Midweek Advent Worship
December 9, 2020
“A Man Named John”
John 1:6-9, 15
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Nadin Khoury was 13 years old, 5-foot-2, and weighed – soaking wet – 100 pounds. Nadin’s mom had lost her job as a hotel maid and needed work so she had recently moved her family from Minneapolis to Philadelphia. In 2000 the family had escaped war-torn Liberia in West Africa. Nadin Khoury, then was a new kid in Philly, with a single mom who was an unemployed African emigrant looking for a job in a hotel. That is the kind of kid bullies spot from 100 miles away.
And they did. The bullies outnumbered Nadin seven to one. For thirty minutes seven teenagers hit and kicked Nadin Khoury and rubbed his face in the dirt. Nadin survived the attack and would have likely faced more except for the stupidity of one of the bullies. He filmed it all and posted it on YouTube. The police saw it and the bullies were arrested and went to jail.
A staffer at the morning show The View heard about it and invited Nadin to appear on the broadcast. Unbeknownst to Nadin, the producer had also invited three members of the Philadelphia Eagles football team to appear on the show as well.
One of the players was all-pro wide-receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson said, “Nadin, I’m here for you man, anytime you need me.” Then, in full view of every bully in Philly, DeSean Jackson gave Nadin Khoury his cell phone number. The bullies would have to think twice before they begin to harass a kid who has an NFL player’s number on speed dial.
You have your share of bullies, too. So do I. Sin and shame, guilt and blame. But Jesus says in John 8:44 that the biggest bully on the block is a liar and the father of lies – Jesus even calls him a murderer. We know him as the devil and Satan. And Satan hits us with his lies and tries to rub our face in the dirt. In the book of Revelation it says of this battle, “For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down…” (Revelation 12:10) The devil wants to destroy us completely. He wants to ruin every aspect of our life. And so we run. And we run some more. And then we keep on running. And God – in an answer to our running sent a man named John – John the Baptist.
“There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness concerning that light, so that through him all people might believe.” (John 1:6-7) John the Baptist’s mission is “to witness concerning that light.” In fact, fourteen times in this Gospel of John the Evangelist, the word “witness” is connected with John the Baptist. That’s a bunch. I think the best example in in John 1:29 when John sees Jesus coming towards Him and gives this witness, “Behold, The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The goal of John’s life and ministry is that people would believe in Jesus. The writer of this Gospel had the same desire. The word “believe” is found 97 times in the book – over and over again. Some of his last words in John 20 read, “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Verse 31)
We’re all on the run. Satan is chasing us with his lies and seductions and half-truths. Which way will you run? That’s why God sent a man named John – John the Baptist. John’s mission is to witness so that we would believe – trust – in the Light. And who is the Light? In John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.”
In order to know who John is, and what he was trying to do, you have to understand who John isn’t. And John spent a lot of time telling us who he isn’t and wasn’t.
- “He was not the light.” (John 1:8)
- “I am not the Christ.” (John 1:20)
- “I am not Elijah” (John 1:21)
- “I am not the prophet” (John 1:21)
- “I am not worthy to untie his (The Christ’s) sandals.” (John 1:27)
I guess it is no wonder when John evaluates everything about himself and about Jesus, that he would come to the conclusion, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)
When the liar is rubbing our face in our sin and shame, guilt and blame, too often we can look for our help in all the wrong places. It’s too easy to look to other people for their acceptance. Or to our job. Or to our accomplishments. Or to our money. Maybe even our stuff. But they don’t have the final word. They don’t have the hope that we need. These things fail and fall short. John the Baptist pointed to the only one who can help – Jesus, the light of the world.
Jesus fights for you. He fights for your health and your family. He fights for your salvation and restoration. When everything seems to be against you, Jesus actually takes your side. You with your broken past. You with the absentee dad. You with the bad credit score, the bad break, the bad decisions. You with the sadness and struggles.
“There came a man from God and his name was John. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” When you find that there are too many things against you and that you are losing the fight, you have to know that God has not left you without an answer, or without hope. John pointed to Jesus. And so do I. And when you are helping someone in life who is struggling with life and sin and the answer to eternity, there is one person you can point to. It is Jesus.
John knew that he had a role to play but it would be Jesus who would be the answer to the questions that were being asked. In John 1:15 John says, “This is he of whom I said, He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” Paul would agree with John the Baptist about the greatness of Jesus. Jesus battled for you, stood on your side and gives your life the fullness of meaning and purpose. You know the words, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32) And, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Sometimes people have no idea what their purpose in life is. They don’t know why are alive and what they are supposed to be doing. John can teach us about the greater purpose in life – not just for himself but also for us. “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” John came to tell the world about Jesus. He told us about Jesus. He told us something wonderful. Tell someone too. Amen!!
(This sermon is adapted from the series, “The Word Became Flesh” from Concordia Seminary Press, 2017)