Years ago, when I was a young boy, my family and I were visiting my Grandma and Grandpa at their farm. There was some time to kill during the afternoon, so my uncle, who was a year and a bit older than me, invited me to go outside with him. He had recently bought a pellet gun and he offered to show me how it worked. We headed outside and he began using it to shoot at various things around the farmyard. At that time, in the middle of the farmyard was a pen full of young turkeys. These turkeys were being raised to be the prime menu item for future feasts like Christmas and Easter, but the time for butchering those turkeys was several weeks away.
But these young turkeys offered an enticing target. So my uncle took careful aim at one of the turkeys that were sitting on top of the fence that surrounded their pen, and pulled the trigger. One of the turkeys fell into the pen wounded. What happened is that the pellet hit and broke one of the turkey’s legs. When my Grandma found out, she was very upset. She was upset because we had been shooting at the turkeys, she was upset because we had wounded one of the turkeys, and she was upset because now that turkey had to be butchered right away in order to salvage the meat.
We had that turkey for supper that night. Now, my Grandma was a great cook, but that was the least enjoyable meal that I ever ate at her place because I was feeling guilty over the death of this bird. I was not the one who pulled the trigger, but I was there when it happened. An innocent bird lost its life to entertain me, and there was nothing that I could do to undo that.
Guilt is a very powerful emotion that all of us feel. Maybe you are here and you don’t even believe in God, or perhaps you believe in God but you aren’t sure what that means, or maybe you have dedicated your life to following this person named Jesus. Regardless of what your faith position is, all of us feel guilt to one degree or another over bad things that we have done or good things that we didn’t do and should have. So, if you are here for the first time, my hope and my prayer is that you feel, welcomed and encouraged and supported here. We are all in the same boat when it comes to guilt.
And it is good for us to feel some guilt because the reality is that we do bad things from time to time and guilt can motivate us to not do those bad things in the future, or to try to correct the bad things that we have done in the past. But there are a couple of problems with guilt. The first problem with guilt is that our feelings of guilt are not accurate indicators of whether we are really guilty or not. Sometimes we feel guilty when we didn’t do anything wrong. And sometimes we don’t feel guilty when we should because we don’t realize that we have done something wrong.
The second problem with guilt is that there are times when we realize that we really are guilty, but we can’t do anything about it. Maybe we can’t contact the person that we have hurt, or they have died. Or maybe what we did is so serious and so permanent that we can never make it right. Years ago, the mother of one of my relatives accidentally back over one of her neighbour’s children, and that child died. How can something like that ever be made right? It can’t.
So how do you deal with your feelings of guilt?
One method that is often used is to take our bad feelings out on others. If we can pin the blame on someone else, and do so with lots of force and skill, then we don’t have to consider our part in the matter. But then people don’t trust us, because we never take ownership of our own mistakes.
Another approach is to internalize our guilt. We never talk about or deal with our feelings of guilt. We simply bury them deep down inside. And the result is that we end up feeling guilty about everything.
Either way, unresolved guilt is toxic. We either end up being a toxic person or we end up having a toxic soul. And God does not want that for us. God does not want us to be a toxic person or to have a toxic soul. God wants us to be free. So if you only remember one thing from today, let it be this: Jesus is God’s remedy for our guilt.
So we are continuing to journey through a biography about Jesus written by one of his followers, whose name was John. And one of the people that John writes about is another John who is often called John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a preacher who called people to turn away from the hurtful, harmful things that they were doing in life and turn back toward God and then John the Baptist would give people who were willing to make such a change in their life a ceremonial washing, which is called a baptism. But John the Baptist was also a teacher who had a band of students with him out in the wilderness and one of those students may have been John the Baptist’s cousin… named Jesus.
So if you have a Bible or a Bible app on your smartphone, please open it to John, chapter 1, starting at verse 29. And if you don’t have either of those, the passage will be up on the screen for you to see. So we begin with verse 29: 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”
So let’s reflect for a bit on what John the Baptist said about Jesus, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” What does that mean? When people more than 1900 years ago would have heard those words in that part of the world, very special and important things would have popped into their minds. They would have thought about the lambs that were raised near Bethlehem, then led into Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate so that one in the morning and another in the evening could be sacrificed in the temple. They would have thought of the Passover Lamb which was slaughtered at the time of the Exodus and whose blood was spread on the doorposts and the lintel of each family home to protect the family from death and set them free from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. They would have thought of the time when God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his one and only son, whom he loved, and then at the last possible moment, God intervened and provided his own lamb for the sacrifice to show that he was not like the other gods that people worship that require the people to sacrifice for their god. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a God who provides sacrifices for his people.
But probably the thing that would have reverberated most loudly in the mind of those who heard John the Baptist say, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” would have been the words of Isaiah the prophet who wrote 700 years earlier about a special Servant who would suffer for the sake of the people. Part of what Isaiah wrote about the Suffering Servant was this:
He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.
8 Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. (Isaiah 53:7-8)
God does not want you to be a toxic person or have a toxic soul. God also knows that we can never make right all the wrongs that we will do in our lives here on earth. So God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit put together a plan to save the world. And God the Son, Jesus, offered to come to this world and become a human being just like you and me, so that He could pay the price that would set every person in this world free from guilt and shame and sin and death. Because he loves you, Jesus willingly offered himself on the wooden altar of a cross. Jesus volunteered to become the ultimate sacrifice that more than pays for all the sins of all people through all of time.
Because of Jesus, you are free. You are free from all the guilt of all of your sin. You are no longer bound to blind denial or persistent pleasing. You and I are free to admit that “Yes, I am a sinner through and through. But Jesus’s love and grace has overpowered my sin and guilt and washed it all away. I am free to live and to love as a beloved child of God. And one day, Jesus is going to come back to this world to make me and all things right once again. So I live in that hope each and every day. I am free.”
Let’s pick up our look at this biography of Jesus with verse 32:
32 Then John [the Baptist] testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”
So let’s picture in our minds what John the Baptist is describing to us. His younger cousin, Jesus, is one of his followers, so he knows Jesus, he knows who he is, and he knows Jesus’ family. But John does not know who Jesus really is. John knows that he has been sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah, the anointed One, the person who God promised he would send to save his people, but he doesn’t know who that Chosen One is. But what he did know is that God had told him that the one on whom he would see the Holy Spirit descend and rest is the Chosen One. And – surprise, surprise! – it’s Jesus!
In many ways, Jesus was the least likely person to be the Chosen One. He was from Nazareth, the town from where no good thing has come. His mother got pregnant before the wedding. His family got into some kind of trouble with the law down in Judea and they had to flee to live in Egypt for a few years. The prophet Isaiah, writing in advance about Jesus, tells us “There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.” (Isaiah 53:2b NLT) And yet the Chosen One turns out to be Jesus! Who would of thought of that?
But that is how God works. He works through the weak and the ordinary to accomplish great and wonderful things. And that is good news for us because that means that God can work through us.
The Holy Spirit helped John the Baptist to see that Jesus was the Chosen One sent by God to take our guilt away from us. And the Holy Spirit will also help you to see that Jesus is the Chosen One sent by God to take your guilt away from you. If you are here today and you are not sure want to think about Jesus, why don’t you talk to Him and ask Him to give you a sign to show you who He really is. And the Holy Spirit will show you who Jesus really is. Jesus takes all of our guilt away from us. Amen.
(This message was presented at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC on September 3, 2017 and it part of our series on the Gospel of Jesus.)
Video clip: A video clip that goes along with this message is Courageous Movie Scene: Gun Range Gospel which can be found here.
Message podcasts: You find audio podcasts of our church’s messages here.
Bible Study: A Bible Study that goes with this message can be found here.
Guilt: You never know where you are at with guilt. Sometimes we don’t even know that we have hurt someone, so we feel no guilt when we should. While at other times, we feel bad over something we did to someone else and we didn’t actually do anything wrong. So we feel guilt when we shouldn’t. Therefore our feelings of guilt are not an accurate indicator of whether we are in the right or not.
Also, there is a significant difference between our feelings of guilt and our actual guilt. In August, Derek Saretzky was sentenced for murdering 3 people in the Crowsnest Pass region of Alberta, but he showed no remorse. That same month, Joshua Mitchell was sentenced of manslaughter for driving over Maryam Rashidi in Calgary in June 2015, and he apologized to Maryam’s family for what he did. Were both men guilty, whether they felt guilty or not? The evidence indicates that, yes, they both had actual guilt whether or not they felt guilt.
Higher education: A biography is the story of a life and Jesus’ life happened in what we today call the Middle East in the area where Israel and Palestine are today. Two thousand years ago that same territory was called Galilee in the north, Samaria in the middle and Judea in the south. The Jewish people were in the north and in the south, and the Samaritan people were in the middle.
Back in that day, in Galilee and in Judea, Jewish children were educated at home with some religious instruction in the local synagogue. When a boy became a man, most would get a trade by becoming an apprentice to a craftsman who was experienced in a trade of some kind. Some would get a different kind of education by finding and choosing a teacher (who was called a rabbi) from whom they would learn. They would join a group of students who were all following the same teacher and the students, or the student’s families, would provide the support that the teacher would need to make a living. Sometimes these groups of a teacher and his students would meet in a set place while other times they would roam from place to place. The teacher would teach by asking questions to stimulate thinking, and by sharing his wisdom and saying with his students who would then repeat and memorize it.
This information about higher education in the time of Jesus is important because it tells us something very important about the relationships that John writes about in his biography of Jesus. Some of you may have heard before that Jesus was like one of these roaming teachers who had a band of students following him. But John the Baptist was also a teacher who had a band of students following him. And what I never considered before, until I read it in a commentary as I was preparing for this message was that Jesus was initially a student of John the Baptist. When I considered the possibility of Jesus initially being a follower of John the Baptist, I realized that it made sense. John and Jesus were cousins with John being about six months older than Jesus. So they would have known each other. Also, some of John the Baptist’s other followers soon became followers of Jesus when he started his ministry. This would have happened very naturally if they knew Jesus from when he was a follower of John and perhaps witnessed the Holy Spirit descending and remaining upon Jesus.
 Leviticus 1:4; Exodus 29:38-46
 Exodus 12
 Genesis 22:1-19
 A disciple was himself esteemed; he would become a teacher after the proper period of listening and learning. In this system, both teacher and disciple typically sat in an appointed room, and the teacher taught by question, and through repetition and memorization. It was expected that the disciple would render respectful service to his teacher during his apprenticeship. Meye, R. P. (1979–1988). Disciple. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 1, p. 947). Wm. B. Eerdmans.
 Weinrich, William C., John1:1-7:1, The Concordia Commentary Series (St. Louis: Concordia, 2015), 205.