Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Who Is Jesus and Who Are You?
Behold, the Lamb of God
29 The next day he 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 ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son[i] of God.” (John 1)
There’s a story about an American president who went to visit a nursing home and he walked up to a lady in a wheelchair and he said, ma’am, do you know who I am? And she answered, no sir, I don’t. But if you go to the front desk, they’ll tell you who you are.
Who Is Jesus?
One of the most chilling stories in the Old Testament is that of Abraham being called to sacrifice his son Isaac. Without hesitation Abraham did as God said. God, of course, stopped Abraham’s hand before the knife was thrust into Isaac’s body, and provided a lamb for the offering on Mt. Moriah.
In the Gospel reading above, John the Baptist connects Mt. Moriah with Golgotha, when he points his prophetic finger at Jesus. “Behold, he says, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” When John said those words, the jaws of the people must have dropped in astonishment. Why? They knew the story of Abraham. More than that, they lived the story of Abraham, waiting day in and day out for God to fulfill His promise. Everything about God’s test of Abraham was in this declaration of John. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” God had finally provided the Lamb. There would be no more bloody sacrifices in the Temple. God would do the unthinkable! He would offer up His own Son for the sins of the world!
Also, when the Jews heard John’s statement, “the Lamb of God,” they must have remembered how God provided a way for the Israelites to avoid his judgment, by the blood of a lamb on doorposts. But this time, however, it is not by the blood of a lamb on our doorposts, but by Christ’s blood on the wooden posts of the Cross.
God, through John the Baptist, settles the whole question of identity. Who is the Messiah? It’s Jesus. Jesus is the beloved Son, the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God.
Today, we have an adult baptism. Baptism is about your identity as child of God. It’s about being washed and welcomed into God’s family. A covenant bond with God that nothing in this world can ever take away.
How many hats do you guys wear as you go throughout your week? Now, I don’t mean real hats, but what kind of roles do you guys play?
I bet you play the role of father or mother, child, sister, brother, employers, employee…etc. And in many ways, our identity is grounded in those roles. I mean, after all, when someone asks you, when you meet somebody, what’s the first thing they ask you? Oh, what’s your name? Right? What’s the second question people usually ask you then after your name, what do you do? What is it that you do for a living? And they try to get a sense of who you are by what you do.
So, let me ask you this. What happens when the thing that you identify yourself with goes away, fades from your life or perhaps is ripped away. Your job is gone. Your spouse is gone, your children grown up. Where… with what, and with whom do you now find your identity.
Who you are is not what you do! Who you are is not what you’ve done! That’s not even the right question to ask. Rather the question is whose are we? In baptism, God named you and claimed you. You are, no matter if you lose your job, no matter what turmoil comes in this life, no matter what, no one can take away the fact that you are a child of Almighty and Living God. Nothing can change that.
Last week, we celebrated our Lord’s Baptism, and we read how a voice from heaven saying, you are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased. That same God that was at Jesus’s baptism… is that same God who is at the baptism today, that same God is with you and conveys the same identity as beloved children, children, so precious to God that God would do anything, go through any length. He would literally go to the cross and die and rise again so that we would be with God forever, forever. That doesn’t wait until we die, but forever, that starts today with a relationship with him.
In a day, and age we’re finding out who you are is constantly changing and so complex that baptism says that it’s best to understand who we are by paying attention to whose we are. It reminds us that God will be with us all the days of our lives. Whatever happens in this life, God’s promises are there!
There’s a song by a Christian artist named Mandisa, called “He Is with You.” I’d just like to read for you some of the lyrics today:
He, God, He is with you in the conference room when the world is coming down on you.
He is with when your wife and kids don’t know you anymore.
He’s with you in the ICU, when the doctors don’t know what to do. He is with you.
He is with you; when your kids are grown, when there’s too much space and you feel alone.
He is with you, when you’ve given up on ever finding true love, He is with you.
When nothing else is left and you take your final breath, He is with you.
That’s the promise of the Cross and the resurrection. You are a child of God, because the Lamb of God reconciled the world with the Father. Our heavenly father sent Jesus to die and rise again from the grave so that through the resurrection and by faith in Christ, we know who we are, the children of the King of kings.
As we go out today, we need to remember that baptism is a mission. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… May your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. Amen.
Rev. Hesham Shehab-January 13, 2020