We have no idea what we are looking for

John 1:29-42

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?” He said to them, “Come and see.” (Read the whole passage)

Today, begins a time of the church year that is ambiguous and vague. We have just come from Advent, Christmas and the Day of Epiphany… 3 seasons that tell us stories of Christ’s birth and early years. A then the Baptism of Jesus came last week as an introduction to his ministry. But now we enter into 6 weeks of time in-between time. Christmas and Epiphany are over,  but Lent has yet to begin. And so we are left with this season of green time where we hear stories related to Jesus’ ministry and teachings like the ones in that long season of green that starts after Easter and Pentecost, yet the stories are not fully devoted to ministry and preaching. And the stories of Jesus that we hear are also connected to the revelation of Epiphany ad they show us who Jesus is by revealing his true identity as God’s Messiah sent to save, but they are also not Epiphany stories proper.

And so in this in-between time, we receive our first in-between story.

We take up with John the Baptist again, who showed up a couple times in Advent, and now again last week. John, his disciples and the crowds are loitering at the river, when Jesus comes along. This sounds like the baptism from last week, but there is no mention of Jesus’ baptism today. Instead, this sounds more like the background to the baptism, a behind-the-scenes look at Jesus and the disciples loitering around the river Jordan.

As John is preaching, once John sees Jesus come along, his points out who Jesus is. The Lamb of God sent to take away the sin of the world. The crowds are there to hear John preach, but he points them to Jesus instead.

But people don’t seem to be picking up what John is saying and they continue doing what they were doing. So the next day, when the same thing happens again, John has to point out Jesus again. As Jesus walks by John and John’s disciples, John reminds all who can hear, that this is again is the Lamb of God, the Messiah. But this time instead of every going back to their business, two disciples stop and decide to check Jesus out.

We can almost imagine the scene. There is John preaching near the river, while Jesus wanders about the crowds almost unnoticed. Maybe he is looking for someone, for people who will show the tiniest sign of recognition.

Andrew and Simon finally step forward and when Jesus seems them he asks a question.

“What are you looking for?”

Andrew and Simon seem baffled by this question. The do not have an answer.

But surely they aren’t the only ones. Maybe Jesus has been asking people for days.

“What are you looking for?”

Coming from Jesus, this question surely has the tinge of a deeper meaning hinted at. You can imagine that every time Jesus has asked someone till now all he has gotten is someone shaking their head staring and the ground or pretending like he is invisible.

So perhaps we should consider just who is asking this question. Jesus, the one who John has proclaimed to be the Messiah, the Lamb of God is asking. Jesus, the one who we believe to be God, the second person of the Trinity is asking. And where one person is, so the other two are also. The God and King of the universe, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is asking, “What are you looking for?” So, what would there be to answer? Happiness and Wealth? Love and family? A Long life? Peace in a violent and sinful world? Food for starving children? Cures for cancer and heart disease? An upgrade on your room in heaven?

Well, the disciples don’t ask for any of those things. Rather, they ask a question of their own. But not a brilliant question that provides food for thought. Something mundane, maybe even ridiculous. Something that if we were asked in our modern way of speaking might sound like, “So, uh, where are you staying?”

But at least Andrew and Simon recognized that answering Jesus, saying anything at all was important. They saw something when John told them who Jesus was, and they have the vaguest sense again that responding in some way to Jesus is important.

Despite 2000 years of history before us, and a much better idea of just who Jesus is, I doubt we would answer that question much better. For all of our church buildings and committees, our Christian nations and empires, our indoctrination in the faith…

If Jesus were to show up and ask us, ‘What are you looking for?”

We would probably ask if he wanted to serve on church council or if he has a mailbox number for offering envelopes.

The thing is, we just don’t know. We don’t know what we want when it comes to faith and meaning. We don’t know what we are looking for.

For whatever reason, the disciple’s answer Jesus’ question with their own strange question. But they are no less clueless than we are.

All Advent we waited for Messiah. At Christmas we rejoiced at Messiah’s coming. In Epiphany the Messiah, the Christ, God in flesh was revealed to us. But now that Messiah is here, we don’t really know what to do with him. Like the disciples, we find it hard to grasp the magnitude of the Messiah, of Christ being with us, here and now. It is one thing for the long awaited guest of honour to arrive, but is another to know what to do once the dinner party is over and the guest is still hanging around.

Even more so, it hard for us to know what to do with God in our lives. Hard to know what this faith business means on Monday morning to Saturday night. What does that mean for us? What do we say? Where do we go? How do we respond?

If John the Baptist had heard the disciples answer to Jesus’ question he might have shamed them not getting it. But that is not Jesus’ way. Instead of correcting or condemning, Jesus gives a simple answer. “Come and See”.

Come and See.

Jesus gives an invitation that is more than invitation. Instead of calling from the pulpit or the river as John is, Jesus comes near, he looks the disciples and us in the eye. Jesus does this in order to pull us into the story of Messiah, Jesus opens our eyes to the new thing that God is doing in our world, in our lives.

Jesus is NOT looking for us to know the answer to his question. Jesus knows that we haven’t faintest idea of what we are looking for. Jesus knows that we are wondering life, about faith and meaning, about suffering death, about hope in the hopeless, about finding the lost, about light in the darkness. We are wondering about the Messiah. Jesus knows that we are full of questions, not answers.

But Jesus does not condemn us for not knowing what to do with Messiah. Instead he offers 3 gracious words, words that grab and hold us. Come. Come, with me and I will go with you in this life. They are words that show us God. See. See, here I AM, here the God of all things is here, close and near with you.

Come and See.

Come and See.

Jesus doesn’t expect to answer his question, he answer it for us.

“What are you looking for?”

“Come and See” Jesus says.

Come and See the Messiah, the God made flesh come to dwell among us. The God who comes to look us in the eye, and take our hand in his. The Messiah who doesn’t just come for Christmas dinner and then goes home, but who has come for good into our world, and into our messy lives. Messiah, the Lamb of God is revealed by getting down into our confused and messy lives with us, knowing that we don’t know what we are looking for.

Because the Messiah knows what or who he is looking for… Messiah is looking for, and today, has found us.

Come and See, Jesus says, come and see that I have found you.


*Image credit: http://www.northwestchurchofchrist.org/come-and-see

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