This morning we held a thanksgiving at our church, which is something we offer families with young children who are thinking about baptism. Its only a fairly small part of the service, but for the family, standing up in front of people they don’t really know can be quite daunting. Anyway, it got me thinking about welcoming and introductions, and my reflections on this passage from John’s Gospel looked a bit like this. As always, I missed out some great bits and added in some genius replacements…
When we welcome a young child into the church, or a visitor, or a family, or anyone, part of what we’re doing is inviting them to meet Jesus. We’re continuing in what John the Baptist, who this church is named after, started when he said to his followers, ‘look, the Lamb of God’ and pointed them towards Jesus. Up until that point, they’d looked to John as the one who spoke the words of God, who called them to deeper relationship with God, who reminded them of the deep truths that they knew in their hearts. And then he said ‘look- you know I said we need to be forgiven? Well he’s the one who will do that’. He gave his testimony- his own personal account, which isn’t like an equation to be resolved or an issue to be debated, but is his own experience. And his conclusion? This is the Son of God.
BUT, and this is important- he doesn’t force that conclusion onto his followers. He just tells them his story and his observations. What happens next is between them and Jesus. Lots of people met Jesus, and they responded to him in different ways. One reason for this is what they were expecting beforehand. He didn’t do many of the things a prophet ought to, he didn’t bother too much about some of the teachings, which a good teacher should, he didn’t proclaim his authority like the messiah they were expecting. Be he didn’t back down, he didn’t worry about being popular, he didn’t shirk from a difficult task. Sometimes when I tell people I’m a Christian I end up in a conversation where they try to explain why they don’t believe in God, and when they talk about God I find myself thinking- I don’t believe in a God like that. All the caricatures and misquotes and out-of-context bits put together to make an angry, lazy, inconsistent old man. And I think, if only we could put aside our preconceptions, and meet God. And there’s the old argument that if God really wanted us to know him, he’d do something to make it possible- like send a message, or speak to someone, or send a messenger, or come to earth himself. And as you list those things, you realise that’s exactly what God has done. So lets, for the sake of argument, assume that those ideas are in fact true- that God did come to earth in the form of Jesus, his only Son so that people might meet him.
And this is what happens when someone meets Jesus- the lamb of God- God with us. The two disciples of John who saw Jesus on the second occasion changed direction- they were following John, they started following Jesus. They were by no means bad people. The followed him, and they wanted to be with him- they spent the day together. And then it says this about one of them, Andrew: the first thing he did was find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘we have found the Messiah’, and brought him to Jesus.
Andrew doesn’t get much press in the Gospels, in fact, this is his finest hour: he brought his brother to meet Jesus. He doesn’t try to persuade him of his argument, though one must accept that Simon was vaguely interested in such things. He goes, finds him, invites him to meet Jesus, and then its between Simon and Jesus. Simon, who Jesus looks at and nicknames ‘Rocky’ despite consistent proof over the next few years that he’s as steadfast as a pile of feathers, until he does eventually live up to his name. The encouraging thing here is that Andrew doesn’t have the responsibility for what happens- its not his ‘fault’ if Simon walks away, and its nothing he can be proud of if Simon chooses to follow Jesus. And that makes things a lot easier.
I guess for us there’s two questions that arise out of this- have I met Jesus? And bearing in mind all that I said earlier, I mean, have I met Jesus rather than my own caricature of him. Have I met the man who faced down the educated and the privileged, and broke the social taboos to draw all sorts of people into his circle of friends? The man who spoke with teachers and priests, tax collectors and prostitutes, Jews and Romans, the sick and the outcast, the young and old? Have I listened to the wise teacher who taught that he would rise from death? Have I met the risen Jesus who simply stood and showed the wounds in his hands and feet?
And when I met him, what did I do? Did I follow him, reject his claims, watch from a distance, ask him questions? Or did I, like Andrew, go to someone I knew and bring them too, to meet Jesus.
When we welcome a young child into the church, or a visitor, or a family, or anyone, part of what we’re doing is inviting them to meet Jesus. We’re here today to meet with Jesus, how will we respond to him?