2nd Sunday after Epiphany (A)
January 15, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
When you use phrases such, “Look at that!”, “Look over there!”, or “Look out!” you’re drawing attention to an object or event that’s important; something you don’t want others to miss. Now, depending on what it is, the urgency you use will vary from situation to situation. A baseball flying toward your head warrants more of a “Look out!” than a beautiful sunset, and you know why; if you miss the sunset, no big deal, if you get clobbered by a baseball, it’s a big deal. On the spectrum between a beautiful sunset and an incoming baseball, my sermon is going to fall closer to the approaching baseball because what I want you to see warrants your attention right now. I want you to take a look!
First, I want you to take a look at yourself. When you look inside yourself, what do you see? When you contemplate your thoughts and actions, what do you think they reveal about you? For many of us, a look inside reveals things we don’t like to see. Americans spend about 900 billion dollars a year on beauty products to improve the outside, but all that money spent doesn’t help the inside when what we see is ugliness; regret for what we’ve said, sadness for what we’ve done, guilt for what we’ve thought. It can be ugly deep down; even Saint Paul admits that in Romans 7. He knows he’s a wretched man because he says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” He sees the ugliness of his thoughts and actions. He’s the super apostle, he saw Jesus face to face, and what does he see? He doesn’t see a loving and pure heart, he sees his sins and failures.
Is that what you see when you spend a few minutes inside yourself? Or do you see something else? Do you instead see someone who isn’t all that bad? Do you see the young rich man who came to Jesus and declared that he has kept all the commandments from his youth? Some may look inside and see a person who they like, someone who isn’t too bad, someone who considers their ugly inside as a thing of relative beauty.
As much as we don’t want to admit it, the truth is we’re all ugly on inside. Jesus says, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Paul puts it simply, “No one does good, not even one.” We can hide, or deny, what we are inside, but the Lord knows the truth. He sees us as people who have chased after the things of this world. He sees us as those who harbor terrible thoughts. He sees us as those who deny past and present misdeeds. He sees men and women, boys and girls who think, do, and say wrong things all the time. So take a look and you’ll see that the outside is often a reflection of the inside, and it’s not good.
In our Gospel John the Baptist sees Jesus coming and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The people saw a normal man, a fellow Jew who probably wouldn’t get a second look. But John identifies Him as the Son of God, He’s the One who deserves a look. John points out that He is the One who will save people from their ugliness. He is the One with an unsurpassed beauty inside and out. He is the beautiful Lamb of God who takes away your sin and your ugliness.
So look at Christ! Look at the Lamb of God who is your hope. Look at the one who gives you His beauty. Look at Him and see the One of whom Isaiah says, “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire Him…one from whom men hide their faces.” His beauty was beyond compare, but He put it aside to take your ugliness onto and into Himself. Those ugly thoughts you have about others? Disfigure Him. Those guilty thoughts that make you feel ugly inside? Smeared on Him. The Sin that makes you ugly on the inside and seeps through to the outside? Make Him repulsive. On that cross He was repulsive to everyone, even His Father in Heaven.
But look again. Look at Jesus and see what God sees. See the Lamb of God who is the perfect sacrifice for your sins. In the Old Testament, the lamb was killed in the place of those who had sinned. The Lord saw the sacrifice and because it was pleasing to Him the people were forgiven. The lamb died for the sins of the people, but its death was only effective because Jesus would the perfect Lamb of God. Every other lamb, as beautiful as it was on the outside, was still part of the sinful world.
The Lamb of God though was perfect and unstained by the sins and failings of humanity. Not only that, out of His death, comes your life. Every punishment you deserve was put on the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and now you have complete forgiveness. Look; your sins forgiven, your guilt taken away, see your ugliness transformed to a beauty given by God Himself.
In the encounter between Jesus and the Andrew, Jesus, said to them, “What are you seeking?” To which they said to him, “Teacher, where are you staying?” And Jesus said, “Come and you will see.” Jesus didn’t ask who they were seeking, He asked “what”. They then spent the day with Him. Jesus asks us the same question. What are we seeking? We seek forgiveness and beauty and we find it in Him. Look to Him, spend time with Him, and you will know all the more the beauty that He gives to you.
After Andrew had spent the day with Jesus, we’re told, “He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ and he brought him to Jesus.” He knew that Simon Peter needed to hear of this Lamb of God. So also as you look at yourself and as you look at the Lamb of God look at others. What do you see as you go to work, to school, to the store? Look at those who are lost. Look at those who are feeling ugly because of their guilt, their hurts, and their sins. Look and see those who need the beauty of the Lamb of God who takes away their sins as well. Look at them and see what God sees. Those whom He wants to save. Those whom the Lamb died for. Look and see what God sees – you sharing with them the beautiful Gospel message of the Lamb that takes away their ugliness, just like He has taken yours.
When John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” he wasn’t just getting the attention of those nearby. He was telling everyone, including you and me, to look. Look and see the Lamb who saves you. Don’t casually glance over, don’t use only your peripheral vision, look at Him. Look! Look at Him with all urgency of an incoming baseball, look at Him who takes away your sins!
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen