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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Little Brother, Big Gift (John 1:29-42)

The next day [John the Baptist] 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 both a little brother and an Andrew myself, I know that little brothers and Andrews play an important role in the story of Faith. Before we’re done today, hopefully you’ll see why the world could use a few more Andrews. May we pray.

Who was Andrew?

I am both a younger brother and an older brother. I did have the advantage of being the first boy, however, so as I grew up and went through school, many teachers did not expect me to be very much like my older sisters, which was a good thing, because our personalities are very different.

However, six years after I came along, my younger brother, Dave, went through the same teachers, and those who made the connection about who he was and who he was related to expected him to be like a little mini-version of me, which—thanks be to God—he’s not. Still, it’s not easy being someone’s kid brother.

Andrew was Simon Peter’s kid brother, growing up in his big brother’s shadow. When they played a game, 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.

Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. Remember that a disciple is simply someone who follows someone else. In our text today, John the Baptist is standing there as Jesus walks by. 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: an ordinary guy

Andrew is much more ordinary than his gregarious older brother, Simon Peter. 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. He’s a rare species, he’s larger than life, and you remember meeting someone like him.

But Andrew is just a normal, ordinary 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, your daughters play softball together. Andrew is just an 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 person, there are 10,000 regular, ordinary, normal people. God works through Andrew precisely because he is so ordinary.

Reclaiming “evangelical”

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 within him that was truly transformative, and Andrew became a follower of Jesus.

And what did he do? First thing the next morning, Andrew ran to find his larger-than-life big brother and shared 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 is an evangelical. In recent years, this word, “evangelical” has gotten dirty because it’s been dragged into the realm of mud-slinging partisan politics. One side uses it as a rallying cry to its voting base and a banner to drape across its entire platform; the other uses it as a term of derision against its opponents. Even when the word “evangelical” is used among Christian people who disagree about certain matters of faith, it is freighted more political than spiritual.

Friends, the word “evangelical” belonged to the Church before it belonged to the politicians. It’s time to take our word back. The term “evangelical” comes from the Greek word euangelion – which means “good news” or “gospel.” Andrew is an evangelical in that he shares the good news of the Messiah, the Christ, the one who has come in the person of Jesus, with others, including his big brother. Andrew knew that Jesus was good news, plain and simple, and he just had to tell someone about it.

An evangelical is one who believes and experiences that Jesus is good news, and just has to tell someone about it. Jesus is good news whether you are a liberal or conservative. Jesus is good news whether you are a Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or whatever else you are. Jesus is good news for all, bigger than any of those labels! An evangelical is simply one who says, “I have met Jesus, and I would like you to meet him too.”

Andrew – an ordinary evangelical

Andrew was an ordinary person who met Jesus, found Jesus to be good news, and wanted others to meet him, too. 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 just said, “Come and see. I would like you to meet Jesus.” Andrew’s life had been transformed because he met Jesus, and he just wanted others to meet him too, because he knew that Jesus was in the business of transforming lives. That’s good news! 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 he says, “I would like you to meet Jesus,” and they become disciples. Everywhere you turn, he is bringing people and introducing them to Jesus, and lives are changed because of it. The world needs regular people, just like Andrew, who bring people to Jesus.

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, “Thank you, God, that he had friends who were willing to invite him to come along, and to hang out with him.” Those two teenage boys were an Andrew in his life; they loved him enough to introduce him to Jesus.

Be an Andrew

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?” Maybe you’re thinking, “But I’m just a regular, ordinary person.” Yes, you are! You are wonderfully ordinary! And the good news of this story is that God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary, which means God can and will use you – the more ordinary you think you are, the more extraordinary things God can do through you.

Andrew simply says, “I would like you to meet Jesus.” 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, people to people, with the simple words of a heartfelt invitation.

Jesus invites Andrew to “Come and See,” and Andrew’s life was changed by good news. But news this good just had to be shared, so he went to his brother and said, “I would like you to meet Jesus.” From this point on and to this day Jesus is experienced through personal invitations. Andrew invites Simon Peter to come and see; Andrew welcomes because he was welcomed himself. Likewise, we invite others to come and see; we welcome because we were welcomed ourselves. We invite because we were invited.

Something so ordinary as an invitation, yet God is in the habit of using the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. 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.

We are people and all around us are people who constantly need the transforming touch of Christ. We are a searching people, looking for that connection to something beyond ourselves. Religious, non-religious alike, everyone is searching and looking. Jesus says, “What are you looking for?” So what are you looking for? What am I looking for? What are those around us looking for?

Richard Blanchard, in his hymn “Fill My Cup, Lord,” put it this way: “Like the woman at the well I was seeking / for things that could not satisfy; and then I heard my Savior speaking: “Draw from my well that never shall run dry.” Fill my cup, Lord, I lift it up Lord! Come and quench this thirsting of my soul; bread of heaven, feed me ‘til I want no more – fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.”

“What are you looking for?” Jesus still asks us today. He asked the question of Andrew, who brought the empty cup of his life to Jesus, and Jesus filled it to overflowing. In Jesus, Andrew had found what he was looking for. Looking around, he saw a world full of searching people whose cups were also empty, and he invited them to the one who could fill them and make them whole – “I would like you to meet Jesus.”

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

God, we thank you for the Andrews in our lives. We thank you for ordinary people through whom you have done extraordinary things. We thank you for the people who loved us enough to introduce us to Jesus. Lord, we know that you have also called us to be Andrews – to introduce people to Jesus. Help us to love others well enough to introduce them to Jesus. Work in all our lives and in all our hearts to strengthen us in following you, and in our willingness to invite others to do the same. We are ordinary people, which is exactly the kind of people through whom you like to do extraordinary things. So use us for your purposes, and we’ll give you all the glory, honor, and praise. Amen.

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