Friday, March 11, 2011

Evangelism 101

To me, today’s lesson from John (1:35-42) seems to be packed with amazing personal revelations. First, John the Baptist sees Jesus walking by and declares without hesitation, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Then, without any other prompting, two of his disciples begin to follow Jesus, who turns to them and asks provocatively, “What do you seek?” At his invitation, they stay with him but not before one of them (Andrew) stops to get his brother (Simon) and take him along. As if out of nowhere, Andrew says to Simon, “We have found the Messiah.” And, when Peter catches up to them, Jesus declares, “So you are Simon…You shall be called Cephas,” thus naming him “Peter.” One remarkable act of faith after another.

At first glance, Jesus seems to be the most amazing part of this story. He radiates such charisma that he is able to hold the attention of complete strangers, attracting followers with hardly any effort. But there’s another subtle though significant expression of power in this text, and it belongs to John the Baptist. When John sees Jesus walk by, he identifies him as the Lamb of God, and that was enough for two of his disciples to break off and follow the Christ. What a testament to John’s conviction—that he is able with one sentence to embolden his followers to transfer their allegiance to Jesus and follow him as Lord.

I shouldn’t be surprised; that was the Baptizer’s entire raison d’être. His mission was to point people to Jesus, but I never realized how good he was at his job. He had cultivated such a strong relationship with his followers and had prepared them so completely for the advent of the messiah that his short statement about the Lamb of God was enough to precipitate the Dominican discipleship of Andrew and his comrade. That’s evangelism at its best.

As someone whose job it is to point people to Christ, I’m envious (in a good way) of John’s skills. This passage more than any other shows me how good he was at getting out of the way and letting God take center stage. Why am I so, so bad at that? How can I get better at it? And this isn’t just a job for priests and other ordained persons. This is the divinely appointed job of every Christian—to share the good news of God with the world. How can we so confidently and passionately and effectively communicate the saving love of Christ that a mere mention of his identity would capture the hearts of the world?

2 comments:

  1. Hi Evan,
    Something struck me from this passage -- Given the important role Peter plays in the gospel story isn't it interesting that Peter is introduced to discipleship not directly, but through his brother Andrew? Don't want to read too much into this, but it empahsizes to me that we don't always know the 2d or 3rd order effects of our actions God will use to work in the world.
    - John C (jchog1@aol.com)

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  2. Thanks, John. Yes, it is interesting--especially since the synoptic accounts usually depict Peter being called in a different way (completely omitting the JtheBaptist reference). Makes me wonder why John (the gospeller) has it this way. Nevertheless, even though Simon is brought to Jesus indirectly, his being renamed in the first encounter solidifies his place as first among equals within the 12 disciples/apostles.

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