Vol. XI — No. 46 November 15, 1970
Editor’s Note: This is the last sermon prepared by Pastor Christian Albrecht before his final sickness and death. He intended to deliver it at the Mission Festival of St. Luke’s in Stoddard, Wisconsin August 9, 1970. He was taken to glory the Thursday following.
Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, what seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, we have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
In Christ Jesus, the Savior of sinners, dear Fellow Christians and Friends of missions:
Today you are celebrating your annual Mission Festival. Missions and mission work are not unknown terms to you. And still we ask, just what is mission work? Mission means sending. But who sends? Whom does He send? To whom does He send? Why does He send? All of these questions are answered in the great missionary command of Christ our Lord to His disciples: “Go ye therefore and preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” By sending His disciples, the Christians, God wants to save perishing souls from everlasting damnation to everlasting salvation. Truly a glorious work!
We are Christians. God wants to send us. He wants us to do mission work, wants us to preach the Gospel of salvation to perishing souls. But we still have our sinful flesh. “The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the spirit against the flesh.” We need encouragement and strengthening for this great work. That is the purpose of our annual mission festivals. May God grant that this purpose is accomplished today. To this end I invite your attention to our text in which great and successful missionaries are presented to us: the great preacher, John the Baptist and then two of his disciples, Andrew and John. May their example inspire all of us, preachers and laymen, to ever greater zeal and love for missions. Let us put our topic this way:
You all know John the Baptist, that great preacher who preached so powerfully that all Jerusalem and all Judea and the region about Jordan went out to hear him.
Of that great preacher our text says: “Again: the next day after, John stood and two of his disciples with him.” At first glance these words seem to say very little. But upon closer examination in their context, we shall find that they say very much. When our text says: “And the next day after,” it focuses our attention on the happenings of the preceding day. And so we go backwards to see what John was doing on the day before. There again we find the same expression: “the next day.” And so we go back another day and then read forward what John did on the first day, the next day and “again the next day after.” It reads like a diary.
On the first day we find that the Jews from Jerusalem sent a delegation to John to ask him a very portant question. Observing that great preacher in the wilderness they had begun to wonder if John might be the promised Messiah or perhaps some other great prophet of the Old Testament come back to life. They want his answer to the question: “Who art thou?” What a temptation for John to answer: “You are right, I am the Messiah.” Considering the high esteem in which he was held already, we can only conclude that they would have believed him. And John would have been the most highly honored man in all the country—the hero of the day. But what did John answer? “He confessed and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Christ. I am but the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord. But there standeth one among you whom ye know not. He it is who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” That on the first day.
On the next day, seeing Jesus coming toward him, he lifts up his finger and pointing to Jesus says: “There, Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” That is the one of whom I told you yesterday that I am not worthy to unloose His shoestrings.
And now our text tells what happened on the third day: “And the next day after, John stood and two of his disciples, and looking upon Jesus as He walked saith: ‘Behold the Lamb of God.’”
And so what have we found? Day after day John has one and the same message, pointing his hearers and admirers away from himself to follow after Jesus: On the first day the official delegation of priests and Levites from Jerusalem; on the second day the vast multitudes from near and far who had come out into the wilderness to hear him; and on the third day even his own disciples, personal friends who had faithfully followed him day after day and week after week. He wanted to be only a voice preparing the way of the Lord. In humble service he is ready to sacrifice everything for the Lord Jesus: personal comforts, personal honor, personal glory and fame, personal friends, personal advantage and gain. And a few days later some of the people wanted to make him jealous by telling him that more people were following after Jesus than after him. John replied: “Now is my joy fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” His only joy that always more and more might follow Jesus.
What a shining example for every preacher! The preacher who seeks personal comforts, personal honor, personal glory and fame, personal friends, personal advantage and gain in the ministry is unfit for that high office, still less fit to be a missionary to bring the message of “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world,” to the unchurched and to the heathen.
Thank God there still are preachers and missionaries with some of that self-sacrificing spirit of John, ready to leave the comfort of home and friends behind to go wherever the Lord sends them, whether that be into the rapidly developing areas of our large industrial cities or to the wide-open expanses of our western prairies, to the white or black, the red, the yellow or brown races, in this country or in foreign lands. Thank God, I say, for their self-sacrificing service. There should be many more of them. The need is still urgent and great. Nearly 3000 years ago the prophet Isaiah wrote: “Darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people.” The darkness of heathen superstition is still appallingly great. People by the millions and billions not knowing from where they came nor where they are going when this life is ended. According to recent statistics only about 5% of the world’s population is nominally Christian. And of those 5% many are Christians in name only. Many of these seldom or never go to church and many who go to church never hear the message of “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world,” for the simple reason that this message is not preached in many churches, but only politics and morals. The opportunities are unlimited for self-sacrificing preachers like John.
How shall we get them? Well, how did John become such a self-sacrificing preacher? In the first place, John had pious and devout parents. Luke tells us that his father Zacharias and his mother Elizabeth “were both righteous before God, walking in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless,” and that included also this ordinance: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will walk therein,” or in New Testament language: “Ye fathers, bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” That training showed itself in John’s later life. He himself tells us that the Holy Ghost through His Word led him to see in Jesus “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” Also John’s sins. The Holy Ghost made that truth a living, driving force in his heart: Not only my sins, but the sins of the world He takes away! Could he keep that joy to himself? Nay, he must tells others, as many as he could reach: “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away also your sins!”
In that selfsame way such preachers are made today. The Holy Ghost must lead them to see in Jesus the Lamb of God. The Holy Ghost does that through His holy Word, the Bible. And the best time to begin is on mother’s lap and on father’s knee, and after that in a Christian School where the Word of God rules supreme from morning till night, day after day, throughout the year. Ought we not gladly to support such schools and above all send our children to such schools? Then by the grace of God we have good reason to hope that they will become preachers like John, preaching, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
And such preachers are assured of success where ever they are sent. Look at our text: “And the two disciples heard John speak, and they followed Jesus.” And the result? Noticing them follow, Jesus asked: “What seek ye?” Not whom seek ye, but what? What do you want? They answer with another question: “Rabbi, where dwellest thou?” They want to be with Jesus, hear Him, and ask Him questions, learn from Him. Jesus answers: “Come and see.” “They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.” What they did there and talked about all day long we are not told directly; still we know, because directly they exclaim: “We have found the Messiah,” From prophecy Jesus convinced them that He is the Messiah. How their hearts must have burned within them. So deep was the impression that they never forgot the very hour.
So today! Some hear the preacher and follow Jesus. They accept His invitation and follow Jesus: “Come and see,” and while quieting listening to Jesus in His Word at school and church or at home, the eyes of their mind are opened; joyfully they exclaim: “We have found the Messiah, the Lamb of God,” and many years later remember the day, the place, and the very hour.
Oh that we had many more preachers like John to bring joy into sin-burdened hearts!
But also lay men can bring joy into sin-burdened hearts. Look at the two disciples. Text: “One of the two which heard John speak, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is being interpreted the Christ) and he brought him to Jesus.”
Having found the Messiah, Andrew’s joy was boundless. He must tell someone. But whom? He thinks of his brother. But where is he? He doesn’t know, but does not rest till he finds him and exclaims: ”We have found the Messiah! Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. We were at his house today. We talked with Him all day long. From the Scripture He showed us that He is the Messiah. Come along, I’ll show you where He lives. Then you can talk to Him your self, and I am sure He will also convince you that He is the Messiah.” And he brought him to Jesus.
This is mission work, bringing others to Jesus. Have you found Jesus, are you happy with Him? Then tell others, tell them what you know about Jesus. Perhaps you have a brother, sister, relative or friend who does not yet know Jesus. Urge them to come with you to the place where they can hear Jesus for themselves, His own Word in church and school. He will open the scriptures to you. You will see your sinfulness and your need of a Saviour from sin. He will convince you that He is the Christ, the Messiah, that takes away the sins of the world, also your sins. Come along with me. “And if at first you don’t succeed, try again.” Keep on trying till you have brought them to Jesus.
And the other disciple—what did he do? Again our text doesn’t tell us, but we know. That other disciple was John, the Gospel writer. In his typical humility he never mentions himself by name. But he tells us that Andrew was the first of the two disciples to bring his own brother to Jesus. If Andrew was the first, John was the second. So it is. John also brought his own brother to Jesus—James. Each brought another to Jesus. John didn’t say, “Let Andrew do it.” Each got busy.
If each Christian today would follow this example, the Church would double over-night. Yes, if each Christian would bring one more to Jesus once a year, it would be only a few years till every man, woman and child in the whole world would be Christians. And think of the joy you could bring into their troubled despairing hearts as they come to Jesus, the Lamb of God—for pardon for their sins.
Laymen can frequently do much more than preachers. Many would never listen to a preacher, but will gladly listen to the worker at their side.
And whom did Andrew and John bring? Peter and James who later became greatest of the Apostles, next to Paul, writers of several books in the New Testament, through which they still preach the Lamb of God.
So today, the one you can bring may become a great preacher and writer for the future.
May God grant us, beholding the Lamb of God, to become ever increasingly zealous missionaries like John and his disciples. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.