Sunday’s Gospel lesson is probably better suited for a Bible Study or academic lecture than it is a sermon. As John is wont to do, the language that makes up this two day interaction between Jesus and John the Baptist and his disciples is careful, studied, and layered in meaning. One could take 45 minutes to unpack the verb meno which is translated as “stay.” A whole class could be devoted to the word Jesus uses for “looking” when he asks the two men “What are you looking for?” But what struck me late yesterday afternoon as I perused my go-to sermon prep resources occurs much earlier in the story.
As the scene opens, it is some time after the baptism of Jesus. We don’t actually get that story in John’s Gospel, just JBap’s interpretation of it. We can’t be sure how long it has been since that momentous day. It isn’t clear if this story happens before or after Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, but we do know that the experience left a lasting impression on John. As he sees Jesus once again approaching the River, John says to anyone who will lesson, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Again, you could spend an entire Bible Study trying to discern what it means to call Jesus “Lamb of God” (a phrase that only occurs in John 1), but what I have found fascinating is the word that gets translated as “world,” cosmos.
Translating cosmos as world is already a step to point out the broadness of Jesus’ salvific activity. To say that he came to take away the sin of the world would already be contrary to the prevailing wisdom of the Judaism which thought that God’s grace was given to the Jews exclusively. To say that God’s grace extended to the whole world means that God’s love is poured out upon Gentiles, heathens, and depending on your political persuasion, Republicans or Democrats. <Gasp> But here’s the thing, cosmos carries a much broarder meaning than simply “world.” What Jesus did wasn’t simply take away the sin, that is offer salvation to, the world, Jesus came to set right the entire universe that God created.
This may not seem that important to you, and I’m not arguing for life on other planets, in case you were wondering (though I wouldn’t rule it out). What this really means, at least in my interpretation, is that God really is in control of everything God has made. It isn’t just that humanity messed up the earth through sin, but that through sin, everything was put out of whack. In Christ, God sets the whole thing right again. In Christ, the vision of Eden is restored. In Christ, the harmony in which the Triune God made everything is restored. Now, it may not seem like this is true. There is still plenty that is out of whack – plenty of sin to go around – but the promise, spoken by the last Old Testament Prophet, John the Baptist, is that in Christ, all shall be set right again.