January 19th, 2020

John 1:29-42

Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.

Upper St. Croix Parish UMC                          


  “From Unknown to Known”

I show you two paper airplanes. Could you take a look at them for a while? And, now you may choose if I offer you which one would you rather have? Here, we may find out two kinds of view: one view to select this (a paper plane from a page out of a magazine) is that it may be joyous as a paper airplane for your child or grandchild. The other aspect of choosing this (a paper plane from a dollar bill) is that it may be valuable as a whole. This one is bigger and playable, which it flies well. Yet, this one is smaller and may not playable.

On the other hand, when these are destroyed, this would be thrown out because it would be garbage; yet, this would be kept because it still has value as a dollar bill. Like this example, we have different viewpoints to choose whatever we want. However, whatever we choose, no one is wrong, but it is different. The difference is not to be incorrect. But, the difference may need to know and to understand one another.

I would introduce you, two people, through the scripture of today. One is the Baptist John; the other is Andrew, who was the Baptist John’s disciple, and who later became a disciple of Jesus. Through two people’s views of how they knew Jesus and how they understood Jesus, furthermore, what they did with their understandings of Jesus, we may get better recognition of Jesus’ ministry and of Jesus’ will for us.

The scripture of today begins with the words “the next day, he saw Jesus.” As you guess, “he” is the Baptist John. The sentence “the next day the Baptist John saw Jesus” implies John knew Jesus before, and it became the next day. In other words, this event happens after the Baptist John baptized Jesus, and after Jesus passed the temptation of the wilderness for forty days (Matt.4:1-11).

I would you pay attention to what the Baptist John says in verses 31 -34, “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.”

In these verses, the Baptist John emphasizes two times that he did not know Jesus. I wonder, however, if the Baptist John really did not know Jesus. In the Gospel of Luke, we find John’s story (Luke 1:5-25). The Baptist John is a cousin of Jesus. John’s mother, Elizabeth, is Mother Mary’s sister. Mother Mary visited Elizabeth after she conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit. It was the sixth month that Elizabeth conceived John. We do not know their stories of childhood, but we may guess John might hear Jesus’ story from his mother.

Nevertheless, the Baptist John stresses two times that “I myself did not know him.” What the first time the Baptist John says that I did not know him means even though he is my cousin, and I heard from my mother, I did not know him Jesus. What the second time the Baptist John says that I did not know him means even though “the one who sent me baptizing with water said,” I did not know him yet. The Baptist John got information about Jesus, but he says that he still did not know Jesus. Yes, John might be right. He did not know Jesus in that intimate way. It was in the act of baptism that John came to see and understand who Jesus really is. According to the Baptist John, we got lessons even though we heard about others until we see directly and understand them, we still do not know others. If we judge what we do not know, it is not the right way.

The Baptist John, in verse 35, “The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples.” And he testified, “Look here is the Lamb of God.” It is starting with “the next day John again was standing…,” which means that it is not the first time to stand by there with his disciples. At this time, however, his disciples followed Jesus. After the Baptist, John knew Jesus directly, he sent his disciples to Jesus smoothly, not forcing. He might wait for his disciples to decide themselves following Jesus rather than staying with him. In John’s case, until John himself knows who Jesus is, John did not act toward Jesus. After he knew Jesus, he sent his disciples to Jesus. It gives us great insights into how careful he works.

Let us pay attention to one of John’s two disciples, who John sent to Jesus. One of them is Andrew (verse 40). Andrew might hear John about Jesus as the Son of God and the Lamb of God, and then he decides following Jesus. However, he still thinks of Jesus as a teacher. In verse 38, “When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, what are you looking for? They said to him, Rabbi, where are you staying?” Andrew heard John about Jesus as the Son of God, but he calls Jesus as a rabbi, which means a teacher. He might want to know about Jesus, asking of Jesus’ place. Jesus, who knows about his curiosity, invites him, “come and see.” Jesus meant that you should come and see me directly instead of hearing from others. So, Andrew and the other disciple (no name appeared in the scriptures) went to Jesus’ place and stayed with him by four o’clock in the afternoon. We assume the two disciples and Jesus had a lot of discussions to know one another. Finally, Andrew knew who Jesus is. After he knew Jesus, his first act was to testify who Jesus is to his brother Simon. In verses 41 -42, Andrew said to his brother Simon, “we have found the Messiah.”

When Andrew heard John about that Jesus is the Son of God, he still called Jesus as a teacher. However, after he saw Jesus, and visited him, he knew Jesus is the Messiah, which means the Savior, who they are waiting for. And then, Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. As soon as Jesus saw his brother Simon, he said to him, “You are Simon, son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (translated Peter). Andrew’s brother Simon is Peter, who Jesus gave him the name. Even though Andrew met Jesus first, Andrew’s brother Peter became the first apostle of Jesus.

Through the Baptist John and the disciple Andrew, we got a lesson about what we do not know and what we know, and about how we do act when we know. The Baptist John speaks to the people who lived at his time and also to us, saying, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John might want all people to follow Jesus. He tells us there is something special about Jesus. But, all the people who saw Jesus could not see that He was special. Jesus was not as rich as many others. He was not an important person in the government or church. His family was not important in the community. Now, please remember the paper airplanes. If the people had to choose the most important man they knew, they would not have picked Jesus. However, the Baptist John and Andrew themselves saw Jesus and knew him. Therefore, they confidently introduced Jesus to their beloved disciples and brother.

Please remember, even though we do not know yet, it does not mean it is not valuable. Also though people have different viewpoints from us, that means they do not know what we know. Therefore, do not judge others who do not know what we know. Allow them to understand and open the door to them and wait for them until they see what we know. It is Jesus’ teaching that love of God and love of our neighbors. Let us open our hearts, doors, and minds to others so that God may use us the channel of grace. Thanks be to God!