Sermon 10.9.16 Pentecost 21

Pastor Walther / Pentecost 21 / October 9, 2016 / John 1:35-42 / The First Mission Tactics

    A man named Augustine once said, “It is one thing to see the land of peace from a wooded ridge…and another to tread the road that leads to it.” In our world of technology, we could almost describe it this way: “It is one thing to see a picture in Instagram or Facebook of some beautiful scenery, but it’s another to actually be there taking those photos in those beautiful places.”  As Christians, our lives can often paint a picture of Christ to non Christians.  We pray that we do a good job of that, but whether they understand it or not, whether they believe it or not, they see this land of peace from a distance.  But as Augustine once said, “It is one thing to see the land of peace from a wooded ridge…It's another to tread the road that leads to [that picture of peace].” The question becomes then: how do we share this picture of peace with non-Christians so that they might be the ones standing next to us on that road that leads to it?

    We often try to wrap our heads around evangelism. We often don’t know what to say to unbelievers about Jesus, and we often don’t know where to even start.  We concoct these scenarios in our minds about us trying to share the gospel which ends terribly with us running away with our tails between our legs.  However, these crazy nightmares that we dream up rarely actually happen.  We never have to be scared about talking to people about Jesus. God’s Word gives to us the arrows in our quiver and the words to say.  This section of Scripture gives to us some of the simplest tactics in evangelism.  In fact, they are the best. Do you want to know why they are the best? It is because John the Baptist used them, the first disciples used them, and even Jesus used them. I think that makes that pretty good, don’t you?

    We see and we hear John the Baptist standing in his usual place. Only one day before our text, Jesus was walking out by John the Baptist.  Having Jesus in his sights, John cried out, “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and he proceeded to recount the baptism of Jesus when he had seen the Holy Spirit coming down in the form of a dove, and God the Father speaking from the heavens, and God the Son there in front him. But, today was different. It wasn’t the huge crowds that John would often bring out like the day before, but rather it was only two of his disciples. 

    John’s mission tactic didn’t involve any great detail or even any big discussion but it was one word, “Look!” He gave this strong implication to his FRANS to see the one that they really should be following.  John was performing one of the noblest things a person can do, pointing somebody to Jesus.  This word “Look” was the exact word that John used the day before. Maybe we can assume that these two disciples saw Jesus the day before but never thought to follow Jesus, or never worked up the courage to follow Jesus.  

    John gives that encouragement as he repeats himself just like faithful witnesses often have to persistently repeat the gospel.  We very well know that our sinful nature is a stubborn one that doesn’t like to go to church or go to bible class or go to Sunday school. As Christians, we ourselves often need that persistent repeating imperative to “look,” i.e, to read our devotions, to come to church, and to simply look to Christ.  If we as Christians need that encouragement, how much more for those who have never stepped into a scary situation where they walk into a church and they don’t know anybody, where they don’t know the hymns, where they don’t know why people keep standing and sitting and there’s some random bread and wine snack in the middle of the service? It can be scary going into a church and people need to be encouraged.  John the Baptist gives us that simple encouragement to in turn give to others, to look…and look…and look again. 

    The one that John points us to, Jesus, had an interestingly different mission tactic.  Jesus didn’t enter into this world with pomp and circumstance, elevating himself above the peasants that should have been kissing his feet nor did he force people into his kingdom with violence.  He was the complete opposite.  As we hear how Jesus acted towards complete strangers, we can’t help but see the unusual way of attracting people to him and associating with him.  Jesus made friends with everybody because he genuinely was friendly.  He opened his arms to welcome people of all kinds and we even see that He would be the first to speak to those who might be too scared to start the conversation with Him. 

    You see, the first steps to evangelism aren’t complicated.  Evangelism begins with making friends and being friends to new people.  However, I didn’t say that being friends to new people is easy. We are often stuck in our own worlds and in our own comfort zones.  We see Jesus, yet again, as being our perfect substitute for where we fail, and he succeeds as the perfect friend.  Yet, what a perfect example for us to use in starting the process of evangelism, simply being a friend. 

    However, Jesus’ mission tactic wasn’t just simply being a friend, but he digs deeper.  Eventually, our evangelism needs to take a step in those deeper waters as well. Jesus asks the question, “What do you want?” Jesus wasn’t playing dumb here, but he wanted to test their motives. The question really was, “What are you seeking,” and “what are you looking to get out of the deal by following me?”

    IPhones and other phones have capabilities like Siri that can answer questions for you and even do menial tasks. And yet, half the time when I try to tell it do something, it asks, “I didn’t quite get that, what was that again?” When Jesus hears us and asks us what we are looking for, it’s not because he can’t hear us or understand us, but its because he wants us to really think about that question!

    That simple question lingers in my mind. What do I want? When I ask that question of myself I go down the list of priorities.  I want this and that and this and that. The unbelieving world also wants “this and that.” As Christians, we may sadly answer the same way but add Jesus into the equation. I want Jesus to give me “this and that.”  In the process, we make Jesus a bread king just like so many of the Jews wanted. What am I seeking in life? What do I really want from Jesus? I want peace knowing that life isn't all about the laborious monotony of trying to fulfill MY wants and desires. I want what God wants for me: heaven.  Jesus has the greatest treasure that anyone can seek and he continues to point us toward that treasure. That question that Jesus posed is such an amazing evangelism question to ask of someone that you’d like to share the gospel with: what do you really want? What are you looking to get out of life?

    These men, who started out as perfect strangers with Jesus, were inquisitive and wanted to learn more, simply because of Jesus’ friendly demeanor and his question.  They wanted to know more about this promised Messiah.  And Jesus gives to us his final evangelism tactic, “Come and see.”  Evangelism doesn’t need to be much more than a simple invitation and we could even say that it’s passing the responsibility off: an invitation to have that person come to church or to have that person talk to a pastor about learning more.  It works!

    This event left such a huge impression on the mind of John the Evangelist who wrote the Gospel and was actually there at this event(John was always modest in his writings that he would never refer to himself by name).  John the Evangelist remembered the exact time that he met Jesus.  This was the Christ. This was the Messiah, the anointed one that the Old Testament Scriptures spoke of. This was the Lamb of God, the Son of God, here to do God’s work, and do what we can’t do. He fulfilled all righteousness.  He took away the sin of the world. 

    You can’t just keep that news to yourself! These two disciples knew they had to tell their brothers who had no doubt heard about this same Messiah from John the Baptist.  This is the last mission tactic that we see here in these verses: Evangelism doesn’t have to be us standing on the street corner with a sandwich board proclaiming to the world that Jesus is the Savior. Often, talking about Jesus is simply with the small group of people around us that we know and have relationships with that don’t know Jesus.  We call them our FRANS: our Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances, and Neighbors.  You don’t have to be intimidated by them.  Did you notice that the disciples also used Jesus mission tactic? These men knew very little about Jesus and yet they shared that simple message: Come and see!  The love that we have for Christ and the love that we have for our friends and family members, even acquaintances, move us to share the message. 

    If Andrew had never spoken to his brother, there would be no Simon Peter in the Bible.  When you try out these simple evangelism tactics on your FRANS (Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances, and Neighbors), you never know who you might see in church one day. You never know what may come about from a friendship! In the 1920s, two men became close friends because of their love for literature and also their love for writing epic novels. One was an atheist and one was a Christian.  The atheist you would know as the writer of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis. The Christian, you would know as the writer of The Lord of the Rings, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Yes, they were friends! Tolkien’s faith played a significant factor in Lewis’ conversion. Tolkien showed Lewis the Gospel narratives that portrayed real and true events, just like what we heard today.  If Tolkien had never spoken to his friend about Jesus, there would be no Christian apologist named C.S. Lewis.  

    Augustine once said, “It is one thing to see the land of peace from a wooded ridge…and another to tread the road that leads to it.”  The gospel moves us and equips us to share that picture of peace with our Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances, and our neighbors! Amen. 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.