Come and See
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me.' I myself did not know him. but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 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.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, "Behold the Lamb of God!" 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?" And they said to him, "Rabbi (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and you will see."
Let me begin with a quote from the Gospel of John that was just proclaimed to us: “Jesus said to the two disciples, ‘Come and see.’”
What would you do when someone invites you to some event where there is a chance your life might be placed in danger, perhaps even the lives of your loved ones? What would you do when someone invites you to do some work or task where the payoff might rather be small, perhaps none, when the work would cause you some conflict, perhaps no small suffering in your life? Would you accept the invitation? The answer, at first glance, would be “No.” Our instinct at self-preservation would tell us “No. Why should I place myself and my loved ones in danger? Why would I necessarily want to take on additional burden and struggles when life is full of them already?”
Today in the Gospel, Jesus issues out an invitation. “Come and see.” “Come, follow me and see what I offer.” What would you want from God as you follow Jesus? Perhaps, a life of prosperity, a nice, easy life, and certainly not one filled with undue hardship. We want a God who will protect us, shield us from the hurts and harms that might come our way. There’s nothing wrong with that. Who wouldn’t want an easy life? Who wouldn’t want a comfortable life? Well, then, ponder these words from Blessed Martin Luther King, Jr., words he uttered before the National Conference of Religion and Race in Chicago two years before his death.
I quote him: “We are gravely mistaken to think that [the Christian] religion protects us from the pain and agony of mortal existence. Life is not a euphoria of unalloyed comfort and untroubled ease. Christianity has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear.”
Blessed Martin tells us that Jesus’ invitation to follow him is not an invitation to an easy and comfortable life. Jesus’ invitation was and is always an invitation to carry our crosses, an invitation we receive at our Baptism.
In the Gospel today, we read of Jesus’ Baptism. As he was baptized, two things happened. First, the Father acknowledged Jesus as his own beloved Son. And secondly, Jesus received his mission as the sacrificial Lamb of God who will offer his life for the sake of humanity gripped by sin, oppression, injustice, evil and death. Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is inextricably linked to his identity as the Lamb of God. Something like it happens to us at our Baptism. Like Jesus, we who have been baptized have received our identity as God’s children, God adopts us as his own children; and yet at the same time we receive a mission to live our a life of sacrifice, lives not only for our selves, but also for God and for others. At our Baptism, we also receive the mandate to renounce evil, oppression and injustice in all its forms. At Baptism, we receive the difficult mission to stand in solidarity with the poor, and people who are marginalized and oppressed because of the color of their skin, culture, religion, or sexual orientation, and this demanding Lord Jesus commands us to stand with them even if it brings us suffering in life. Blessed Martin, in one of his sermons said, “I choose to identify with the underprivileged. I choose to identify with the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry. I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity…This is the way I am going. If it means suffering a bit, I’m going that way. If it means dying for them, I’m going that way because I heard a voice saying, “Do something for others.”
And because we still live in the world that is gripped by sin and injustice, we who choose to follow Jesus, must meet opposition from this world. To follow Jesus is to follow him to the cross. The Christian life is not an easy life. Jesus is absolute in his demand, “Do something for others” even if it means putting yourself and even your loved ones in harm’s way. This is hard and the temptation is to ran away from Jesus’ invitation Even Blessed Martin was tempted to run away. He described one such a moment, and I quote him “I sat there and thought about [my] beautiful little daughter who had just been born…thinking about the fact that she could be taken away from me any minute…And I started thinking about [my] dedicated, devoted, and loyal wife… and she could be taken from me, or I could be taken from her…and I prayed out loud that night. I said, “Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right…I think the cause we represent is right. But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now. I’m faltering. I’m losing my courage…” “At times, I felt that I could no longer bear such as heavy burden, and was tempted to retreat to a more quiet and serene life.” So why didn’t he retreat to a more quiet and serene life? Was he a masochist? Are we, Christians, masochists?
The sacrificial Lamb of God in the Gospel of John is also the Triumphant Lamb of John’s Apocalypse, the Lamb of God who conquered death, sin and evil once and for all. The promise of the Gospel is that we, too, who suffer for righteousness’ sake will have our reward. We will share in the triumph of the Lamb. This is the only justification why we all must persist to do the right thing on earth even if the cards seem stack against us because we know that the final victory is ours in the Lamb; the vision of the triumphant heavenly Lamb gives us the courage to accept the invitation of the Christ to follow him and take up our crosses. Blessed Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to survive his home being bombed, he was able to survive countless death threats including an almost fatal stabbing; he was able to endure thirty incarcerations; he bore it all for God because he believed that goodness will triumph over evil and injustice, life will be victorious over forces of death. But the victory comes only through the cross; he says, “The cross we bear precedes the crown we wear. To become a Christian one must take up his cross, with all its difficulties and agonizing and tension-packed content and carry it until that very cross leaves it marks upon us and redeems us to that more excellent way which comes only through suffering.”
Friends, how do we respond now to Jesus when he beckons us, “Come and see”?
©2018 Noel E. Bordador
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