsmen. They’re always pushing THEMESELVES forward. But THIS king puts himself LAST for the sake of his people.

How do you react when you’re in the presence of greatness like THAT?

Most people do the Aussie thing. See a celebrity, and act cool. Pretend you haven’t seen him. Don’t want to make a big deal.

But MAKING A BIG DEAL about someone as great as Jesus is just what we SHOULD be doing. And that’s what we see happening here on Days three and four. They show us how you respond in the presence of greatness.

Day Three: John, Jesus, and some disciples (35-42)

Day One was John. Day two was John and Jesus. Now, day three, we see John, Jesus and some DISCIPLES. Some people who DO make a big deal about Jesus.

The day begins with John doing what he’s supposed to – WITNESSING to Jesus. Shining the spotlight onto him. V35

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

And notice what the two disciples do. They WERE following John. But as soon as they hear about Jesus, they’re gone. Transferred tuition. Following Jesus instead. V38, they ask, Rabbi, where are you staying? In other words, we want to find out more.

And look at Jesus’ beautiful response. V39. “Come and see”. And so they go and spend the day with him. It’s more than just an invitation to look at his HOUSE. It’s an invitation to investigate JESUS HIMSELF.

And it’s the same invitation he gives to everyone of US. You getting SOME inkling about the greatness of Jesus? Then COME AND SEE. Investigate him further. Christianity has nothing to hide. JESUS has nothing to hide.

Read the accounts of his life. Like here in John’s gospel. Eavesdrop in on his conversations and interactions and prayers. Look over his shoulder as he does miracles. Heals sick people, turns water into wine. As he dies a criminal’s in your place. And as he’s raised to life as God’s victorious king.

Come and See. It’s why John wrote his book in the first place. If you flip over to Ch 20 v30. Listen to how John summarises everything he’s recorded.

30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

And that’s what happens for these two disciples. They SEE. And they BELIEVE. Flip back over to Ch 1. Look at what happens next. V40

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.

That’s what you do in the presence of greatness. You recognise it. And you BELIEVE. And FOLLOW.

And when you recognise it, the loving thing is to SHOW him to someone else. Just like I did with Lachlan and Daniel. “Hey, boys – that’s David Boon!”

Andrew tells his brother, Simon, We’ve found the Messiah. And then he BRINGS him to Jesus. So Simon can recognise him too. THAT’S what you do in the presence of greatness.

Day Four: Jesus and some disciples (43-51)

And as we move into day 4, we see more of the same thing happening. This time as Jesus himself finds some disciples. V43.

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Which, we assume, Philip DOES. And then Philip does the same thing as Andrew did – he passes on the good news. V 45.

45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

There it is again. “Come and see”. When people start to throw all sorts of arguments at you about why Christianity isn’t true, or why God doesn’t exist, or why Christians are all a bunch of hypocrites – here’s the strategy to follow. “Come and see. Investigate Jesus for yourself”.

And it seems that Nathanael was prepared to do just that. He may have been sceptical, but he was genuinely interested in finding out. (That seems to be the meaning of Jesus’ comment that he’s an Israelite in whom there’s nothing false. Who’s coming with good motives).

And because of that, it doesn’t take him long to be CONVINCED he’s in the presence of greatness. V49.

49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Not just a teacher- a rabbi, but God’s Messiah – his promised king. The Son of God in the sense of being his APPOINTED KING.

But MORE than that – we readers know that he’s God’s ETERNAL son – the only one who’s come from the Father. The one who perfectly and completely reflects all that God the father is. The one who offers LIFE and LIGHT. Who offers the right to become a child of God.

(pause) When you’re in the presence of greatness, you need to RECOGNISE it. Then you need to FOLLOW. And BELIEVE.

Friends, let me ask you the obvious question. Have YOU recognised Jesus? Are yo SHOWING that by following him in your life? By TRUSTING him in the decisions you make. Trusting him for your forgiveness before the Father?

If you HAVEN’T done that/ then today would be a GREAT TIME to BEGIN. Or perhaps you want to find out more. Then let me give you the same offer Jesus gave. COME AND SEE. Check him out. Read John’s Gospel. See me, I can give you OTHER books to read. And help you to FIND OUT MORE.

(pause) But many of you HAVE done that. If that’s YOU, then there’s something ELSE you need to do when you’re in the presence of greatness. You need to tell others to COME AND SEE.

When you know a secret as special as this. As LIFE-CHANGING as this. It’s the LOVING thing to do. To SHARE the secret. To invite OTHERS to “Come and see.”

You’re here TODAY because someone acted in love towards you. Someone invited YOU to “Come and See” – to investigate Jesus.

It might have been your PARENTS, or another family member. It might have been a friend or a workmate. A Sunday School teacher or a Youth Group leader.

It might have been ONE year ago. OR FIFTY. They might have introduced you themselves, or taken you to someone else who COULD.

Whatever the circumstances, someone LOVED YOU ENOUGH to introduce you to Jesus. Who do YOU love enough that YOU need to say to them, “I’m not perfect, and I don’t have all the answers. But I’ve found the one who IS, and who HAS! Come and see!”

(pause) Sometime after he wrote THIS book, John wrote ANOTHER book. The Book of Revelation. And, in it, Jesus himself says to John, and to us, “Come and See”. Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Turn to Ch 5, listen, and JOIN IN with all God’s creatures, doing what comes ly when you’re in the presence of greatness. Worshipping the Lamb in grateful, sincere and extravagant praise. Worship that BEGINS / NOW. But will CONTINUE for ALL ETERNITY. Ch 5 v6

6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

because you were slain,

and with your you purchased men for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation.

10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,

and they will reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they sang:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

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