Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!


Epiphany 2: Lamb of God
January 17, 2012, 9:51 am
Filed under: Sermons

A sermon preached at All Hallows, Easton, 15th January 2012

The reading from the Book of Revelation gives us a vision of heaven. It’s a dream, of course, full of symbols and signs, not a description of real events. John the dreamer sees a glorious figure enthroned, holding a scroll- a rolled up parchment- fastened with seven seals so that no-one can read what is written on the scroll. John is told that no-one has been able to open the scroll, which causes him to weep with frustration, because he knows that the message is of vital importance to mankind. An angel tells him not to cry, because “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” will open the message. When he looks, he sees not a Lion but a Lamb, who is able to reveal the hidden message of God because he has been sacrificed, and so purchased the whole human race for God.

Well! That is some dream! I don’t know what a psychiatrist would make of it! The John who dreamed is traditionally supposed to be the same John who wrote today’s Gospel, the brother of James who with Peter and Andrew was called from his fishing boat to follow the Lord. In today’s reading, we are in the days following the Baptism of Jesus, which we were thinking about last week. John has described how the other John, John the Baptist, has referred to Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” This is an important clue to the dream: the Lamb who reveals the secrets of God because he has been sacrificed to save all people is none other than Jesus!

The Gospel tells us that soon after his Baptism, Jesus decided to go to Galilee, the home area of Peter and Andrew, and several others who were in the group that had been with John the Baptist. Jesus invites Philip to join him, and Philip goes to find his friend Nathanael (just as the previous day Andrew had gone to find his brother Peter). Nathanael is very doubtful that anything good can come from a place like Nazareth, the back of beyond, but he agrees to humour Philip and come and see. On meeting Jesus, he is so impressed that he calls him “Son of God” and “King of Israel”, in other words the Messiah. Jesus tells him that he will see greater things: heaven opened, and angels going up and down over the Son of Man.

I doubt if Nathanael understood at that time what Jesus was talking about; but the point is that Jesus himself claims to be the one for whom the secrets of heaven are an open book, and whom the angels serve. It is interesting to note that, although John does not tell of the temptation in the wilderness, it is at this point in their Gospels that Matthew and Luke show Satan quoting to Jesus the text, “He will give his angels charge of you to bear you up,” while both Mark and Matthew say that after his temptation, angels came and ministered to Jesus.

Christianity is about Jesus: what he taught, and even more about who he is and what he has done. Nathanael gave him titles of dignity, “Son of God,” “King of Israel”. Jesus himself gave himself a title of humility, just “the son of man”, human and vulnerable like everyone else. John the dreamer heard “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” proclaimed, but when he looked he saw only a gentle Lamb, and not just a lamb, but one that had apparently been sacrificed, wounded and yet still alive. In coded form, the message was that Jesus has saved mankind not by power and majesty, but by self-sacrifice and humility.

But what is “salvation”? Each person must look into his or her own heart, and ask what they are most afraid of. Illness? Lack of money? Death? We all have things that worry us. Maybe there are things we are ashamed of, and that worries us too. When we say that Jesus is the Saviour, we mean that we can take all our worries, all our weaknesses, to him. If we trust him, he will sort it all out. We are safe with him. What does the hymn say? “Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fighting and fears, within, without, O Lamb of God, I come… Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon cleanse, relieve: because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come.” Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

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