In the last year or so, my nephew Eli has been taking karate lessons at a martial arts school. When he goes to class he wears a special suit called a Gi and has even earned two different color belts as he’s grown in his skill. Eli has learned all of this by going to class, looking at the sensei (teacher) to see how to practice the exercises and he follows his teacher’s instructions. Over time Eli showed he had a gift for endurance. When other students were getting tired, he still had energy to burn. Each student in his class excelled in different ways. Some were good at jumping high, kicking, and rolling. Have you ever been in a class like this – what were you good at?
In John 1, we have a chance to look, see, follow and come along with Jesus as he becomes the teacher to new students. Just like karate students, we all have God-given gifts. In addition to gifts like running, jumping and energy you also have spiritual gifts. Some examples of spiritual gifts are: wisdom, faith, or knowledge. You have gifts! How are you going to use them?
Imagine that it’s a warm summer day and you are relaxing in a pool of crystal clear water, or happily body surfing over the ebb and flow of a lake, or slowly floating down the lazy river at a water park. The sun is shining, the water is warm and the day is perfect.
As you float along, you suddenly hear the blow of whistles and an announcement that everyone must leave the water. The sun is setting, the lifeguards are going on dinner break or the park is closing for the day. While the water remains inviting, it’s time to go. If it were up to me, I’d stay in that body of water until the lifeguard came to get me. I’d soak up every last moment of floating with my ears just below the water to muffle all sounds of the world.
However, it’s time to get out of the water. It’s time to open my ears and eyes and get up on my two water-wrinkled feet and walk back into the world of dry land.
In chapter 1 of John’s gospel, Jesus and the first disciples were moving from the waters of baptism to walking the journey of living as teacher and students on the road of discipleship. The promises of God that were given in baptism would travel with them, but it was time to hit the road.
Our gospel reading is filled with many names to describe Jesus and also shows the calling of his disciples to action.
The disciples are called to: Look, come and see, and follow.
As you listen to this message, allow yourself to consider what description of Jesus you are looking for. What Jesus do you need today? Will you come and see? Jesus is not only calling to the disciples in John 1, but each of us. It’s time to hit road. As Jesus walks with us, let’s LOOK, COME and SEE, and FOLLOW.
LOOK - Who is Jesus?
In John 1:29-42 we learn a great deal about who Jesus is. Jesus is given many different names to clarify whom he is, by whose power he acts, and what his new role is in public ministry. In verse 29, 36 he is called the Lamb of God: the one who takes away the sin of the world. In verse 34 he is declared the “Son of God”, to show his authority comes from God the Father. Verse 38 refers to Jesus as “Rabbi” or in our definition – teacher. And in verse 41, he is called “Messiah” in order to fulfill prophecy and emphasize that he is anointed by God.
As Jesus begins his public ministry, he is defined by many names and roles. These definitions help his followers then and now to better understand who he is as well as meet the various needs humanity has of God. The vastness of titles in John 1, “suggest that to insist on one name for Jesus is to miss the fullness of his identity.” (New Interpreters Commentary, pg. 533) Consider the fullness of ALL Jesus is: Messiah – anointed one, Son of God - holy, Rabbi - teacher, Lamb of God – sacrifice.
It is because of Jesus and all of his names that you and I have been named beloved by God. We have a name and purpose because of all Jesus is.
COME AND SEE – Who are we?
Our lives have forever been changed because of the work of Jesus on the cross, but our relationship with God does not stop at being saved. Jesus could have accomplished his work in ministry without involving people, but he choose to call people to help him in the work of serving God and others.
One of my favorite authors, Mark Scandrette, is the leader of an intentional Christian community in the San Francisco area. He and his fellow community members intentionally moved into the mission district to live as a community of faith. Their desire was to learn who they were in Christ and live as Christian community in the world. Mark says,” The struggle for meaning among people of faith, at its root, has to do with our collective understanding of what “good news” is and how to live into that “good news”. (xviii, Soul Graffiti, Scandrette) A part of that struggle is reflected in the name they have given to their church learning space. What we might call Sunday school class, they call “Jesus dojo”.
Think back for a moment about my nephew Eli taking karate. The place that you learn karate is called a Dojo. If we think about learning about God from the perspective of karate, Jesus is our sensei (teacher) and the church is our Dojo (classroom). Just like a karate student learns from looking at their sensei, we can learn how to follow God by looking at Jesus. We take our lessons by engaging in scripture, worshiping God and serving others in mission.
Just as Jesus called Phillip, Andrew and Peter to “Come and see”, he calls us to our Jesus Dojo to come and see as well. Jesus understands that his disciples need a tangible example to follow. In order for us to follow Jesus, we need to come and see first. It is in this coming and seeing that we gain better understanding of who we are in Christ. Our gifts to serve others are revealed in the hands on practice of our faith. Just as Eli discovered his gift of endurance at the karate dojo, we discover our gifts when we engage in our church community – or as Mark would say, our Jesus Dojo.
FOLLOW: Where are we going?
There is a song that reminds me of my love of water – remember how I hate to leave the beach? It goes like this:
Well I went to the water one day to pray. Don't you know that God's gonna trouble the water. And my soul got happy and I stayed all day. Don't you know that God's gonna trouble the water.
Wade in the water, wade in the water children, wade in the water – God’s gonna trouble the water.
For a long time it bothered me that this beautiful spiritual song about water had to include trouble. Our baptism is an amazing gift from God. It was so important that Jesus, the messiah, rabbi, Son of God and Lamb of God; demanded that John baptize him. In John 1, Jesus is baptized one day and the next he calls disciples to follow him and hits the road. Jesus does not stay in the water. Jesus knows that while the water is the start of his ministry, it’s not his destination. The road is where Jesus and his disciples are called to go.
The song “Wade in water” reminds me of my desire to stay where I’m comfortable, but it’s time to hit the road. I’d often like to: stay in the water and pray all day; but the water is stirred up – troubled – and moving. The troubled water is a reminder that I need to move as well.
Yes we can thankfully remember the water of our baptism, but we are called to walk the road with Jesus.
We are called for a purpose – John prepared the way for Jesus, Jesus prepares the way for his disciples, and his disciples prepare the way for humanity. It’s time to hit the road.
Remember what we learned from our karate metaphor:
Jesus is the sensei and the church is the dojo where you learn to use your gifts. You are a beloved disciple of Jesus – you have a gift and a purpose.
It’s time to get out of the water. It’s time to LOOK, COME and SEE, and FOLLOW Jesus as we hit the road together.
Help us to look to see who Jesus is. Show us what discipleship is as we come and see where Jesus is in daily life. Remind is that you are with us as we follow after Jesus. Challenge us to invite others along to look, come, see and follow Jesus too. AMEN