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“What Are You Seeking?”
John 1:38


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Second Sunday After the Epiphany—January 16, 2011

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

In this morning’s Gospel Reading, Jesus asks two of his very first followers a question: “What are you seeking?”   The events of today’s Gospel Reading mark the beginning of Jesus’ three years of earthly ministry.  For the thousands who encountered him during those years, there were lots of different answers to that question, “What are you seeking?”

Many came to him seeking healing, as the Gospel of Matthew reports: “Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.”

Many others were afflicted with demons, and were brought to him seeking cleansing, as Matthew also reports: “Many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word.”

Many were seeking consolation in their suffering and sorrow, as Jesus says so beautifully in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. . .  Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”

Many were like the rich young man, seeking to learn from Jesus how to receive salvation: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

But, many were like the scribes and Pharisees and other religious leaders, who were seeking from Jesus affirmation of their own righteousness and superior holiness.  But, what he actually proclaimed to them was a shock: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites . . . you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

And, many in the crowds were crassly seeking an earthly, warrior king, who would lead them in armed rebellion against their Roman oppressors.  But, he rejected that path, as John’s Gospel tells us: “When Jesus realized that they were about to come and make him king by force, he withdrew by himself.”

“What are you seeking?”  Like those who first encountered Jesus during his earthly life, for all of us there are lots of different answers, why we are here today, why we come to him, what we are seeking from our relationship with him: comfort and relief from all sorts of problems and pain and suffering and sorrow. 

“What are you seeking?”  Each of us is facing our own personal troubles, our own unique set of needs, our own special circumstances, which draws us to Christ and his Church, seeking from him help, strength, and comfort.  But, although what we are specifically seeking from Jesus is different for each one of us, and changes with our life circumstances, all our individual wants and needs and desires can be summed in the one, supreme blessing we all need from him to make things right: a Savior to set us free from sin and all the troubles that sin brings.

For, that is really the underlying cause of whatever particular, individual problems and pain and suffering and sorrow that we are facing: sin.  The sins that we commit, and the sins that are committed against us. 

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  The Christmas song “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” describes our plight this way: “All you, beneath your heavy load, by care and guilt bent low, who toil along a dreary way with painful steps and slow.”  Sin is like an overwhelming weight, crushing down and destroying us. 

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  The Greek word for “take away” literally means to “lift up,” to “take off” from someone and give them relief, to instead “take upon yourself, and carry away.”  In the Old Testament sacrificial system, those seeking forgiveness would first place their hands upon the Passover lamb or other sacrificial animal, to transfer their guilt, from them to it, and then it would be slaughtered in their place, as a sacrifice to pay for their sins. 

In 1st Corinthians, Paul alludes to this transfer of guilt to the sacrificial lamb when he writes, “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.”  All those Old Testament sacrifices pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice that was to come, as Paul says in Colossians, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”  All those Old Testament sacrifices pointed forward to God’s own Son, the ultimate sacrificial Victim, to whom our guilt would be transferred, who would take upon himself the sins of the world.  As the Apostle John says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  Peter writes, “You were redeemed . . . with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. . .  He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.”

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  Paul says in Colossians, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things . . . by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

 “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  Hebrews says, “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. . .  we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  Paul says in Ephesians, “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as an offering and sacrifice to God. . .  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Your guilt was all transferred by God the Father upon his own Son, who suffered and died in your place.  As Paul says in Romans, “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”  Because of his sacrifice in your place, your sins are all forgiven.

“[John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ . . .  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’”

Andrew and the other disciple were seeking many different things that day.  They were seeking a Rabbi who would accept them as his disciples, whom they could follow and learn from.  As young men they were seeking a greater purpose and direction for their lives.  As Hebrews they were seeking the great Messiah who was to come, promised in the Scriptures.  But, most of all, they were seeking a Savior, to set them free from sin and all the troubles that sin brings.

“Come unto me,” Jesus says, “all you who are weary and heaven-laden, and I will give you rest.”  “Cast your burdens upon the Lord,” Peter tells us, “for he cares for you.”

What are the burdens you are facing?  The load is too much for you to bear, but you don’t have to bear it anymore.  Come unto Jesus and cast it on him.  Cast on Jesus the burden of sin, and all the troubles that sin brings.  Cast on Jesus the burden of your problems and pain and suffering and sorrow.  “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Amen.

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