“Jesus, Savior or Sweater?”
Rev. Rich Stratton, Minister of Education
First Baptist Church Henderson, KY
(October 14, 2007) (AM)
As we look at John 1:29-37 this morning we are going to be talking about the way that we see things and the way that we see a thing is always influenced by both our vision and our perspective. So as you find John 1:29-37 I want to make a few observations about the way that we see things and the things that influence our vision.
The first thing that influences our vision is the quality of our eyesight. Someone who has perfect vision is said to have 20/20 vision, now many of us have less than perfect vision while some of you may have better than perfect vision. But whatever an optometrist might tell us our vision is it is only a measure that tells us how far away from something we can stand and still see an object clearly.
But even with the very best measurable vision the human eye is still limited. It is still limited physically. Even with the very best vision a human being is still practically blind when compared to some of God’s other creatures. For example the eagle can see clearly over twice as far as a human can and much more clearly.
Our vision is also limited mentally. Our eyes only see what our brain tells them to see or only what our brain interprets an image to be, this is know as perception. That is why two people can look at the same image and perceive two different things. We’ve all seen the inkblots that can be two different things: a duck or a rabbit, a candlestick or two people talking, a young woman or an old maid. It all depends on what our brain tells our eyes to see.
And our vision can be fooled into seeing something that is not real at all. Some people are very skilled at making us see what they want us to see. If you have ever been to a magic show where an illusionist appears to make something float or disappear then you know how easy it is to have our eyes fooled. I considered using a visual aid at this point this morning by making a dollar float but thought better of it for two reasons; first I am not a very good illusionist and secondly, if I did manage to pull it off I would lose half of you for the rest of the hour while you were trying to figure out how I had done it.
So with all of these imperfections in our vision and perception it is no wonder that Jesus says in Matthew 13:13 “I speak to them in parables because seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Our eyes can allow us to see something and yet have no idea what it is. They can also allow us to see something and allow us to perceive it so poorly that we have no appreciation for it. They can see things that our mind simply ignores or takes for granted. For example how many of you saw and actually perceived your surroundings this morning. Was the sky light blue, white, or dark blue, were there clouds or no clouds? Without looking to the left or the right, looking only at me could you tell me what your spouse, child, friend, or family member is wearing? Do you perceive and appreciate your surroundings on a daily basis?
My family and I were on vacation this week in the Smoky Mountains and were in awe of the beauty of the mountains, the colors, the flowing rivers and everything around us. But as you watch and talk to the people who live there you find that they simply grow accustomed to these things and soon fail to see or perceive them. They begin to take them for granted.
And that is what happens to many people concerning God, concerning Jesus Christ, including many Christians. Sometimes we begin to take Him for granted, sometimes we begin to simply expect Him to do things for us, we expect Him to think of us when we seldom think of Him. We become blind to the real picture of Jesus because our vision is dull, because we fail to have the proper perspective of Jesus as both Savior and Lord.
If we are to truly see Jesus then we must exercise a vision other than a vision that is limited to our eyes and brain. We must view Him with Spiritual vision. We must see Him for all that He is: Creator, Sustainer, Caretaker, Father, Savior and Lord. We must see Him as John the Baptist does in our passage today.
So with your Bibles open to John 1:29-37 stand with me as we honor the reading of God’s Word.
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” 35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
If we are going to see and perceive Jesus properly and hold Him in the proper regard then we must do three things that we see John do in this passage.
First we must…
I. See Jesus (vv. 29-33)
Look at verse 29. It says “The next day,” that is best understood to mean not literally they day following the baptism of Jesus because we know from Mark 1:12 that Jesus went immediately into the wilderness after His baptism where He stayed for how long?
That’s right 40 days. So this “next day” is better translated as “sometime later John saw Jesus coming toward him.
But the point is that John saw Jesus coming toward him and he recognized Him for who He is. Now we can be fairly sure that John was not the first person to see Jesus walking down the road that day. Remember that although John baptized in the wilderness he had achieved some measure of fame and notoriety which would, according to Luke, bring multitudes of people out to this area of the Jordan to here John preach and be baptized. So it is likely that dozens of people had already “seen” Jesus that day.
It was only John however that saw Jesus with the proper perspective. It was only John who saw Jesus clearly with a spiritual vision.
Look at John’s response to seeing Jesus here in verse 29, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John is excited about being in the presence of Jesus because he recognizes Him for who He is. The Lamb of God, the Savior who will take away the sins of the world, including his own. John saw the great value of Jesus and the absolutely desperate situation he himself was in. The same situation we are in, sinful and worthy of punishment so he saw Jesus and was excited.
He goes on in verse 30 to emphasize the proper perspective of Jesus. This is no ordinary man “This is He of whom I said, After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.” In other words John is recognizing and saying that this man Jesus is far greater than he is or will ever be. John was not concerned about continuing to be the center of attention, he did not care that his fifteen minutes of fame were over, he knew that Jesus must be his highest priority, he knew that God must always be in first place.
Then John explains how it is that he has come to see Jesus so clearly in vv. 31-33.
31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
John says “I did not know Him.” That doesn’t mean that he didn’t know who Jesus was, after all Jesus was his cousin. It does however mean that until Jesus’ baptism John did not know that Jesus was the Messiah. John only knew that a Messiah was coming and that God would reveal to him who that Messiah would be. God promised him that he would know the Messiah when he saw the Spirit of God descend upon Him like a dove, something we know from Matthew and Luke that happened to Jesus.
In other words God opened John’s spiritual eyes to see who Jesus was and that is the only way for us to see Jesus for who He really is as well. God must send His Holy Spirit to open our eyes to our sin, He must send His Spirit to allow us to see that Jesus is our only hope for salvation, God alone can show us who Jesus really is and the fact that He has chosen to do that for us should see Jesus as full of worth and value as He really is.
You see anyone can see an incomplete picture of Jesus. Anyone can look at a “picture” of Jesus or visualize the man Jesus as they hear or read about Him. But not everyone can see Him for His beauty, His truth and His value.
Physical vision only allows us to see Jesus the “good example” or Jesus the “teacher” or Jesus the “legend or myth.” Physical vision only offers a take it or leave it image of Jesus.” John Piper says that an unclear vision of Jesus allows people to “look at Him like a child would look at a great work of art and yet still prefer a comic book.” That is a vision that misses the value or worth.
We also see Jesus wrongly when we have an improper or skewed perspective of His absolute importance. Often times instead of viewing Christ as more important than ourselves as John did we get the order of importance reversed.
Take for example the universe, it is absolutely huge. The largest and most powerful telescope ever made is the Hubble telescope. It can pick up images of galaxies 12 billion light years away, in miles that is 612 followed by 33 zeros, again our universe is huge. The vastness of this universe could and often does cause man to ask the question, “Why would God create something so big to house something so small? Or why did God waste so much space on tiny little man?
That type of question indicates spiritual blindness or a wrong view of who God and Jesus Christ are. Because Scripture tells us that it is not about us. Psalm 19:1 says, “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.” That means that we are not to look at all the things God has created but at the Creator Himself as the object of our love, desire and affection.
That means that meaning is to be found in the Creator and Savior Jesus Christ, not in the comparatively small and insignificant universe. To look to those things leads only to sorrow. Again I like the way John Piper summarizes the importance of seeing Jesus Christ properly.
“The Christian Gospel is about the glory of Christ, not about me. And when it is—in some measure about me, it is not about my being made much of by God, but about God mercifully enabling me to enjoy making much of Him forever.”
John the Baptist understood that the most loving thing that God could do and that He did do was to allow us to see His glory and to recognize the need for the salvation offered in His Son Jesus Christ. If we are going to say that we love Jesus then we must see Him properly, we must have the proper perspective, we must recognize His value and worth.
Secondly, if we are going to love Jesus and hold Him in the proper perspective then we must …
II. Savor Jesus (v. 34)
In verse 34 it says that John has seen and “testified” that this is the Son of God. This testify in not only indicating that John is bearing witness of who Jesus is but also excitedly proclaiming and embracing who Jesus is. Here the word is used much like it would be used in a charismatic church when someone shouts “testify” hold Jesus up before us!” Get excited about Jesus, proclaim Jesus, savor Jesus.
Savor is a word that we often times identify with food. Some of you may savor chocolate, others may savor ice cream, or potato chips, or popcorn, or a big juicy steak. Whatever your particular food vice is if we savor it that means that we enjoy every moment and every bite. It’s like a story a friend of mine used to tell about one of his old friends from the military. He said that this particular friend loved pizza and that this was something that they did not normally get on post so when they got the opportunity to go on leave this friend would always find the nearest pizza place and gorge himself on pizza. And all the while they could tell that this young man was savoring every bite because he would make eating noises. He was enjoying his food and didn’t care who knew or what they thought.
This is the way we must enjoy Jesus Christ, John did. John made it his life to proclaim Jesus. Jesus was his life work. Jesus was the one he had been waiting for and looking forward too. John was looking at each moment that he could spend with Jesus as the greatest moments of his life. He was excited because he was in the presence of Jesus.
We too should get excited about being the presence of Jesus. We too should look back at the moment that we first meet Jesus as the greatest moment of our lives. But too often when we are asked what the greatest moment of our life has been we will respond with something like the birth of a child or our wedding day. And as important as these days are they should pale in comparison with the day that we met Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The day that we were forgiven of every sin and given the hope of salvation. We should savor that day and more importantly we should savor the Jesus we met on that day.
As Christians we should dwell upon Jesus. When John says that he sees and testifies he is saying that he is keeping Jesus constantly before himself at the center of his focus. John is saying that Jesus is what he thinks about, Jesus is at the center influencing every other thought and action. John is echoing the sentiments of David in Psalm 64. It is the wonderful thought of Jesus that keeps him awake at night. What keeps you awake at night? If you are like me it is probably not the excitement of dwelling on Jesus, but if our focus were correct it would be.
This is the kind of response that we should have to Jesus. Our experience with Him should breed contentment and thanksgiving in our hearts. It should breed contentment because we know that we have the absolute best thing we can ever have. It should breed thanks because it is all we have to give back to this wonderful Savior.
Jesus should be the number one desire of our hearts, He was for John. In Matthew 3 we see that John desired to be baptized by Jesus because he recognized the value of Jesus and what He has to offer. And what Jesus has to offer us and has given us should be our desire and number one treasure as well.
But often Jesus is not our number one treasure. Too many times He is more like a high school trophy. I remember when I would get trophies they would first be displayed in a prominent place in the family room where everyone who might come into the house would see them. Then they would be moved to my room where they would be less visible. Then they would move to the back of a shelf and begin to gather dust. Now they are in the attic in a box where they are seen only occasionally when I am looking for something else. Jesus should not be like some forgotten trophy that we seldom remember, instead He should always be at the center of everything in our lives. We should proudly display Him in our lives for others to see, we should savor Him like the young man making the eating noises not caring what others may think
We should savor Jesus as our number one treasure and want everyone else to treasure Him as well which means that the third thing we will do if we have the proper view of Christ is…
III. Share Jesus (vv.35-37)
John does this well. Look at verses 35-37.
35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
On previous days John has been preaching sharing Christ with strangers, followers, friends, and enemies. But here we see him sharing personally with two friends—his disciples.
Now John is standing here engaged in casual conversation with his disciples. I don’t know if they were talking about the weather, or their families, the number of people had come to be baptized that day (they were Baptists and counting baptisms you know) or perhaps Andrew was telling some great fishing stories about the one that got away. Whatever they were talking about the conversations stops when Jesus walks by. Not because they were afraid He might overhear but because John wants to share Jesus with his friends.
Jesus walks by and John seizes the opportunity to share. He doesn’t stop to think about what he should say or about weather or not it would be well received. He doesn’t ignore the opportunity or timidly shy away from this opportunity. He doesn’t silently reflect on his resent experience with Jesus. He doesn’t casually make an observation such as there goes Jesus. He isn’t tired of telling people about Jesus.
John does not react like the timid little Christian who prays every morning, “Lord give me the opportunity to share you with someone today.” This Christian sincerely prays this same prayer every morning for years and finally one morning when he goes to catch the usually crowed train into the city for work he finds himself alone on the platform. He finds this to be odd but boards the train anyway. At the next stop again there is only one passenger who boards the train, again the Christian finds this very strange and silently prays, “Lord if this is the opportunity I have been praying for just give me a sign.” The lone passenger who happens to be a big burly biker dude then choose to sit right next to the timid Christian on the otherwise empty train car and he silently prays, “Lord just give me a sign.” As the train begins to move the big man breaks down into tears, falls into the Christian’s lap and cries, “My life is a mess and I need someone to tell me about Jesus!” At this the Christian responds by praying, “Lord just give me a sign.”
But John does not react in such a way, instead he excitedly says, LOOK! That’s Jesus the Lamb of God! And he doesn’t stop there he says see Him, Savor Him, go after Him, He is the best thing that will ever happen to you!
And he wasn’t sharing out of some sense of obligation or because he thought that there would be some personal gain because of it. As a matter of fact John lost two of his disciples in this witnessing opportunity. He introduced these men to Christ and did so in such a way as to impart to them the same sense of excitement he has. It wasn’t some canned disconnected message that he shared with these men. He shared with them in such a way as to show them the proper way to see Jesus.
John got what it means to see Jesus properly. He knew that Jesus is to be seen as the greatest gift we can ever receive. He knew that Jesus is to be savored as our most precious treasure. He knew that Jesus is to be shared without caution. John saw Jesus with the proper perspective. He saw Jesus for who He really is, do you?
Do you see Jesus as one who is worthy of glory and honor? Do you savor Jesus and share Him with others as your most prized possession? Do you see Jesus as Lord and Savior or do you see him more like the sweater you received last year for Christmas. When you received it you acted excited and said a polite thank you but then took it home and put it away where it is rarely seen and even more rarely worn.
In short is your view of Jesus one of a valuable Savior or a forgotten sweater.
Are you grateful for His sacrifice, do you thank Him daily or is it a gift taken for granted?
Are you stirred to excitement by the sight of Him so that sharing Him is as spontaneous and natural as breathing?
If we cannot answer yes to all of these questions then we need to check our vision. We need to pray this morning that God will make clear to us the glory of Jesus Christ. We need to pray that God will give us eyes to see.
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