John 1:29-42 - The First Disciples of Jesus
35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter.
The first words of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel intrigue me: ‘What are you looking for?’
What a question. Ever notice God has a habit of asking questions in Scripture?
'Where are you?' and 'What have you done?' to Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3)
'Why are you angry?' and 'Where is your brother?' to Abel. (Genesis 4)
'What is your name?' to Jacob. (Genesis 32)
'What is the matter?' to Hagar. (Genesis 21)
There is something about a question that is telling from both parties. We can hear a question in different ways depending on the relationship we have with the person asking it. From the very start, when God asked Adam in the garden 'Where are you?’, we could see an angry God scolding his child or we could see a God inviting us back in to relationship. That is what I believe the questions from God do, they invite us to a conversation. They are not a demand to 'act a certain way or else’. They are a ‘come and reason together’.
This sounds great on paper, but, in practice, the method of Jesus is near infuriating. I’m sure when the disciples responded with ‘Rabbi, where are you abiding?’ to Jesus, they expected him to say ‘Here is where I’m staying and, when we get there, I’ll tell you exactly how this plan of overturning Roman power and "Making Israel Great Again" will go down’. Of course this isn’t how Jesus worked then and it isn’t how he works now. He rarely has a formula for anything. He has a way of being. A way of abiding. A way of living in commune with his Father and the Holy Spirit.
This passage makes me wonder how I respond daily to Jesus' question of ‘What are you looking for?’ Am I looking for Jesus to judge the same people I judge? Am I looking to use the Bible as a weapon to make people behave a certain way? Am I looking for what I think is justice through revenge? Am I looking to reach for more? Am I looking for someone to ‘get what’s coming to them’? Am I looking for my own personal gain?
Or am I looking to bring peace, reconciliation and love to people I encounter as well as to myself? I think the answer to all these questions is ‘Come and see’.
We all have certain expectations on how Jesus should act. I’m sure the disciples did. Jesus, of course, knocked all that on the head by how inclusive and far-reaching his love was, by the company he kept and by how he reinterpreted and fulfilled the Scriptures in ways that the disciples could not have anticipated due to their hermeneutic lens.
Even when Jesus does give an answer it can be interpreted different ways. His response to 'Where are you abiding?’ is 'Come and see'. One could see this as matter of fact: ‘You want to know where I’m staying? Come and have a look’. Of course the response of Jesus is layered, for those who can see it. Jesus' invitation extends far beyond checking out his current living arrangements. It doesn't really matter where Jesus was abiding that night. What truly matters is the disciples coming along with him to see his true abiding, that of the Father in him and he in the Father. It’s a journey that is full of beauty and joy, heartache and pain but one, ultimately, of life and love. We are invited to come along, too, and see what it is to abide with Abba as we follow Jesus empowered by Holy Spirit.
Ferg Breen is married with two kids and is a counsellor, psychotherapist, lecturer and pastor in Dublin. He also performs motivational seminars inspired solely by the work of David Brent.