“Eyes Wide Open”
The Sanctuary Sermon for 1/10/21
The Sanctuary Sermon for 1/10/21
“Eyes Wide Open” John 1:29-34
So, one of the more ridiculous moments of my life happened when I was fast asleep at home early Friday morning. I guess I slept in such a weird position that my arm had fallen asleep. Not just kind of tingly and a little numb, no it was completely dead – no feeling in it whatsoever. So, anyhow, as I woke up I sort of rolled over and was startled to pat what was definitely a human arm next to me on top of the covers. I knew I was in bed alone, so I jumped out of bed, my lifeless arm flopping to my side looking around for the intruder. Cooper was on the foot of the bed with his head cocked sideways with a, ‘what the heck is the matter with you’ look. I shook my head calling myself a dumbass at how ridiculous that must have looked to be afraid of my own arm – and then thought, dang I wish that was on video. In terms of possible things that can happen when you’re sleeping; a murderer lying next to you in your bed or your arm having fallen asleep couldn’t be more different, and I have to say I had never been so thrilled to be wrong.
Even though generally speaking, being wrong is something I try and avoid. I mean, I like to know what I’m talking about. I like to know stuff. And I like to be right, and I like to know what to look for in life. I like to have what I consider accurate assessments of people and institutions and events.
But I started to wonder recently, if in some ways I believe that being right about theology or right about politics or right about social issues will actually save me. Especially as an evangelical – since sometimes I joke that what evangelicals really believe in is salvation through theological precision. Like, I know the truth and the truth – has – set – me – free, brother.
But last week, as I re-read our text, I started to wonder what we lose when we think we already knowthings. What do we lose when we think we already know what’s possible and what’s not possible? What do we lose when we think we already know the nature and value of the members of our family? What do we lose when we think we already know who we are and what we are capable of? What do we lose when we think we know who God is, how God shows up in the world and where God is obviously absent?
Let’s look at our text.
29 (The next day) John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
So, to begin, one thing that struck me about this passage is how twice in our text John the Baptist, when talking about how he was able to identify Jesus as the messiah, said he did not know. He did not know him. John baptized a gazillion people in the Jordon and yet he was able to see that this one man, one of countless men he encountered, this one man named Jesus, was the son of God, the messiah, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John the Baptist, in the midst of his daily life encountered God incarnate and was able to see the Lord – not because of anything he knew or thought he knew, but because he was in a space of unknowing and God’s Spirit was able to reveal to John who Jesus really is. It was his unknowingness and not his opinions or certainty that allowed him to recognize God in his midst.
That just made me wonder if maybe thinking we already know things totally gets in the way of seeing anything new—if it gets in the way of seeing God right in front of us. Or as a friend says, Once you decide you’re right about something you stop taking in new information.
And man, am I aware right now of how much what I see in life is determined by what I already believe…how I tend to just scan my life for confirmation of what I already think is true. Like how I only tend to look for confirmation of what I already think I know about someone or something.
I just think that if John the Baptist was baptizing at the Jordon and he thought he already knew how things were going to look, that he would have totally missed seeing who Jesus really was. And then that makes me wonder how often I miss seeing Jesus before me in my own life.
Because the other thing that really stood out for me in this text is how many times seeing and watching and looking are mentioned. For instance,
John the Baptist saw Jesus.
John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending.”
God said the one on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one.
“And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
As he saw Jesus coming toward him,
he said, “Look, here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Then the next day, John pointed out Jesus to two of his disciples.
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?”
He said to them, “Come and you will see.”
So, they went and saw.
That’s a lot of stuff about what we see and what we are looking for and I just couldn’t ignore it. Especially as someone who can feel trapped in his own way of seeing everything. I mean, I’ve been a Christian for lo, these many years and it still doesn’t feel like I once was blind and now I see. Or as one pastor says, “I once was blind…and now I just have really bad vision.”
And feeling trapped in how I see things is especially hard right now and I don’t think I’m alone because right now in our country we are so bitterly divided, each side so sure they are right. Each side locked into our view of each other. Half the country will be celebrating something this week wanting a pound of flesh and the other half will be protesting something this week wanting an eye for an eye. And right now, given the desperation I’m feeling about all of it, you know what I want desperately? To be wrong.
I want to be wrong. Wrong about agendas on Capitol Hill. Wrong about the so called ‘other side’. Wrong about race baiting. Wrong about the future. I want God to give me new eyes to see, but even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.
So, you know that little part later in the chapter where Jesus asked the two disciples, “What are you looking for?” I heard that question differently last week than I ever had before. Usually, I hear that as Jesus saying, “Search your heart and tell me what your deepest desire is.” But this time it felt less like an invitation and more like an incrimination. It’s like Jesus is asking what are you expecting to see? What do you have eyes to see? What informs your confirmation bias?
Like he’s saying forget what you are looking for and instead see what really is. Which felt like good news I desperately needed to hear.
Jesus is saying there is more to see than just what I look for.
There is more to see in myself than just what I look for.
There is more to see in my antagonists than just what I look for.
There is more to see in employees and co-workers than just what I look for.
There is more to see in this country than just what I look for.
There is more to see in my checkbook than just what I look for.
There is more to see in relationships, my children and grandchildren than just what I look for.
There is more to see in this ‘great salvation’ I walk out than just what I look for.
I need all this to be true. I need to stop looking for affirmation of what I already know and believe and instead see the world and others and myself through the eyes of a God who loves all of it madly.
I need Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The one who flips the script and disrupts the narrative and reveals God’s truth. The one who says come and see. Come and see, come and live this great salvation—which is a path we can only experience by not already knowing where we’re going.
My vision is so limited to seeing confirmation of what I think I already know that if Jesus is offering to show me more, I’m grateful.
So, sign me up.
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.
Let us pray,
God of desert prophets and unlikely messiahs,
Help us set aside our pride enough to see how little we really know. Humble us. And then raise us up as agents of your peace. Show us that there is more to see than what we look for.
More possibility. More love. More forgiveness.
When we look upon those we consider adversaries, help us see them as your children loved madly by you. Help others who view us as their enemies to also see us as your beloved children. Heal this nation. Heal the people in this room, Lord. Restore our sight so that we may see where you are at work in our world.
We’re not going to bother asking politely because we are basically out of other options. Show yourself, Lord. And if you are already doing that and we are too blind to see, then grant us even bad vision, since even that would be a vast improvement.
We ask this in the name of Jesus who gives sight to the blind and invites us to come and see with eyes wide open.