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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Average Joe - John 1:29-42 (Blackburn's Chapel)

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is 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 ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending on him from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
The next day John again was stranding with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi,” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

I need to let you know this morning that this particular sermon is not going where you think it is. Sermons on this passage have tended to focus on either the beginning or the end of the story – either they focus on Jesus as the Lamb of God, or they focus on Simon Peter, who gets the nickname “rock.” While either one of these would make for a good sermon, that’s not where I want to focus today.

Today, I’d like for us to think about little brothers. Who in the room has a little brother? Take a look around, I want everyone to note this. Now, who in the room is a little brother? Those of you who raised your hand the first time, I want you to take special note of these little brothers around you! Little brothers have it tough, growing up in the shadow of their older siblings. Little brothers find themselves often wanting to be like their big brothers, but wanting to do it on their own and without any extra help. Little brothers tire of being compared to their older siblings, and often develop fiercely independent personalities.

In our text today, we also meet two brothers. We meet Simon Peter, and his little brother, Andrew. Andrew is an average Joe, an ordinary guy. We know Andrew, but we’ve overlooked him so many times. The Andrews of the world easily disappear within the shadow of the more dynamic Peters. But, as a little brother myself, I think the little brothers of the world have been overlooked for too long! As an Andrew myself, I think the Andrews of the world have been overlooked for too long! Before we’re all said and done today, hopefully you’ll see why the world could use a few more Andrews. May we pray.

Who was Andrew?
Andrew was Simon Peter’s kid brother. I picture him growing up in his big brother’s shadow. When they played a game growing up, who decided what they would play? Simon Peter. When a joke was being told, who was telling it? Simon Peter. When someone asked them a question about fishing, who jumped in with an immediate response? Simon Peter. In the background, playing second fiddle, was Andrew. People always knew he was there, but he never got quite the recognition his older brother did.

In our text, we’re told that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. Remember that a disciple is simply someone who follows someone else. Andrew resonated with John the Baptist’s message and wanted to immerse himself in his teaching. In our text today, John the Baptist is standing there as Jesus walks by, sometime very shortly after Jesus’ baptism. He whispers. “Pssst. Hey Andrew. That’s him. That’s the guy. You know, the one I’ve been telling you about from the beginning. You know, the Lamb of God. The one who will take away the sin of the world, who will change the world, the one who will bring about reconciliation between all the world and God. That’s him!”

Andrew doesn’t need to hear anything else. Before John has even stopped speaking, Andrew is off. He knew John’s message was one of preparation, and his teacher has just told him that the person for whom he was preparing has arrived. Andrew doesn’t need further convincing. Andrew has been a disciple of John the Baptist, and now, he will be a disciple of Jesus. He knew that his time with John the Baptist was to prepare for an encounter with the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Anointed One. I doubt he really knew what to expect as he followed Jesus. He simply knew that he was to follow him, and when he did, his life was forever changed.

Andrew was just an ordinary guy
I mentioned earlier that Andrew often fades into the shadow of his more gregarious brother, Simon Peter. Part of the reason is that Andrew is much more ordinary than his older brother. Simon Peter – he’s someone you meet only once in a great while. He’s the guy up front, the guy who can do all things and do them well – and he gets all the attention. He’s the one we read about in the newspapers and watch on the evening news. When you get your alumni magazine, you immediately flip to the alumni notes section to see what extraordinary things he’s been up to lately. He’s a rare species, he’s larger than life, and you remember meeting someone like him.

But Andrew is just a normal, average guy. Andrew is someone you meet everyday. He drives your bus, he sits next to you in class, he’s the vice president at your bank, he’s your next-door neighbor, and your daughters play softball together. Every few years, you read about in the alumni magazine because he got a modest promotion, or moved to a new town 70 miles away, or had another baby. Andrew is just a regular, ordinary, normal guy – someone just like you and me. And that’s what I want us to remember about Andrew – he is a regular, ordinary, normal guy – someone just like you and me.

And it is his ordinary-ness that makes him so remarkable. For every Simon Peter, there are 10,000 Andrews. For every gregarious, charismatic, talented up-front person, there are 10,000 regular, ordinary, normal people. It is Andrew’s ordinary-ness that makes it possible for God to use him like he does. Let’s look further at how God used an ordinary guy like Andrew.

God’s use of the ordinary
Andrew follows Jesus and ends up spending the better part of 24 hours with him. We don’t really know what they talked about, or what happened, or what was said. But something happened that was truly transformative, and Andrew became a disciple of Jesus Christ.

And what did he do? First thing the next morning, Andrew ran to find his larger-than-life big brother and share the wonderful news, “We have found the Messiah. The one for whom we have hoped for so long is here, he is among us. I have met him, and I want you to meet him too.”

Andrew shows us what it means to be an evangelist. A pastor in our conference was meeting with his evangelism team one night at the beginning of a new year, and the new members of the team wanted to know if they could change their name. They were uncomfortable with the word “evangelism.” For half the group, the term brought to mind people like Billy Graham, and they didn’t feel worthy to be associated in the same company. For the other half of the group, the term brought to mind a host of television preachers, including Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, and they didn’t want to be associated in the same company.

So here is how Andrew shows us what it means to be an evangelist. Andrew was an ordinary person, who had an encounter with Jesus and felt something within himself changed. And so, he went and found his brother and brought him to Jesus. Andrew did not try to convert his brother. Andrew did not try to change his brother or convince his brother. Andrew knew that if he brought his brother into the presence of Jesus, that his brother could be transformed just the way that he had been transformed by Christ. Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, and Simon Peter gave his life to Christ.

In fact, everywhere we meet Andrew throughout the rest of the story, he brings people to Jesus. When a great crowd had gathered and was starting to get hungry, Andrew had been talking to a little boy who had a sack lunch with five loaves of bread and two fish in it. Andrew said, “I would like you to meet Jesus.” Jesus transformed that little boy, transformed his meager meal, and transformed the crowd. Then later, Andrew meets a few Greeks – a few outsiders, that is – and introduces them to Jesus and they become disciples. Everywhere you turn, he is bringing people and introducing them to Jesus, and lives are changed because of it. One doesn’t need to be flamboyant and larger than life like Peter. The world needs regular people, just like Andrew, who bring people to Jesus. And when people are brought to Jesus, lives are transformed.

Vince Antonucci tells the story of speaking at a conference for teenagers. He gave his message, and then offered an invitation for the students to come forward who wanted to give their lives to Jesus. The stream of kids slowed to a trickle, and then stopped altogether. Vince closed his eyes and prayed, “God, maybe there’s one more kid who needs to give their heart to you. No one’s coming forward now, but maybe there’s one more kid . . . “ He opened his eyes, and a boy with no arms or legs was getting pushed to the front of the room in his wheelchair by two of his friends, both with smiles beaming. He thought, “Wow, that kid must have had such a rough life. I am so glad that now he’s going to have Jesus in his life. And thank you, God, that he had friends who were willing to invite him to come along, and to hang out with him.”

Who is the Andrew in your life? Who is the person or the people who cared enough about you to introduce you to Jesus? Was it a parent? A pastor? A neighbor? A co-worker? An ordinary, average, regular little brother? But another question for you: in whose life can you be an Andrew? Who is waiting for you to introduce them to Jesus? To whom can you say, “Come and see?”

It’s as simple as an invitation. This story focuses on invitation. The text shows us that simple words of invitation are more crucial to the life of redemption than our grand and well thought-out proclamations and carefully worded doctrinal statements. The church begins with an invitation, and it spreads, person to person, house to house, nation to nation, with the simple words of a heartfelt invitation.

Jesus invites Andrew to “Come and See,” and Andrew invites Simon Peter to see what he has seen. From this point on, the way to Jesus is experienced through personal invitations. Our evangelism is simply a reflection of this truth. Andrew invites Simon Peter to come and see; Andrew welcomes because he was welcomed himself. We welcome because we were welcomed ourselves. We invite because we were invited.

Something so ordinary as an invitation, yet look at the extraordinary things God accomplishes through the ordinary. Through ordinary water, God is able to cleanse us, claim us, and commission us in baptism. Through ordinary bread and wine, God draws us into fellowship and strengthens us for a life of discipleship. Through ordinary people, people like Andrew, people like you and me, God’s love and redemption is offered to a hurting and broken world. People are invited to come and see, people are brought into the presence of Christ, people have an encounter with the living Lord, and their lives are transformed.

The world could use a few more Andrews. The world could use a few more people who bring people to Jesus.

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