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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, January 19, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 1:29–42     

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). (NRSV)

Each of the four Gospel accounts captures the life of Jesus in a different way. Mark is concise and direct, maybe even blunt. Matthew builds upon Mark, adding layers of nostalgia and pedagogy. Luke is notably different by being detailed and academic. And John’s version is the wildest of all, because of its mysticism and artistic language.

John’s visionary approach to narrative is on full display in today’s selected passage. After a chapter opening with some of the most potent and complex theology in all of scripture, we now get to see what appears to be John’s first interaction with Jesus, the Word made flesh dwelling among people. John the ardent preacher is appropriately astonished to meet the prophesied Messiah in person, and John’s enthusiasm infectiously spreads to the disciples under his care as he points them to Jesus.

When Jesus utters his first words in John’s account, the conversation is simultaneously simple and profound. With minimal interaction Jesus invites Andrew and an unnamed other to follow him and learn from him. Then with minimal understanding of who exactly they were speaking to, the disciples accept the invitation to follow. This pattern continues in the subsequent verses beyond today’s selected reading.

Jesus’ invitation is both literal and figurative, physical and spiritual. Jesus did not ask for qualifications or test the disciples on theology before allowing them to follow. Instead, he seems to be looking for people willing to enter into mystery and shared life without all the answers up front. To follow Jesus is not only to learn from how he lives but also to trust in new realities that emerge in mere glimpses. In dwelling with the Word, we absorb Jesus’ grace and truth over time. This is an invitation into transformation.

Holy Word, we thank you for loving us so much that you put on skin to walk among us. Help us to recognize the truths you share and understand the grace you have for us along the way. Amen.

Written by Michael Mirza, Director of Worship

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