A long time ago, when I was ending my undergraduate education in college, I started to apply for jobs, hoping to find one before I graduated. I ended up getting an interview at a place that was basically a recruiting firm. I went for the interview, and when I got there I had to sit in a waiting area in the front of the office for a while until I was called in for the actual interview.
While I was in the waiting area, I perceived a great bustle in the office. People kept scooting around and whispering things to each other like: “Is he here?” “Yes, I think he’s here.” “Where is he?” “I think he’s in the office now.” People were anticipating the arrival of someone very important to them. They certainly weren’t referring to me. No, they were thinking that the CEO had arrived and was in the office. They were looking forward to his coming and then they were excited when he arrived.
Now, in the context of that office, it was all very odd; bizarre, actually. But, in the context of chapter 1 of the Apostle John’s Gospel this same sort of anticipation and excitement is appropriate and much more important. Because, what we see in John’s Gospel (particularly John 1:29-42) is a bustle in the world. The promised Savior has arrived and people are eager to see him; their hopes are being fulfilled.
They are happy because all throughout history, beginning in Genesis, right from the first moments after the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, the people of God had been anticipating the arrival of the Christ, our Savior.
This promise of God to send a Savior was borne in the hearts of the faithful for generations all throughout the Old Testament. It was a great many years when they were asking concerning the Christ, “Is he here? Has he arrived?” Many generations went by, but the Christ had not yet come into the world. However, the faithful kept looking forward to his coming, continuing to ask “Is he here? Has he arrived?” And now in John’s Gospel we see John the Baptist pointing to Jesus and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
He’s here! He’s arrived! This is the Christ! This is the Son of God! The promise first made to Adam and Eve has been fulfilled as this one born of a woman has arrived on the scene (cf. Genesis 3:15). The Christ has come.
So, John the Baptist proclaims this to all who would listen. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is finally here, in our midst. The prophets and all the faithful people of the Old Testament were looking for this moment, and now it’s arrived, because he has arrived.
John calls Jesus Christ the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” What does this mean? It means that he is the sacrifice for sin. All the Old Testament sacrifices were anticipating what he would do on the cross; they were God’s means of grace, delivering salvation on account of the Christ who would come to accomplish it. And a very visible sign which God gave the people of Israel was the Passover. When the people of Israel were on the cusp of being delivered up out of slavery from Egypt, God had them take the blood of a lamb and paint their doorposts with this blood so that the angel of death would “pass over” them and spare their first-born sons. The blood of the “passover lamb” saved the people from death.
Jesus Christ is the only-begotten Son of God and the fulfillment of the Passover; he is the perfect, sinless Lamb of God whose blood saves us from eternal death and delivers us from slavery to sin, death, and the devil. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world. Christ died for all people. Indeed, he died to restore all of God’s creation, reconciling it to its Creator.
Yet, for people to receive the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection they need to know him. They need to be brought to faith in him through the power of God’s Word so that they may be incorporated into the forgiveness, deliverance, reconciliation, and restoration that he brings. In a sense, they need to have the Lamb’s blood painted on their hearts.
And so what we see in John 1:29-42 is people telling others about Jesus Christ so that they too may be brought to faith in him for their salvation. Jesus walks by John the Baptist and John again says, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Two disciples hear John say this and they leave John to go follow Jesus. John’s purpose wasn’t to build up a following for himself; his purpose was to pave the way for the coming of Jesus the Christ and then point people to him for their salvation.
Indeed, that’s our purpose as well isn’t it? As the people of the Church, we are here for the purpose of paving the way for the coming of Jesus in people’s lives and then pointing people to Jesus for their salvation. We are here because of Jesus Christ, because he has made us his people, and so we continue to point other people to him so that they too may be made his people, his Church.
So, what do we do? Well, first we realize that Christ’s Church isn’t a building, or a place, or an institution, or an organization, or a group really. The Church is a people; she is the people of God who have been brought to faith in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Therefore, we gather together to be with one another and to continue to receive Christ through the proclamation of the Gospel and the Sacraments. We receive him in Baptism, in the Lord’s Supper, and in preaching. In fact, when we commune at the altar, the body and blood of the Lamb is with us as we partake of his Passover. Christ is always with his people.
We’re also the Church when we leave “church” on Sunday. We’re the Church all week, even when we’re separated from other believers. We’re the Church as we carry out your vocations in the world, as we live and work in it to tend God’s creation. And Christ is still with us then as well.
And so as the Church we’re always paving the way for the coming of Jesus in people’s lives as we proclaim God’s Word of Law and Gospel.
God’s Law shows us that we’re sinners. It’s a measuring stick for seeing how we stack up against God’s holy will for our lives. And we always fall short against this standard by which our thoughts and actions are measured.
In doing so, it paves the way for Christ, just as John the Baptist proclaimed the Law to prepare for Christ’s coming. We realize that we can’t fulfill God’s Law. We realize that we can’t make ourselves holy. We realize that we can’t be perfect. So, we look for the one who has fulfilled God’s Law. We look for the one who is holy. We look for the one who is perfect.
And here’s John pointing us to him: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And that’s what we do as well. In worship with the Gospel and the Sacraments we’re proclaiming: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And in our daily lives and vocations as we encounter people who are hurting, suffering, and broken we proclaim to them: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Jesus Christ is the one who atones for our sins. And he also comforts us, takes our suffering upon himself, heals us, and reconciles us to God and each other.
And so, God’s people are constantly pointing people to Christ and bringing others to him. John the Baptist points people to Christ. And then we see Andrew bring his brother Simon Peter to Christ, saying “We have found the Christ.” He’s happy that God has fulfilled His promises and so brings others to the Christ in whom these promises are fulfilled.
That’s what the Church continues to do today. Not the Church as a building or place or institution or organization or group, but the Church as a people of God in Christ. The Church is the body of Christ, because she is his bride and given the power of proclaiming him to others. Remember God’s promise to Adam and Eve that in marriage they become as one flesh, one body? Well, all throughout the Scriptures, a defining image of the Church is that she is God’s bride. And as the bride of Christ, she is therefore Christ’s body. So, in him we share all things, and in him we are united – despite our earthly differences.
That’s why St. Paul greets the Corinthians the way he does in his first epistle. He says, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
The Church of God in Christ Jesus is composed of people, flesh and blood people, body and soul people. It’s composed of you and me and people who don’t look like you or me, or sound like you or me, or act like you or me. It’s composed of people of all nations, tribes, and languages. It’s also composed of those who have gone before us and those yet to be born prior to Christ’s return. One Lord joins us all together, even though some of us are now lying in tombs or ashes or separated by the vast expanses of this earth. Because, one day we will all be together in person; we will meet the rest of the saints at the resurrection when we all inherit the restored earth.
And why are all these people joined together in Christ? It’s because the Church, as Christ’s body, never stops witnessing to him. The Church could have died out centuries ago, but it didn’t because she is faithful to her husband. The Church is always proclaiming Christ. The Church is always saying: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And the Holy Spirit is working through this proclamation to bring people to faith and add to the body.
The disciples wanted to know where Jesus was staying. And Jesus said, “Come and you will see.” When people want to know where Jesus is, or how they can meet God, we bring them to where Christ is. And Christ is with us here in the Church. He’s here in the waters of Baptism. He’s here in the Lord’s Supper. He’s here in the preaching and in your conversations with each other as you share his peace with one another. So, we witness to Christ and then bring people to where they may receive the Gospel through God’s means of grace. We say, “We have found the Christ, come and see him.”
(Image is “Ecce Agnus Dei” by Giovanni di Paolo – user:Rlbberlin, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1929181 )