This was the sermon I preached on Facebook on 17th January 2021
Spoiler Alert! He wins!
So hang on in there. Keep the faith.
Or as Jesus puts it: Follow me.
I want you to go through this week and pray: Lord open my eyes, I want to see, I want to see the way that you saw.
There’s a lot of seeing in our bible readings today –
We are still in the period of Epiphany. I hope you still have your Manger Crib set out – we do! I hope that it can be a reminder to you of hope, of light shining in the darkness, of the Love that came down at Christmas.
In the gospel reading, there’s a trio of chums – Philip, Andrew, Peter – and they come from the same little town and they’re mates and they are used to hanging out in the same pubs – and Jesus has come up to them and said “Follow me”
Have you ever wondered why when Jesus goes up to one of the 12 and says Follow me and they just drop everything – have you ever wondered why do they do that? Good. I will explain it another time.
Philip finds Nathanael and says – you know when we were chatting and talking about how everything seems to be going to hell in a handbasket and then you go and say something stupid like ‘Oh dear God what we really need is a saviour, a messiah, someone who will bring us peace, who will lead us out of this meaningless guilt trip of a life’ – and then I change the subject. I think I’ve met someone who might be the answer to your prayers.
Philip and Nathanael have clearly been having long chats about what they think the Torah is all about, first five books of the bible and they’ve been chewing over the next bit of the bible called a Nevi’im – the Prophets – and that sort of covers from Joshua judges Samuel Kings Isaiah, Jeremiah Ezekiel and what we call the minor prophets – not the Ketuvim, the writings, I will tell you about that another time –
So these two have been reading their bibles, having a chat about it, and now that Philip has seen Jesus he has seen something in Jesus.
Nathanael comes to Jesus and Jesus has already seen him – I know you I saw you sitting under a fig tree – Whaat? How did you do that?
Stick with me and you will see Angels ascending and descending, on me! Oh my gosh!
So this is why my prayer for you, for us, is that we might see with Jesus’ eyes. That we might see Angels ascending and descending
Now the other reading, from the last book in the bible, is bonkers – you’ve got a lion who is a tree root who is a sacrificed lamb who is alive and has not just two horns which would be odd for a lamb anyway but seven horns and not just two eyes but seven eyes. And so I ask you – What did you just see?
St John finds himself lost in worship, caught up to heaven, and he tries to write and talk about the stuff that he’s seen. I saw a scroll, I saw a mighty angel, and I saw Lion who is a lamb, and so on.
You know how to read Poetry, or a Novel, or a History book? Well Apocalyptic literature is like all of those but not really. Its like those cartoons in newspapers where the artist is trying to make a political or economic point about how Russia and America are not getting on well together – and so you might have a golden eagle flying at a big bear – you can read the cartoon quickly and have a laugh and you get the point.
The book of Revelation is a bit like that – massively heavy with symbolism.
And always my question is What did you see?
John sees Jesus but at one moment Jesus is a Lion – strong, leader, at another he’s a tree root – because he comes out of the long promise and prophecy that goes all the way back to King David, and then he is a slaughtered sacrificial lamb and then He’s still a bloodied lamb but he’s standing and now he’s standing at the centre of power.
What do you see? John sees this peculiarly changing picture of Jesus.
Can you imagine seeing this vision of Jesus. And then blinking and seeing the human, real, Jesus? You’d suddenly look at Jesus very very differently.
There’s an excellent film called the Matrix. In it the Hero – called Neo – doesn’t know that he is the hero! He’s in a fight, he can’t win, he’s going to lose and die, when suddenly he sees the world, he sees reality, differently, – no longer made up of stuff he now sees everything Mathematically, Spiritually – it’s a weird, brilliant but weird.
And as a result he begins to win.
Jesus looks at Philip Andrew Peter Nathanael and sees something and says Come Follow me
And Philip sees Jesus and sees enough to say – You’ve got to come and see this guy.
And John sees into heaven and he sees Jesus. But not Jesus as he’s used to seeing him. And now John can never look at Jesus in the same way again.
I’m glad that you’ve still got your manger crib set out. But when I look at Baby Jesus, I need to see more.
I need to see the baby who would become a 12 year old boy, lost in the temple in Jerusalem but having a great time teaching the teachers of faith. I need you to see more than just a boy but the man who can stand up in front of a crowd and teach the Lord’s prayer and call Lazarus out of his tomb, who will cope with the mocking pressure of Nay-sayers and haters and who will hold fast to his vision of forgiveness and peace in the face of pain and death.
I want to see what John saw, with the eyes of faith to see Jesus as more than – this is the one who was caught up in the creation of reality, and this is the one who is the Lion who is the Lamb, and who calls you and me to Come and Follow Him.
Jesus sees something in you and me , Jesus sees differently – he sees us as loved, as forgiven, as immortal,
How do we see each other- its so hard in these dehumanizing times when we can’t hug each other, when we only get to see half a face – how can we see that you and I, we are not ordinary people,
CS Lewis tried to get us to see people differently he wrote “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
Help me Jesus, I want to see the way you saw people, with the love that you saw people.
Jesus promises us that as we follow Him we will see Angels ascending and descending. And that’s what I want to see. I know that they are there, its just that sometimes I don’t struggle to see it.
And so the key moment in our bible readings today is when John sees into heaven that Jesus has triumphed, has conquered. He sees that death has lost its sting, that the grave has lost its victory
And there are times when this is easy to see and times when it is not.
When it is easy, then our faith can simply say, with John, you are worthy to open the scrolls, to reveal and unravel what will happen this next year because we know that we are held.
So keep praying that you might see – Jesus as John saw him, see each other, ourselves, as Jesus sees us.
But there are other days that are harder – so let me close with the wisdom of Minnie Louise Haskins –
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.