Grace, mercy, and peace be yours in abundance. Amen.
In the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God, dear forgiven sinners:
Good preaching is … How would you finish the sentence? Perhaps you would say, short. Maybe you would reply that good preaching starts with an interesting story. You might say it is true to the Word of God. Or you may suggest it is something that holds your attention. You may even say it makes you feel good. But if you really want to know what it is that God considers good preaching, then we need to let John the Baptist demonstrate. For good preaching is patterned after John’s preaching, especially the example of his preaching we have before us in this Gospel. God calls preaching good that points out sin and points the sinner to Christ. Listen with rapped attention as John proclaims: Look, the Lamb of God!
John calls to your attention to the Lamb of God who takes away our sin. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”
Here we see the whole purpose of John’s life. John came to prepare the way for Christ by preaching repentance. He proclaimed God’s Law with all of its harsh severity. John pointed out sin with boldness and clarity. But that was by no means his greatest work. We see John the Baptist’s greatest work in this first chapter of John’s Gospel. His gospel preaching couldn’t be clearer or more comforting. In addition, it is a very simple and pointed message. “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Pointing to Jesus was truly John’s role. He said it well when he said about Jesus, “He must become greater, I must become less.” Good preaching is centered on Jesus. Good preaching is all about Jesus. Good preaching tells it likes it is – we are sinners who need a Savior and we have that Savior we need in Jesus. This was the job John did and he did it well. His task was revealing the Christ who is eternal, but who entered time in our flesh as our saving substitute. His task was also testifying that this Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. Jesus would show what John said about him to be absolutely true as he showed himself as God in his miraculous works and his heart-changing words. Jesus is the Son of God and God’s sacrificial Lamb, who gave up his life for our salvation.
What an incredibly sweet presentation of the Gospel John gives us in his very brief sermon! I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God. This is where John takes the spotlight off himself as the forerunner of the Messiah and shines it right on Jesus. So we turn away from the purpose of John’s life and shift our focus to the purpose of Jesus’ life.
Why did Jesus go through all the trouble to take on human flesh, to be born of a virgin in the quiet village of Bethlehem, to stand in the Jordan and receive baptism from John? He came for one important and comforting reason – to take away sin! Who’s sin did he take away? John clearly states – the sin of the world. This is profoundly comforting because no one is excluded. Jesus didn’t just die for the sins of some people, or just for certain kinds of sins – he died for the sins of all. This means Jesus died for my sins and Jesus died for your sins. When the law points out the ugliness of our sins, it causes us to break and feel the truth that we cannot save ourselves. This is when the good news of the gospel pulls us out of the pit of despair and assures us that Jesus paid for each and every sin we have committed. We stand in awe of the things Jesus has done for us. We stand confident that we are the forgiven children of God because of John’s announcement about Jesus. From all this we understand that Jesus wants us to know that he is our Savior, that he has forgiven all of our sins, that he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We know this through his Word. We believe this because his Holy Spirit works in our hearts through his Word and through that Word connected with earthly elements in the sacraments. Understand this and believe this – you are forgiven!
From proclamation of law and gospel, to encouragement to live lives of thankfulness, to exhortation to live as the children of God that we are in Christ! This is good preaching. This is the preaching of John the Baptist, the preaching of Jesus, the preaching of the Apostles, and the preaching of all faithful preachers from the Apostles until now. John also demonstrates an evangelical preaching that exhorts us to live as God’s forgiven children.
John calls to your attention the Lamb of God who calls us to follow. The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).
Don’t you find it remarkable how God uses people to call us to him as they speak his Word? John certainly practiced what he preached when he said about Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less.” For John encourages his own disciples to follow Jesus instead. He knew his role was to point people to Jesus. He knew that these disciples would benefit greatly as they learned from Jesus. We see the powerful gospel at work in all of this. Pride is set aside as the love of Christ melts the sinful hearts of people. Once the gospel gets a hold on the heart, it begins to change attitudes and actions. We are told that the first thing Andrew does after he is called to follow Jesus is to invite his brother, Peter. The words are simple, yet profound – “We have found the Messiah”. There is no better news to hear than to receive the good news that Jesus is the promised Savior of sinners.
What is the purpose of life? God gives us the time he gives so that we come to know Jesus as our Savior, remain in him, and invite others to follow him. As Christians, the purpose of life is very clear we want to give faithful witness to Christ in everyday life. This may mean talking to others about Jesus every chance we get. Some people will be better at this than others. Some of us struggle to witness, others do it rather naturally. But we give faithful witness to Jesus not only in the act of preaching the gospel, but also in living the faith. Show people the importance of Jesus in the way you live. The other, simple thing we can all do is simply inviting others to come and see Jesus. Invite them to church. Invite them to Bible study. Tell them in the words of Andrew to Peter, “We have found the Christ!”
It’s a simple message to share. Follow John’s excellent example! Point to Jesus and say, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This is faithful witnessing. This is good preaching. May God help us all to proclaim this Gospel message! May God bless this message and through it bring many others to know Jesus, the Lamb of God! Amen.