Bringing Them to Jesus
Bringing Them to Jesus
St. John 1:35-42
by William Klock
We celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany on Friday, but we’re still celebrating it this morning. It’s the feast that brings the Christmas season to an end as we celebrate the “Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles”. Think of it in terms of our crèche. During Advent the children moved Mary and Joseph closer to the stable each week. On Christmas they put them in the stable and then brought those Jewish shepherds to come and see Jesus. Today the children brought the Wise Men up and put them in the stable—the gentile “Kings from the East”—who came to meet the Messiah who had come into the world. Angels brought the shepherds to Jesus. A star brought the wise men. As we celebrate Epiphany we should be asking: What am I doing to bring people to Jesus? Those of you who were here on Friday evening heard me talking about the Old Testament lesson—about the prophecy that God would send a light into the darkness of the world—and you heard me talk about our own duty to carry that light and to show it to the people around us. That’s how we bring people to Jesus.
Now, there are all sorts of ways we can do it. The Holy Spirit gifts us all differently and as we share the Gospel with people the circumstances will be different every time. Some people are good at approaching strangers point-blank and simply sharing Jesus with them. Others are good at sharing the Gospel through acts of mercy or love or hospitality. Some people are good at speaking in public or are good at apologetics and argumentation and other people are better at simply sharing their own testimonies with friends. Sometimes God may put us in a situation with someone we’ll never see again and it’s clear that we have one shot at sharing the Gospel and in other cases God puts us in close contact with someone for a long time and it takes years and years to help them understand the Good News.
I was reading this past week about Thomas Bilney. He was a priest who met Jesus as he read the writings of Martin Luther. He tried to preach the Gospel and about the abuses of the mediaeval Church, but it only got him into trouble. He was passionate about Jesus, but he couldn’t find a way to impact the world for Christ. That’s when Bilney thought of another priest Hugh Latimer. Bilney asked Latimer to hear his confession and when they got into the confessional, Bilney poured out the Gospel from his heart—he confessed that he was a sinner and that he could only rely on the grace of God in Jesus Christ. And as Latimer listened the Holy Spirit started working on his heart. “Little Bliney”, as he was known, brought the great Hugh Latimer to Jesus. Bilney isn’t widely known for doing great things. My guess would be that none of you here had heard of him until this morning. But because of Bilney, Latimer met Jesus. Latimer later became one of the most prominent bishops in England and was one of the chief architects of the English Reformation. Brothers and sisters, Bilney reminds us that even the humblest of us have gifts that God wants us to use and that all of us, no matter our gifts and abilities, can bring people to Jesus.
This morning I want to look at three examples of what it looks like to bring people to the Gospel. Look at John 1:35-36. I know I’ve touched on these verses several times now as we’ve looked at what John can teach us about evangelism, but I want to look at them one last time before we move on to Chapter 3 next week. John the Evangelist introduces John the Baptist’s witness this way:
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
John is one of the best examples of evangelism we have in the New Testament. He was a prophet and he gave his testimony in public. He knew the kingdom was at hand and that the Messiah had come and so he faithfully called the people to repent and to believe. John also serves as an excellent example because he never called people to himself. People flocked to him because of his message, but he sent every one of them to Jesus. When Jesus showed up at the Jordan, John was happy to point everyone to him. I’ve met some Christians and I’ve seen some evangelists who seem more interested in building their own personality cults. That wasn’t John. For John it was all about Jesus. But, I think, most important about John is his example of biblical proclamation. People came to him and he told them what the Scriptures say.
When people talk to me about evangelism, the most common thing they tell me is that they just don’t know what to say to people. (This is why I’m preaching this series!) Brothers and sisters, you don’t have to be a theologian or a great orator. Just tell people what you know about Jesus. As I’ve said several times, share with them what the Creed teaches us: that Jesus is God-become-man, that he died to save us from our sins, and that he rose from the grave in triumph over sin and death. But let me say, as great as the Creed is and as much as everything in it comes from Scripture, it’s not itself Scripture. Don’t forget Scripture as you bring people to Jesus. Christians say all the time that they don’t know what to say. Friends, let God speak for you. Sit down with someone and simply share with them the first verses of this first chapter from John’s Gospel—the very place from which we draw much of the Creed. If you have time to meet with someone several times, invite them to read and discuss the whole Gospel of John with you—or Mark or Matthew or Luke, for that matter. Let the Spirit-inspired words lead them to Jesus.
One of my favourite ways of letting the Holy Spirit speak for me is something that you might hear called the “Roman Road”, because it walks people through the Gospel from the book of Romans. Start by explaining that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Explain that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Explain what God has done for us: “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And finally you can share with them: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9-13). These are verses anyone can memorise, but as you can see, I actually highlighted them in my Bible with a different colour than I normally use so that I can quickly turn to them and point them out to someone—that way it’s not just my yakking at them that they hear; they can see it right in God’s Word.
These obviously aren’t the only ways to proclaim the Good News using the Bible, but they’re good ones. The point is that we proclaim God’s Word. Sharing personal testimonies is great; sharing our own thoughts and beliefs about Jesus and the Gospel are great as long as they’re biblically informed, but the most important thing is to proclaim God’s Word. St. Peter wrote, “You have been born again…through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
Second, speaking of personal testimony, let’s look at verses 40 to 42 and the example of Andrew:
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
We recognise Andrew as one of the twelve apostles, but he’s not one we hear about much. He’s always in the background—and that should give us ordinary Christians encouragement. John’s Gospel mentions Andrew three times and in each of those three instances, he tells us about Andrew leading someone to Jesus. In Chapter 6 it was Andrew who brought the little boy to Jesus who had the loaves and fishes which Jesus used to feed the multitude. In John 12 Andrew brought a group of Greeks to Jesus so that they could meet him and learn more about him. And here—not even a Christian for twenty-four hours—Andrew brought his brother, Peter, to Jesus.
The very first thing Andrew did as a believer was to go and share the Good News with his brother. I’ve observed that this is one of the things we Christians find hardest to do. I know people who will share the Gospel with complete strangers, but have never shared it with their own family members. Andrew was too excited not to tell his brother and that should be true for all of us. But notice too how Andrew’s witness took the form of a personal testimony. He ran to Peter to tell him, “We have found the Messiah!” While it’s vitally important that we share what the Bible has to say about Jesus, most of the time it’s our own testimony that makes the initial impact—it’s our excitement over what we’ve found in Jesus that gets the attention of our family and friends. We should be sharing with people what it was that caused us to believe; we should be sharing with them the joy we’ve found; we should be sharing with them the peace that Jesus has given us and the love that God has shown us.
Think back to the first sermon in this series when I talked about “Apple Evangelists” and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. We tell people about things we like and products that work well. We find a great deal on something at the store and we call up our friends and tell them so that they can take advantage of it too. Are we just as excited to tell them about Jesus and the salvation he offers? The Gospel is so much more important. And you don’t have be eloquent to share your excitement. When was the last time you didn’t tell a friend about the big sale at Future Shop because you didn’t feel you could find the words? Why should sharing our excitement about having found Jesus be any different?
Think of Bilney. He wanted to make an impact for Christ, but he figured out he wasn’t in a position to be a great preacher, so he humbly shared Christ with someone who was. How about Edward Kimball? Has anyone heard of him? I didn’t think so. Edward Kimball was a quiet and timid man. He wasn’t eloquent either and he was anxious about sharing Jesus with strangers, but he felt that God really wanted him to share Jesus with a certain loud, outspoken, and crude shoe salesmen. He later wrote that he was so nervous when he walked to the man’s shop that he actually walked right past. He couldn’t later remember the words he shared, only that they were “limping words” and a “weak appeal”. But he shared something about Jesus and his love with that shoe salesman and God did something amazing through his witness. My guess is that many, if not most, of you recognise the name of the shoe salesman; he was Dwight L. Moody, who became one of the greatest evangelists of last half of the 19th Century. Moody came to Jesus because one Christian man was faithful to bring another to Jesus.
That’s what Andrew did when he brought his brother, Peter, to Jesus and it’s what we’re called to do too. We think of Peter, the great chief of the Apostles who preached on Pentecost and led thousands to Jesus and yet it wouldn’t have happened without Andrew. Richard Phillips writes, “There are no more glorious words written about anyone in the Bible—apart from Christ—than the words spoken of Andrew in John 1:42a: ‘He brought him to Jesus.’”
Finally, look at verses 38 and 39:
Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi…where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.”
Jesus’ personal invitation is to “Come and see” and that invitation of his should be part of our witness.
When Jesus gave his invitation he also gave a promise: “If you come, you will see.” This is a reminder that it’s our job to bring people to Jesus—to share the Good News with them—but it’s his job to open their eyes and to change their hearts. If a man or a woman will truly come seeking him, he will show them who he is.
Sometimes we think that we have to coerce people into making a decision or a profession of faith. That’s not our job. Your job and my job is to set the truth of Jesus before people. We should share our excitement with them. We should make sure they understand how urgent it is that they turn to Jesus. We should pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work in their hearts. But ultimately it is Jesus who will give them sight. The Psalmist wrote, “Taste and see that the Lord is Good” and God promises that his Word will never return void. If your gifts make you a great preacher or a great evangelist you should use those gifts, but the fact is that most of us are probably more like Andrew. Whatever the case, though, we have a duty: We’re called to bring people to Jesus using whatever gifts and talents he’s given to us. Share with them the joy and peace that are yours since you’ve found the Messiah. Share Jesus and the Gospel with people from the Scriptures. And remember Jesus’ promise: If you come, you will see.
Let us pray: Gracious Father, thank you for the grace you have given us through your Son, Jesus Christ. Remind us not to keep it to ourselves, but to use the gifts you’ve given us to share your Good News with the people around us. Work in us by your Holy Spirit to renovate and change our lives that we might be faithful witnesses of your light by our actions and give us boldness to share Jesus in our words. We ask this in his name. Amen.