I find this morning’s passage from John’s Gospel a bit odd. As we all heard, our passage began with John the Baptist seeing Jesus soon after Jesus’ baptism and then proclaiming to all who could hear him that Jesus is the Lamb of God. He then witnesses to what he experienced at the River Jordan. Our passage continues with the next day, again John sees Jesus on the streets and again declares Jesus to be the Lamb of God. If this doesn’t strike us as a bit odd already, it gets really strange when John’s disciples decide to follow Jesus and the conversation goes from “what are you looking for?” to “where are you staying?” to “come and see.” For me, knowing that John the Baptist was a unique character even for his day, doesn’t make up for how cryptic and weird this conversation comes across.
I’m not convinced this conversation was designed to be read as a whole. Instead, I think it is meant to be broken down with the reader taking the opportunity to answer the question Jesus poses for him or herself.
The question Jesus asks is, “what are you looking for?” In the context of the passage, the question appears to be a no brainer. Both men after being informed by John as to who Jesus is, desire to engage and to relate with the Lamb of God.
However the deeper question is what do you expect from the Lamb of God? Often times when I read this passage I am reminded of my countless visits to the doctor. It doesn’t matter why I am there or the reason stated on the appointment schedule, a nurse or the Doctor will inevitably ask why I am there. I suspect the goal of the question is to make sure the doctor and the patient are on the same page as to what the visit is for. In this morning’s passage, John’s disciples along with you and me are being asked what do we expect to discover when in the presence of the Lamb of God. This morning’s question is not that different from Jesus asking the Disciples who people say that he is in St. Mark’s Gospel. In this instance, the audience get’s to hear the answers, a prophet, the reincarnation of John the Baptist, Elijah etc.
So the question we need to grapple with this morning is, “what are you looking for?” What do you seek from God, from Jesus and perhaps most importantly from the Church? We are all looking for, or seeking something when we come each week. My suspicion is our answers are both different and at the same time a variation on a similar theme. In Eucharistic prayer C we pray “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only, and not for strength, for pardon only and not for renewal, to let the grace of this holy communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ that we may worthily serve the world in his name. These lines remind us that we often come seeking only part of what the church or Christ has to offer us. They also tell us that perhaps, what we are seeking is not what we need or perhaps what we want is not something the Christ was meant to offer.
For example, in recent years we have again seen the resurrection of what has been termed the prosperity Gospel. In the seventies and eighties preachers of this Gospel included Jim and Tammy Baker, Robert Schuyler, and Jimmy Swaggert. Today, Joel Olsteen is the current icon of the prosperity Gospel. This message basically states, if we believe in Jesus, live a just life, and trust that God wants our lives to be prosperous and good, it will happen. This message often comes with the need to donate to the evangelists coffers for special prayers and divine powers. This message offers hope, this message offers control over one’s life, this message allows one to believe one’s level of righteousness or the depth of one’s faith is measured by one’s prosperity. Unfortunately it fails to emphasize that he who was most righteous was poor, and was executed at the hands of Rome.
Yes, the message of the Gospel is about hope, it is about righteousness, it is also, however, about divine mercy and justice. It is a message which offers us both comfort and challenge. It is a message designed to help us transcend us the hardships and expectations of this world to the hope and glory of the Kingdom to come.
When we accept what we are really looking for, or what we are truly seeking from the Lamb of God, then the latter part of this morning’s conversation begins to make sense.
Again, Jesus, “what are you looking for?”
the Disciples, “where are you staying?”
Jesus “ come and see.”
Jesus final words this morning are not about John’s disciples coming to see a worldly address, otherwise I would think he would have said something to the effect of, “I am staying at Peter’s house.” Instead, it is about an invitation to come and to experience the kingdom of God. This is God’s invitation to all of us to unburden ourselves of our presuppositions and expectations of what or who we believe God is and to experience the fullness of God, the kingdom, the heavenly banquet through the eyes of the Lamb of God.
This in its simplest and most basic level is what the season of Epiphany is about. The word epiphany means theophany or revelation. It is the season in the church year when we are led to the ways God is revealed through the Son. It is this time of year when we are again invited to come and see, to come and experience the Kingdom.
Epiphany begins with three wise men seeing a new star rise in the sky and deciding to journey to find the new born king. What they found, is what they sought, but a king like no other king they had ever encountered. The disciples of John the Baptizer are introduced to the Lamb of God, and like the three magi, they too choose to follow the messiah and are invited to experience a kingdom like no other. Soon the blind and the deaf will be invited to see and hear a world they had never hoped for or imagined. Then some thirty years later, Saul will discover on his journey to Damascus that the God he thought he knew, he did not know at all as scales which blinded him fall from his eyes.
So this morning, I invite you to enter into this morning’s Gospel and to answer for yourself what Jesus asked his disciples, “what are you looking for?” And then accept his invitation to “come and see” not only for that which you seek, but for a whole lot more as well.