Bible Passage: John 1:6-8, 19-28
Pastor: Pastor Schlicht
Sermon Date: December 10, 2017
My son, Solomon, recently started pulling himself up to a standing position on furniture around our apartment. And as soon as he is standing, the first thing he does is look around for Mom or Dad as if to say, “Look at me! Look at me!” I think the need to be seen is a universal longing. Wouldn’t you agree? It certainly doesn’t stop after you turn 9 months. The urge to say, “Look at me” lasts our entire lifetime, we just don’t do it as often because we aren’t as cute so it doesn’t work as well. Yet we do have plenty of opportunities to present ourselves to others; it’s one of the strengths of our media-saturated age. They’ve put cameras in our phones, they sell a stick to help people take more selfies, and they’ve created a dozen different platforms on which we can display our lives. We live in a world obsessed with saying “Look at me!” It affects each and every one of us to a greater or lesser extent. A self-centered world grows in the heart a self-centered point of view. That’s why, as followers of Christ, as people who desire for him to be made much of in everything that we do, I think we really need to hear John’s testimony this morning. For as he speaks you’ll realize he doesn’t say, “Look at me.” but directs our eyes to something else. He says, “Look at the Light.” I pray our study of his words will convict, comfort, and challenge you this morning.
The Gospel of John begins with a great sweeping prologue identifying Jesus as the eternal God and putting him at the heart of Gods’ creating the universe and his purposes for it. But then, quite abruptly, appears this other man named John the Baptist giving testimony, a man seemingly out of place not only in the grand prologue but also in the world itself. We find out that he sets up shop away from Jerusalem and the Temple on the other side of the Jordan, outside the traditional borders of Israel. He doesn’t keep up with fashion (Mk 1:6); he isn’t concerned about his diet (Mt 3:4) he doesn’t shave and or comb his hair, it had never been cut in his lifetime (Lk 1:15). Who is this guy?
Naturally, all of Israel (Mt 3:5, Mk 1:5) wanted to take a look at this unconventional character as well. So the people went out to him in droves. The high and mighty’s of Jerusalem started to get curious too, and sent their lackeys to ask the Baptizer, “Who are you?” He confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “Who are you then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” “No,” he answered. John repeats his negative answers in a terse, almost combative way. Why? He wants it to be crystal clear, that he isn’t preaching so that people look at him. He isn’t here to win followers for himself. John says, “This isn’t about me. Don’t look at me.” In fact, he states it even stronger than that. He eventually says, there is one coming after me whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie. For this one who was coming, John would be honored, privileged beyond belief, to stoop down and untie dirty sandals. John wasn’t trying to impress anyone with his own reputation. He let them know he was an unworthy sinner, who would be lucky just to serve the coming Messiah.
Is that the impression we leave people with? Not often, I’m guessing. Whether it’s a meeting at work, a conversation at church, or a post on social media, we most often present the 1% of our life that we deem worthy to be seen. The 1% that’s our brightest and best. We want people to look at us and like what they see. We want more followers, more recognition, more praise. But when everyone says “Look at me!” comparison is inevitable. And comparison can be crushing. It’s the young adult who struggles with body image because they see the models with porcelain complexions and people with huge muscles in high definition. It’s that parent who sees the smiling faces of a perpetually happy family on a Christmas card and wishes their family looked as happy as everyone in that photo. It’s that single person who sees the cute picture of a couple in love and wishes that they could have a relationship so perfect and fulfilling as others must be. In our world that doesn’t want to believe in judgment or failure, there are so many who walk around with a sense of condemnation; their hearts are weighed down for not being perfect. Everyone puts their best self together and yells “Look at me! Look at how amazing I am.” But, besides making ourselves covetous, depressed, and vain, we aren’t fooling God. He is the Almighty One who sees past the pretty pictures down into the deepest recesses of the soul. He sees the motives of our hearts (1 Cor 4:5) and he sees the darkness of sin isn’t just around us but in us.
Maybe that’s why those whose lives aren’t going as well are sometimes closer to saying what we all should. When you’ve had months or years out of work, when you’ve had to admit the one thing in life you tried to accomplish is never going to happen for you, or when you bear a private burden that, if exposed, would bring down a cloud of public shame, if who you are is a daily struggle with stress, disappointment, and despair: if this is your story, then you like John might correctly say to God, “Don’t look at me! I’m sinful and unworthy of you.”
But that wasn’t all John said that day by the Jordan. They kept pressing him and eventually he gave them a straight answer. “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,” (1:23), quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah. They were words his interrogators were familiar with, knowing they predicted the final domino to fall in the centuries-long line of preparations God had made in order to send the Messiah. But they also say a lot about John himself. He wanted people to view him as a testimony to the light. As our text began, “There was a man, sent from God, whose name was John. He came as an eyewitness to testify about the light so that everyone would believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light.” John didn’t say “Look at me!” He said, “Look at the light!”
And we say the same. To the God who sees we say, “Don’t look at me! Don’t throw me into the outer darkness!” But “Look at the Light!” Look at your Son who died to pay for my sin. Look to the light of the world that you have lifted up as a beacon of salvation and hope for all who believe. Look to the one whose love lights up my heart even in the hardest times. Don’t look at me; look at the light. Look at Jesus. Look at my Savior and let me live!
My friends that’s what John was doing. He was preaching a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He wanted people to see their sin and rejoice in the light that was coming to the world. And he wants you to do the same. He wants you to look past the perfect posts and see that sin is still sin. He wants you to know that sin resides in every human heart, every relationship, every family, no matter what we see. We all are followed by these shadows. which can only be revealed and chased away by looking at the Light.
It’s kind of like our eyesight. One of the most amazing things about the human eye is the incredible adaptability it has. We can see in very bright sunlight, and we can also see in nearly total darkness. But our powers of visual adaptation aren’t instantaneous. When I was in high school I had trouble getting up sometimes. I had a wonderful roommate who would often help me by walking into my room and saying “Peter, time to get up!” and just as soon as I opened my eyes he’d flick on the lights. I have to admit it, even though I hated it, it was pretty effective. The same thing applies to our spiritual life. True, if you look at the Light of Christ, he will reveal your sins. And that will hurt, but it is effective. In fact, it is a gift, a precious gift, like a fortunate early diagnosis of cancer. But it’s more necessary because Jesus’ light will reveal the love and mercy of God and that’s a sight you don’t want to oversleep! The true Light not only exposes sin but chases its shadows away. The true light is Christ and his Gospel which forgives sins and illuminates the path to heaven. As Jesus himself said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.”
My friends, that’s why we need to use whatever platform we have, in every aspect of life, to say “Look at the Light! If anyone sees any light worth knowing in you, then make sure you tell them about the source of light, Jesus himself. Tell them that you are merely a faint reflection of the Light of Christ. I think this text calls for each of us to take stock of the position and influence we have. And to ask ourselves, am I saying “Look at me. “ or “Look at the light!”? I think that it is time we get serious about how much time we spend scrolling away precious moments of our life looking at other people, instead of enjoying those right around us. I think it is time that we stop worrying about the holiday rush, and take a moment to stop and look at the Light ourselves. As Jesus said,“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Mat 5:14-16).” May that be your prayer and purpose this advent.