Friday, June 17, 2016

Jesus Asks: What are you looking for?

This is the 21st post in my series "Asking Myself," in which I weekly ponder one question posed in Teresa Blythe's rich book, 50 Ways to Pray. You can find the start of the series here and last week's post here. The first nine posts focused on theological musings, while posts 10 to the present prayerfully consider the specific questions Jesus posed in the New Testament.

Q: What are you looking for?

After John the Baptist sees the miraculous vision of the Spirit fluttering down to nest upon Jesus' head, he declares, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." The next day when John repeats the declaration, two of John's disciples, Andrew and, presumably, the apostle John, abandon their teacher and follow Jesus. Hearing the footsteps or maybe getting that weird sensation that he's being watched, Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them in John 1:38, "What are you after?" (MSG) or "What do you want?" (NLT) or "What are you looking for?" (NRSV) 

I wonder about Jesus' reaction. Fully man, and never having had disciples before this, was it odd for him to suddenly have people following him? Also notable, Andrew and John's first response to Jesus was not an answer, but a question, like they were made to be Jesus' followers. They didn't ask anything about his theology or his messianic game plan. Instead, they got down to the practical details of their unspoken commitment.
"Rabbi, where are you staying?"
In other words, they were already set on being his students. They were going to follow Jesus wherever he was going and to stay with Jesus wherever He was staying. They just needed the address. 

In my heart of hearts, I would like to respond to Jesus' question this way, if it were addressed to me. I love that there is very little thought of what they personally wanted. How opposite this is from the way I think. I have lots of things I want, and if someone were to ask me and my good-Christian inhibitions were lifted, a steady stream of things-wanted would come tumbling from my heart. But these self-made disciples were chomping at the bit to know more about Jesus. To stick close to him. To live life with him and learn how and where he dwelt. 

The gospel of John seems to lack the details I crave about what happens next. In verse 39, Jesus replies just as matter-of-factly as they've asked:
"Come and see," he said. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.
Apparently, an afternoon with Jesus was enough to convince Andrew that Jesus was legit. He finds Simon Peter, his brother, and tells him to come and meet the Christ. Now with three in tow, Jesus goes and invites Philip, who invites Nathanael, who is at first incredulous (Can anything good come from Nazereth?) and then overly credulous (Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree?). 

Come and see. That's the advice Jesus gives us to both avoid being overly skeptical and overly gullible. That's how we test out our role, when we are ready, as disciple. It's not stay and think, as I'm prone to do. Or judge and scrutinize as most of us tend to do when confronted with something or someone new. 

I appreciate this quiet little story. Jesus' public ministry didn't start with a bang or a multi-million denarii campaign fund. It started with simple, human questions and unselfish, God-ward responses. It gained momentum through daily living, lessons gleaned from Jesus' person as much as his teachings, and later, his miracles.

Next week: Do you want to be made well?

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