What Are You Looking For?, John 1:29-42
Plymouth First United Methodist Church, January 19, 2020
Pastor Toni Carmer
Hopefully, I’m not the only one who ever does this: I’ll be in the kitchen and decide I need something in my study. It’s maybe, 10-12 steps away. I’m not singularly focused, of course, thinking about all kinds of things. I pick up this piece of mail to take back with me, turn off that light that’s on for no good reason on the way back. No need to waste energy. I step inside my study and stop—and realize I have no idea what I went back there to do. I look around a bit, thinking it will come to me. It doesn’t. I head back to the kitchen, back to where my quest began. Oh, yeah, now I know. Back to my study, this time—stay focused, Toni. This time I find it. Because I know what I’m looking for. (Being the Pollyanna that I am, I rationalize these moments: Ok, at least I’m getting some extra steps on my Fitbit!)
In order to find what you’re looking for, it helps to know what it is, so you’ll recognize it when you see it.
John the Baptist has come to realize that Jesus is the one he’s been looking for; Jesus is the one he’s been waiting for. Jesus he now realizes is the one John has been preaching about: Jesus is the Lamb of God, the one who will take away the sins of the world. Jesus, he now knows, is the one who is coming after him, the one who is greater than he is. He hadn’t known who it was, didn’t realize it was Jesus until that moment at the River Jordan when Jesus comes to him to be baptized. At that moment, John understands.
The story we read today happens the next day after Jesus is baptized. John is testifying to his listeners that Jesus is the Son of God. He tells them how the Spirit came down from heaven like a dove and rested on Jesus, just as God had said it would happen… God had said that this one will baptize with the Holy Spirit. This one John knows now and testifies, “He is the Son of God.”
The following day, John is with two of his disciples and he sees Jesus again. He turns his disciples toward Jesus saying, “Look! The Lamb of God.” The two men respond by leaving John and following Jesus.
Jesus turns and sees them following him. They begin a conversation that doesn’t entirely flow for me, with questions being answered with questions…and yet, maybe that’s the beauty of it all, because it creates a connection that will change the men’s lives. “What are you looking for?”, Jesus asks John’s disciples. They reply with their own question: “Where are you staying?” Jesus answers: “Come and see.”
They go with him and they spend the whole day together.
What are you looking for?
Where are you staying?
Come and see.
I want to spend a little time this morning talking about these two questions, and Jesus’ invitation that follows. But I also have a warning for you, so you’re ready when it happens. This is the Gospel of John’s story of how Peter and Andrew come to follow Jesus, which will be different than the story of their being called to follow him that we’ll talk about next Sunday. In this Gospel there is no mention of the brothers being fishermen, or nets being left behind as they decide to follow him. Here, they’re identified as John’s disciples. I can’t fully explain the difference in these stories of how they came to follow Jesus, but perhaps the simple answer is that in this Gospel we’re reading through the trajectory that begins with and follows John the Baptist, while the Matthew text we’ll be discussing next week follows a different trajectory. Maybe it can be explained as simply as the difference in your knowing me as your pastor, and my children knowing me as their mom, which brings different perspectives, one no less true than the other. Both of them together help you to know me better as a person. In the same way, we have different people, different perspectives, telling us about Jesus to help us to know him better.
Honestly, I don’t really know the full why. It’s a bit of a mystery! I just want you to be prepared.
So back to the questions: What are you looking for?, Jesus asks these disciples of John. What are you looking for? Why are you here? Why are you following me? What do you think might happen because you’ve decided to follow me?
It’s interesting that in these 13 verses we’ve read today, Jesus is called “Lamb of God” twice, by John. He’s called “Rabbi” by the two disciples, and then when Andrew goes to find his brother Simon to tell him about this man who he’s spent the day with, he calls Jesus “Messiah.”
John calling Jesus “Lamb of God” perhaps reflects his understanding/his prophesy that Jesus will be a sacrificial lamb of God rather than the conquering savior that others envision and are hoping for. The disciples addressing Jesus as “Rabbi” very much underscores their desire to listen and to learn from him. Andrew’s description of Jesus at the end of their day together as “Messiah,” which is translated as Christ for us, is the acknowledgement that Jesus is the one who God sent as Savior, though we know through our study of the various gospels that the depth of meaning of that proclamation was a struggle for all of his disciples to fully comprehend right up to the time of his resurrection.
What are you looking for? This seems a reasonable question for each of us to answer when we decide to follow Jesus. What am I looking for? Why am I here? What difference does it make? Our answers to these questions will most likely vary somewhat, depending on who we are, depending on our histories, depending on our current needs. What one of us is looking for may be very different from what another one of us is looking for, which means that our comfort level, our satisfaction, our peace will vary with what we find, as well.
What are you looking for? Perhaps I’ve chosen to follow Jesus because I need a spiritual home. A foundation. A grounding. A place where I can be myself, to know I’m accepted, to know I’m fully loved. Perhaps I’m looking for an anchor to hold onto during the storms of life, maybe I need a friend, a mentor and a guide, and as I study scripture, as I listen to what Jesus says and how he responds, I can learn ways I can better respond to situations I face in my life.
I wonder…what words do you use to describe Jesus? How do you address Jesus in prayer? Do the adjectives you use reveal what you need most from Jesus? Almighty God, God of power and might, healing, comforting God…those are all words I use at different times, along with others. Perhaps those words help me to see what I’m looking for, what I expect, what I hope for as I seek to know and better understand Jesus.
Some years ago, I became acquainted with someone who began attending our church because it was a requirement of his work. I was pretty naïve, I guess. I didn’t know that kind of thing happened. Each of the employees of that business were to join different churches in town to establish relationships and to help people feel comfortable when they stepped inside their business because they would see a familiar face. A similar thing happened when persons running for political office would begin showing up before election time. Never met or saw them before, and after the votes were in we didn’t see them again. What they were looking for in a church was very different from what others were looking for. My bottom line on that one? Sometimes we accidently find something that we weren’t looking for, and maybe it’ll make a difference at some point, so ultimately, I’m okay with it, because I know God uses the seeds we plant, even if we’re not convinced that the ground is particularly fertile. Perhaps God can use our “not so good reasons” and make them into good reasons.
What are you looking for? Jesus asks.
John’s disciples answer: Where are you staying? I believe that response means, we want to spend some time with you. Show us where you’re staying, because here on the street isn’t the easiest place to ask questions, to talk, to find out all we want to know about you. Where are you staying? Can we come with you? Are you willing to open your doors to us, to maybe fix some coffee, to spend some time with us? To tell us your stories and to listen to ours?
Jesus’ response to their question is perfect. It is an invitation to join him, to hang out with him. To be together. Come and see, Jesus says. Come back to my place. I’ll fix that coffee and there are some sodas in the fridge, too. I’ve got the time to talk to you. I’ve got the place. Let’s go and spend the day together. Time with you is important to me.
God does some amazing things when people hang out together. God works in ways that we can’t always see in the moment but can influence us in a major way. I didn’t have the experience of going to church camp as a child or as a youth, but I helped to provide those experiences for children and teens when I became an adult. Sitting around a campfire and singing something like Kumbaya might be the iconic church camp joke, and yet taking time away from the normal routine, with others, listening to one another’s stories, talking about Jesus—those can be moments to remember later, recalling the warmth of fellowship, the blessing of community. The same kind of thing can happen when you do Bible study together at 6 or 7 in the morning, when you spend time in Bible study together, when you’re reading and discussing and exploring your faith, your heart, and God’s love. The same kind of thing can happen on a workcamp as you’re pounding nails or digging a trench, or if you’re working right here in our kitchen preparing a meal for others or practicing an anthem to sing on Sunday morning. Even though you may be bone-tired, weary and discouraged, moments like these can lift you up, bring you renewal, bring you hope.
Come and see, Jesus says. Come and see. It’s an invitation—a welcome—to come, to spend time together, to get to know Jesus, to experience his love and grace.
Come and see, Jesus says. Perhaps now, at the beginning of this new year, it’s time for us to be intentional in looking around, to consider those ways and those places where we can better offer the invitation for others to come and see. Perhaps it’s an invitation we might offer individually to someone we know who doesn’t have a faith community. Perhaps it’s an invitation for us to offer as a community, to go with our sign out front proclaiming our intention to rebuild First Church. There are ways to rebuild and grow that have nothing to do with bricks and domes, you know?
Come and see, we might say. We have good news to share. Amen.