New Discoveries

Published: Tuesday, 17 January 2017

discoveriesThis is the third in the ‘New’ series in January 2017 at the Ashburton Baptist Church. ‘New Discoveries’ was presented by Geoff Pound on January 15 2017.

Scripture: John 1:29-42

29 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! 
30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 
31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 


32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 
33 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.’ 
34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 
36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 
37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 
38 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?” 
39 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. 
40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 
41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 
42 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).

Archimedes, the Greek mathematician, was one day asked by his King[1]:

“How can I tell whether my royal crown is pure gold or whether it contains some inferior metal?

Archimedes puzzled over this question for days. But on one occasion as he went to the public baths in his town of Syracuse He observed as he got into the bath, the water level gradually rose. It occurred to him that if he put the crown and equal weights of gold and silver into different water containers he could measure the levels caused by the different volume and so tell whether the King’s crown was pure gold or mixed with alloy.

When this truth dawned, Archimedes was so overjoyed that he got out of the baths and ran home naked shouting 'Eureka! Eureka!" which in Greek means, "I've found it. I've found it."

In today’s reading and throughout the Gospel story we see similar discoveries. Not the streaking through the streets but the excitement and the energy and the expulsive power that comes when we make a first-hand discovery?

In John 1:41 when Andrew encounters Jesus he dashes off and says to his brother, Simon:

"Eureka! We have found the Messiah."

Further on in v45 when Philip discovers Jesus he tears off and says to Nathaniel:

"Eureka! We have found the one Moses was talking about."[2]

I hope that today’s Scripture will whet our appetite to be making some New Discoveries, so that we will experience that sheer delight of those first disciples that will send our feet running and set our tongues wagging.

There’s no one, Archimedes style, of making a discovery. The Bible illustrates great variety.

Jesus once told twin parables,[3] the first about a merchant who was seeking the finest pearl. He travelled far and wide before he discovered it and sold everything to purchase the pearl of great price.

Then Jesus told about a farmer who was going about his ordinary everyday work in his field. When his plough struck a hard object, he discovered an extraordinary treasure.

Sometimes our discoveries will come after a long, deliberate search.

Other times we’ll make our discoveries unintentionally.

Both seeking and stumbling are equally valid ways of making a discovery.

Sometimes our discovery will be dramatic as it was for Saul on the Damascus Road.[4]

At other times our discovery will be a gradual dawning as it happened to those disciples on the Emmaus Road.[5]

So, we need to break the moulds and dispense with the formulas and welcome the unique ways that new discoveries might come.

Well, what new discoveries might we be seeking and finding in this new year?

It’s instructive that the first recorded words of Jesus, according to John’s Gospel, are a question. V38:

“When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?”[6]

What are you looking for?

That question is so relevant and challenging as we start this new year.

What are you looking for?

That question is so personal. What new discoveries are you seeking?

What are you looking for?

Instead of telling us, Jesus invites us to ask this probing question.

If we look for the most searched New Year's resolutions, we might find what most people are looking to discover.[7] The top search on Google this New Year was:

  1. "How to get Healthy" (and fit) - over 62 million searches (no surprise after Christmas and New year meals).
  2. The second highest search: "How to Get Organized" - over 33 million searches.
  3. "Live Life to the Fullest" - nearly 19 million searches.
  4. "Learn New Hobbies" - over 17 million searches.
  5. "Spend Less/Save More" - nearly 16 million searches.
  6. "Travel" - nearly 6 million searches.
  7. "Read More" - over 4 million searches.

‘What are you looking for’ is a question worth wrestling with.[8]

It makes us ask: “What motivates us?

What is it that we really need not just on the surface but deep down in the core of our being?

Today’s Scripture ushers us into new and deeper areas for searching.

Firstly, it leads us to discover the qualities for becoming wonderful human beings.

Our Scripture introduces us to John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John.”[9]

John is great because he’s hopeful.

His good news is that we don’t have to stay the way we are. God can change us.

John is great because he’s practical and personal.

His call to be baptized is a call to action.

After thinking and reflecting he says, ‘Stop pontificating, get on with it, follow and be baptized. Get into this watery drama and declare your drowning—Death and burial to our old guilt and shame and rise up as new, clean, empowered people walking in step with the Holy Spirit.

Every year the Oxford Dictionary comes up with a Word of the Year.

In 2016, what was the word that spiked in terms of its frequency and its force to shape our lives? The word of the year in 2016 was ‘post-truth’.[10]

‘Post-truth’ means that objective facts are much less important in shaping our opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Who knows whether this news report is true or not?

Welcome to the age of ‘fake news’.

We’ll believe what we want to believe.

John the Baptist is great because he is truthful and prophetic.

He has such a clear insight into the human condition.

With colourful language he calls people out.

He calls them ‘a brood of vipers’. Matthew 3:7.

This month the USA is going through a leadership change and we can tell a lot about a leader by the way they finish.

Our Scripture story reports a leadership transition.

John the Baptist has become so popular.

People keep coming up to this commanding and magnetic person and saying, “Who are you? Are you the prophet?”

It’d be tempting to claim greatness and praise but John says, “I’m not the Messiah…I’m not Elijah…I’m simply a voice. But there’s one coming. I’m not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”

What humility. He’s not into titles.

John is great because he’s not full of himself. He is so restrained. Ministry is not all about him.

When Jesus appears, John says, “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world….He ranks far ahead of me.” John 1:29, 35.

John is great because he knows himself. He knows when to get off.

John is great because he knows how to finish well.

So, this year let’s not Google but search in the pages of Scripture to discover more of the qualities that we need to become wonderful human beings.

Secondly, our Scripture search will lead us to make new discoveries about the person of Jesus.

When we lived on the Arabian Peninsula I went one day to a butcher’s shop at the markets. While waiting to be served I noticed a guy in the corner fingering a string of beads and muttering under his breath. I said ‘Salaam’ and asked him what he was doing.

He counted out 33 yellow beads[11] and he showed how he would cycle through them three times because he said, ‘There’s 99 Names of God’.[12]

You could call this religious ritual if you have to recite or pray the rosary.

For this man, the beads kept him on track as he’d meditate on the different names and the beautiful aspects of God’s character.

He made me think: “How many names of God do I know?

How many names of God do I use? How many names of God do I ponder?”

In today’s reading we’re introduced to several different names of Jesus.

The first is ‘The Lamb of God’. Twice John the Baptist calls him this name (v29, 36).

Australians might think of kebabs or lamb on the barbie but to Jewish people sacrificing a lamb at Passover, ‘the lamb of God’ would have such a wealth of meaning.[13]

John says: “He was before me.” (30) This is a reference to the pre-existence of Christ.

In v34 John calls Jesus the ‘Son of God’.

The two disciples say to him: ‘Rabbi (which translated means Teacher). (38)[14]

Andrew says to his brother, “We have found the Messiah.”- the Christ. The ‘anointed one’ (41)

 

Here are some names for us on which to meditate and mine the truth.

So, let our Scripture lead us to make new discoveries about God and the character of Jesus.

Finally, let our search lead us to make new discoveries about our life’s directions and what we are being called to be and do.

When we meet people, the very next step is to exchange our names.

Our last verse—(42) has great significance:

42 He [Andrew] brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” [meaning rock in the Aramaic and] (which is translated Peter) in the Greek.

Fancy that. You’re introduced to Jesus who affirms your birth name and then gives you a new name. Little did Peter know at that point that he was being called to be a foundation stone, a rock and a builder of the church.

Wouldn’t it be great to know the new name that Jesus calls us? And wouldn’t it be wonderful to discover new and deeper insights into what we’re being called to be and do. Think of the names: John the Baptist, Andrew, Simon, Philip, Mary, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jnr (whose birthday is being celebrated on Monday). We all have different names. Our calling is absolutely unique.

Do pray for our deacons as we meet next Saturday that together, we might hear Christ call us by name and come into a greater understanding of what we as a church are being called to be and do. As Andrew introduced Simon and Philip introduced Nathaniel, we so often need others to help us make the great discoveries.

As we finish, let me say that cyberspace lit up brightly last Monday when the Irish rock band U2 made an announcement.[15] U2 is staging a tour this year in the US, Canada and Europe to honor the 30th anniversary of their most popular album. The album that launched them to megastar status they’ll perform in its entirety each night.[16] You know these hit songs which include: ‘Where the streets have no name’ and ‘With or Without You’.

One of the songs they’ll be singing is pertinent to our theme: “I still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” This song has struck such a chord in our seeking world.

Bono has been criticized by those who say: “You’re a Christian. You’ve found Christ. Why do you keep singing: ‘I still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For?’”

But he knows that while such a discovery is so wonderful, a Christian still has so many questions and so many doubts.

Yes, the Christian life is supremely a life of ongoing discovery.

Prayer

God of many names, grant us the desire to know you more.

Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, take away our sin.

Refresh and empower us for the living of this new week.

God our Saviour, take away our sin.

Wash us clean—all that we are.

Deliver us from apathy, our busyness with trivial things, our laziness that keeps us from understanding the deep dimensions of your love and grace.

We bring to you our plans, our dreams and our ambitions. In your presence, please sift and purify our desires.

Creator Spirit

Fire up our yearning to be people who are always discovering.

Stir us up to wrestle with your question: “What are you looking for?”

Name-Giving God

Look upon us and let us hear your name for us and more of what you want us to become.

Minister to us, not according to our ability to ask, but according to your insight into our need and your infinite resources in Christ,

In whose name we pray,

Amen.


[1] King Hieron II.

[2] The word herisko from which we get ‘Eureka’, is used five times in these three verses: John 1: 41, 43, 45.

[3] Matthew 13: 44-46.

[4] Acts 9.

[5] Luke 24.

[6] John’s Gospel uses the language of sight and light and seeking, blindness and darkness repeatedly so ‘What are you looking for?’ is a theme that continues.

[7] Nicole Spector, 2017 New Year’s Resolutions: The Most Popular and How to Stick to Them, NBC News, 1 January 2017.

[8] The Greek word for ‘seeking’ (zeteite) is used 23 times in the fourth Gospel.

[9] Luke 7:28; Matthew 11:11.

[10] English Oxford Dictionaries, Word of the Year 2016.

[11] Prayer Beads, Wikipedia.

[12] Names of God, Wikipedia.

[13] John is probably thinking of the Servant Song in Isaiah where the servant is “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter.” Isaiah 53: 7,12. Maybe the thought of Abraham being called to sacrifice and a ram is provided. Genesis 22.

[14] There’s so much detail in this account. One of the two was ‘Andrew’ (40). They stayed with Jesus ‘that day’ (39). It says, ‘It was about 4 o’clock’. (39) You get the feeling that this Gospel writer was there. An eye witness reporter. It signals specific experiences and conveys credibility.

[15] U2 will revisit ‘The Joshua Tree’ on 30th Anniversary Stadium Tour, New York Times, 9 January 2017.

[16] The Joshua Tree, Wikipedia.