What are we here for? What is the purpose of the church?
To show how important Jesus is to the church.
We will look at why we are here, John the Baptist’s example and the lamb of God.
Why are we here
Have we ever asked ourselves, why are we here? So, here we sit in a church pew, or stand in a church choir, or listen to the Bible preached. But, why are we here? Are we here for the friendship? What about the music? Are we here because of guilt? Are we here because it is the “right thing” to do in our family upbringing? Do we sit in church impatiently waiting for the moment of escape? Do we wish the preacher would sit down and shut up? Do we wish the song leader would suggest that we only sing one verse instead of five? Do we believe that God is here? Do we believe that Jesus, the head of the Church, is here? Do we believe that there is more? Shall we follow Jesus and see (John 1:29-42)?
Titles pretentious and true
We are used to people being given or giving themselves exaggerated titles. Those who insist on being addressed by some accolade, that makes them appear to be more important, are often oblivious to the negative atmosphere that their arrogance causes. Outside of specific cultural circles such as the military, business, church or academia, titles are often irrelevant and can appear to be pretentious. It is with that in mind that we can hear John calling Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, God’s chosen one, and Andrew announcing him as the Messiah (John 1:29-42). Living in a world of phony self-importance can blind us to the reality that sometimes a title is not only deserving, but also an accurate description of someone. Jesus is who they say his is, Savior of the world.
The inviting church
Evangelicalism has a bad rep these days. It seems to have become unfriendly, judgmental and uninviting. Whatever happened to the welcoming Jesus? Whatever happened to the words from John 3:16-18, that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him? How can we return to being the inviting church? Perhaps we ought to leave the judging to judgment day. Perhaps we ought to focus more on healing and salvation than on the sins which necessitated both. Rather than criticize those who are hurting, perhaps we ought to invite them to be healed. Rather than condemn those in a prison created by the sins of the world, perhaps we ought to invite them to freedom. Perhaps we need to invite them to come and see Jesus (John 1:29-42).
We are not the Messiah
Every preacher worth his salt knows that a pastor is not the Messiah. Every politician worthy of office knows that human leaders are not the Messiah. Every teacher worthy of the title knows that teachers are not the Messiah. Every member of every Christian church needs to know to the depths of their being that we are not the Messiah. Why then do so many have a Messiah complex, delusions of grandeur, an inflated sense of self-importance? Why do so many preachers, politicians and teachers burden themselves with the delusion that they must “save the world”? Like John the Baptist we point to another who is the Messiah. Like a light on a hill we don’t illuminate ourselves but God. We are all appointed missionaries, sent by God to tell the story of Jesus and his love (John 1:29-42).
John the pointer
In Orthodox iconography John the Baptist is often pictured as pointing to a lamb, echoing his words from John 1:29-42 where he declared, “Look! The Lamb of God!” Iconography is an ancient form of visual art designed to portray the most important aspects of a subject’s life. In John’s case, one of the most important features of his life was to point to Jesus. John’s example is important for us today. We can be easily distracted by human politics, traditions and material desires. It can benefit us to look at the example of a man who lived an uncluttered life, with one simple goal, to point to Jesus. What if our lives were more oriented towards Christ? What if our churches focused more on what he taught? Is it not the mission of every Christian to point to Jesus?
Come and you will see
The world is full of gurus promising salvation from various complaints ― like poverty, headaches, big government and old vacuum cleaners. Much of the time, those promises are empty. There is one expert who doesn't make false claims. He actually can provide salvation from something that science cannot, death. His reputation has been sullied in the press and his followers are sometimes obnoxious and self-righteous. However, he does make some interesting and challenging claims. He claims to be the Son of God, God with us. He claims to have taken away the sins of the world. He claims to have the answers. In John 1:29-42 he made a challenge to a couple of men, who were curious. “Come, and you will see.” There is a deeper hint that if we begin to follow Jesus, we will eventually truly see.
First examples of church unity
What would be the first example of the unity of those called out to assemble with Jesus? What can we learn from it in regard to Church unity today? The very first instances of this unity are described in places like John 1:29-42. There was only one teacher, Jesus. There was only one set of doctrines, the teachings of Jesus. As early as the first apostles, differences appeared. 500 years later east and west were culturally and linguistically divided. 1000 years later that division became the Great Schism. 1500 years later, the western church splintered. Our only hope for recapturing unity is in returning to sit at the feet of the master. Perhaps we already do recapture it momentarily. Mainstream pastors often preach the Gospel text from the lectionary. There we again experience unity at the feet of Jesus.
Pioneers and settlers
Whenever there is new territory to be conquered, there are two groups of people awaiting it. The pioneers are early adopters who willingly explore new territory and don’t mind the discomfort of things not completely established. Late adopters are more like settlers, who are willing to take their place after a certain measure of infrastructure has been established. Of course there are people at various stages in between as well. In John 1:29-42 we are introduced to some pioneers of the Christian faith. These were people who willingly changed from the way things were to the new way being heralded by Jesus before there was an established ministry serving growing numbers of congregations. These first few men were the early disciples of Christ. Without visible support, only faith and Jesus as their teacher, they pioneered what we enjoy today.
Lamb of God
In John 1:29-42 Jesus is called the Lamb of God (Latin: Agnus Dei). This associates Jesus with the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:1-28; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8). A common phrase used during communion when the bread is broken remembers John the Baptist’s words, “Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.” Revelation refers to the lamb at the throne (5:6-13), opening the seven seals (6:1-16; 8:1), as the shepherd of the nations (7:9-17), triumph in his blood (12:11), the book of life that belongs to him (13:8), celibates who kept themselves pure (14:1-10), a song to be sung (15:3), his victory (17:14), his wedding (19:7-9; 21:9), his city (21:22-27), the river of the water of life (22:1-3).
Where do we look
In Exodus 29:38-41 we read of the morning and evening burnt lamb offerings. These were among a long list of offerings to continually forgive the people of Israel their sins. Unlike those sacrifices, Jesus offered himself once for the sins of the entire world (Hebrews 7:11-27). That’s why John pointed to Jesus, because he is that Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29-42). That’s why John twice said, look the Lamb of God. That’s why Jesus said, come and you will see. He was talking about seeing more than just the place where he was staying. The one thing that all the forces of evil would love to have us do is take our eyes off Jesus. Yet, it is him we must look to, because salvation is available nowhere else.
Our purpose is to point to Jesus, because there we and others will find the answers.