Weekly Bible Reflection
Matthew's Communities of Justice
Second Sunday of Epiphany
John 1. 29-42:
Forming a Jesus Community
Begin by using the Method as outlined
Share in pairs or threes the first two things that come to your mind in answer to the questions, "Who are you?" and “What are you looking for?”
In full group, recall a time when you received an invitation to meet or see someone special. Who invited you and what were your expectations of the event? Were you surprised, overjoyed or disappointed by the experience?
Reflection on the text
The lives of everyone in this text are dramatically redirected and reshaped by their encounter and relationship with Jesus.
John the Baptist begins by saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world!” He was speaking from within a religious understanding and practice where, when anyone committed a sin, to be forgiven they had to sacrifice an animal, preferably a lamb, without blemish or defect – slaughtered before the altar of the Lord (Leviticus 4). John recognised Jesus for who he was when he baptised him – the one sent by God who would free humanity from the consequence of their sin.
When Andrew, John’s disciple, heard this, he became a follower of Jesus, searched for his brother Simon and persuaded him to come along too. The story highlights the importance of hospitality and prioritising time for one another and for Jesus. It also reminds us of the challenge to share our story and experience with others.
In John’s account, Jesus does not begin with a monologue but with a question probing people’s deepest desires, longings and fears. Christian witness is not about informing people about their need, but asking them about their longings: it’s about listening, not telling, understanding, not selling.
- What would you do as a community if you could spend a day with Jesus?
- How does your community handle the arrival of new people? How do you discern the gifts, skills and personal qualities that newcomers bring to your community?
- The gospel has often been described as an invitation. Have you ever invited people into an experience of and relationship with Jesus that will change the direction of their lives? Share from your own experiences.
- Is your community good at encouraging others to meet Jesus? If it isn’t, how might difficulties be overcome? What is it that you would want people to ‘come and see’?
- What is the essence of Christian discipleship according to this text?
Take the key insights from your discussion into your prayers as a community.
Light a candle and place it in the middle of the group circle.
Write the names of those you believe Jesus is drawing to himself through your community of faith.
End your prayers by having someone read Revelation 5 verses 11 – end. You may wish to sing the song ‘Worthy, O worthy are you Lord’.
In all communities, individuals bring their own experience, gifts and personal qualities. However, tradition and familiarity can lead to the acceptance of domination by some members whilst new people, and the contributions they can bring, may be excluded.
- Does your community need to address this issue in more depth? If so, how?
Within most groups and organisations models of leadership are frequently discussed and argued over. Some want strong leadership whilst others look for collaboration and shared decision-making. The reading suggests that Jesus demanded 100% commitment and loyalty from those who were willing to follow him. Andrew had to make up his mind there and then to find out. From the Gospels we know that Jesus did not exercise an authoritarian, unquestioned leadership, yet Andrew and Simon did not know that, when they first committed themselves to him.
- How do we discern the difference between genuine mutual empowering leadership and that which seeks to get its own way and which disempowers others?
More background information
- The Gospel of John was written towards the end of the first century AD. It rests on the witness of someone called ‘the beloved disciple’. It is likely that over a period of time, through years of teaching, preaching and community life the reflections of the ‘beloved disciple’ were developed and written down in the first 20 chapters of John. Chapter 21 was probably added at a later date.
- Compared with the other gospels, John is very different in content, attitude and thought. It gives a Christian answer to the question, ‘what must I do to be saved?’ As one scholar puts it, in the synoptic gospel Jesus is the light bulb in the socket. In John, he is the power socket itself. In Jesus, God’s utterance became flesh and blood.
- The purpose of the Gospel is found in Chapter 20 v 30-31. ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’.
- The gospel of John is the most individual oriented of the four. It is full of personal encounters with Jesus – Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the disabled man at the pool, the man born blind, and so forth. But it also speaks to communities of faith and this particular reading tells us much about how Jesus went about forming his first community of followers. Jesus invites, and then lets those invited invite others.
- The gospel is organised around seven specific signs which John has chosen out of many possibilities, to challenge readers to consider who Jesus is. Those seven signs are: changing water into wine, the healing of the royal official, the healing of the lame man, the feeding of the five thousand, walking on water, the healing of the man born blind and the raising of Lazarus. John believes that these signs are proof that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The Greek title ‘Christ’ is equivalent to the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’, which means the anointed one. Anointing sets someone apart for a specific purpose, but whereas others who were anointed fulfilled their work and then died, John claims that Jesus has been anointed by God to deal with human sin forever.
- This passage is the only one in the Bible where the phrase "Lamb of God" is used. "Passover lamb" is used by Mark and Luke (Mk.14:12, Luke 22:7) Paul refers to Christ our Passover in I Corinthians 5:7. In Revelation the heavenly choir signs a hymn of worth to ‘the lamb that was slain’ (Rev. 5v12).