Feb 092012
 
Rev. Jeff Chapman, Faith Presbyterian Church

35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’

37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When 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?’

39He 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.

40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). 42He 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). 
(John 1:35-42, NRSV)

Imagine you are an aspiring violinist searching for a mentor and teacher.  By a stroke of good fortune, you manage to secure as your mentor the person you consider to be the greatest violin player in the world.  At once you begin to study under him and hone your skills, soaking up everything you can learn from this master.

One day after your lesson, however, he tells you that he wants to introduce you to another violinist who is, in his estimation, a far superior musician than he will ever be.
In fact, he suggests to you that if you really want to experience and learn music as it is meant to be played on the violin, then this true master is the man under whom you should begin to study.

In a sense, this is what is happening here in this passage.  John the Baptist is a great prophet.  Jesus himself once called him the greatest prophet who ever lived.[1]  Naturally, John has picked up a few disciples, men who are devoted to him as their spiritual leader.   But now John has recognized that somebody else has come along who is far greater then he will ever be.  In fact, when Jesus shows, John realizes that
he is now in the presence of One whose sandals he is not even worthy to untie.  He may be a prophet, but this man is the Lamb of God, the Son of the Most High, the very Savior of the world.

Somebody once said that there is no harder task than to take the second place when once the first place has been enjoyed.[2]  And yet, this is exactly what John does.  In the best interests of his disciples, he prepares them to leave his tutelage and devote themselves, instead, to Jesus.  Which is so typical of John.  This was, after all, the purpose of his life.  From even before he was born, God had determined that John’s life would be spent pointing people towards Jesus.

So it happened that one day John was standing with two of his disciples when Jesus walks by.  John seizes the moment.  He says to his friends, “Look, there goes the Lamb of God.”  In other words, “Now’s your chance.  What are you waiting for?  Go after him!  He’s the one you really want to follow.”

They do.  Immediately, we’re told, they begin to follow Jesus.

Now, picture the scene. These men don’t really know Jesus. All they know is what John has told them about Jesus.  And they don’t know where Jesus is going.  And they don’t know if he even wants them to come with him.  So they follow, but they follow at a distance.

One day many years ago Esther and I were in New York City.  It was a glorious fall day and we were just wasting time wandering through Manhattan.  All of a sudden a woman walks past who I recognized.  I turned to Esther and whispered, “That’s Sally Field.  Right there walking with that man.  That’s Sally Field!”  And it was.  We had just crossed paths with an Oscar winning actress.

Now, I don’t know why this is, but most of us just get stupid around celebrities.  We just can’t help ourselves.  And so having nothing else better to do that afternoon, we decided to follow Sally Field.  From a safe distance, of course, we followed her and her companion through the crowd, watching her to see where she would go, what she would do.  For a brief time that day my wife and I became celebrity stalkers.

Imagine if a few minutes later, Sally Field suddenly turned around and faced us and said to us, “What do you want?  I see you following me.  What is it you want from me?  What are you after here?”

I don’t know what I would have said.  “Ms. Field.  So good to meet you.  You were
brilliant in Smokey and the Bandit.  Where are you going?  Where are you staying?  Would it be possible for my wife and me to just walk with you for a while and get to know you.  I’ve heard such great things about you.”

And, of course, she would say, “Wonderful.  Why don’t you join us?  We were just heading to this little café we enjoy and we’d love it if you would join us and we could get to know one another over lunch.”

Of course, that didn’t happen.  Sally Field never turned around and looked at
us.  Because Esther and I both such accomplished stalkers, she had no idea we were even there.  And even if she did, she probably wouldn’t have cared about us any more than we cared about the thousands of other people we passed on the street that day.

Here’s what’s so noteworthy about what happens with Jesus that day.  As these two men follow him at a distance, Jesus does turn around.  And he confronts them.  He says, “What are you looking for?  What are you after?  I see you following me, what are you hoping to find?  What do you think I can do for you?”

Imagine what it would have been like to have Jesus confront you with that question.  In fact, let’s not rush past Jesus’ question too quickly.  Instead, let me turn this question towards you this morning.

Since you’re all sitting here in church this morning, it’s safe for me to assume that all of you are, to some extent, following after Jesus?  Some of you are probably following Jesus closely, right behind him or even walking side by side with him.   Others of you are, instead, following at a safe distance, not wanting, for your own reasons, to get too close.  Perhaps you’re heard some things about Jesus, but you’re not entirely sure that it’s all true.  You’re heard he can be trusted but you’d liketo see for ourselves.  Either way, most of us here are following after Jesus.

So what if Jesus stopped in his tracks this morning, turned around to face you, and asked you point blank, “What are you looking for?  I see that you are following me.  I know that you’ve been checking me out.  Well, what do you want?  What are you after?  What do you think I can do for you?  What do you want me to give you?  Where do you think I am leading you?”

What would you say?  Really, how would you respond?  Do you think Jesus has the answers?  Are you hoping Jesus will fix your life?  Are you looking for security?  Belonging?  Peace?  Forgiveness?  Relief?  Are you just curious?  What do you say to Jesus when he turns and asks you, “Why are you following me?  What is it that you are looking for?”

What do the two men in the story say?  Well, they respond to Jesus’ question with a
question of their own.  Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?”  And they ask
him, “Teacher, where are you staying?”

It’s a question, but it also gives us some answers.  For one, the fact that they call Jesus
“teacher” tells us that they believe Jesus may have something to teach them.  So, at the very least, they are looking for answers.

Furthermore, in asking Jesus where he is staying, I think they are hinting that they want to go where he is staying.  In other words, they don’t just want to follow him from a distance down the road, or even chat with him in passing on the road.  They are hoping, really, for the chance to spend some quality time with Jesus.  Having heard so much about him, they are now hoping to see for themselves.  They want to see his character, to hear what he has to say.  They want to talk through their questions, their problems, their troubles, their longings.[3]  So when they ask where Jesus is staying, they’re actually hoping for an invitation.

Jesus doesn’t let them down.  He says, simply, “Come and see. You want to know where I’m staying? Come along and see for yourself.”

Just so you know, this is classic Jesus.  Always with Jesus it’s, “Come and see”.  Always with Jesus the invitation is extended, a gracious and wide open invitation.  What’s
more, the invitation always comes with a promise.  Seek and you will find, Jesus says.  Knock and the door will be opened to you.  Ask and you will receive.[4]  Come to me if you are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.[5]  If you are thirsty come to me and drink and I will make living streams flow from your soul.[6]  Let the little children come to me and I will welcome them.[7]  Come to the feast and you will see that I have prepared a place for you at the table.[8]

Always with Jesus it’s, “Come and see.”

Which actually means that the biggest barrier keeping people from Christ and from the abundant and eternal life he died to give them is, plain and simple, an unwillingness on their part to take Jesus up on his invitation and come and see.

Here is the promise God makes to us over and over again.  God promises us, “If you seek after me, if you truly seek after me, you will find me.”  In Jeremiah 29:13, God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”[9]   In James 4:8 we read, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”[10]  In Revelation 3:20, Jesus famously says, “Here I am!  I stand at the door and
knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.”[11]

To be fair, Jesus doesn’t ever promise us when, or how, or where.  What he does promise is that if we earnestly seek after him with open hearts and minds, and with a willingness to receive whatever it is we find, that we will, in his time, and in his
fashion, and the place of his choosing, find him.

This is true in the grand sense of salvation.  In other words, Christ extends salvation and eternal life to everybody in the world so that the only people who do not receive these gifts from Christ are those who continuously refuse to ever seek after him.  They refuse to come and see.

This is also true, however, in the day-to-day sense of God’s guidance.  In other words, when we seek God’s leading and help in the things we face in this life – our problems, our challenges, our struggles, our pain – if we seek after Christ with humble and open hearts, we will be provided with what we need.   That is God’s promise.

My own life, in fact, is a testimony that God’s promise here can be trusted.  For instance, I believe that one of the main places God urges us to seek him in this life is in the scriptures.  If we really want to know Christ, to see his character, to experience his grace and truth, to spend quality time with him, the Bible may be the best place we can go.  And I do not exaggerate when I tell you that, in my own life whenever I have gone into the scriptures genuinely seeking Christ with an open and humble heart, I have never been disappointed.  I have not always found what I thought I would find, or even what I hoped I would find.  But without fail, I have always eventually found what I needed to find.  In the end, I have always met Christ.

I really believe that whether or not you are walking with Jesus closely or following him at a distance, either way I believe he turns to you today and asks you, “What you are looking for?”  In asking, I believe his hope is that you will answer him the way these two men answered him.  “Jesus, where are you staying?  I want to know because I want to go there with you. I want to spend time with you.  I’ve heard you have what it is that I’ve been looking for all my life.  And I’d like to see for myself.”   If that is the answer you give to Jesus when he asks you what you are looking for, I believe Jesus will then say to you, “Come and see.”

That’s what he told the two disciples that day.  And when he did, they did.  They went and saw.  They went to where Jesus was staying.  And they remained with him, we’re told, the rest of the day.

I’d love to know how that time was spent.[12]  That means that, knowing Jesus, they probably spent the time simply enjoying one another around a table of good food and good drink.  Likely, Jesus talked and they found themselves hanging on every word.  Then they talked and they found Jesus listening to them like nobody had ever
listened to them before.  Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there, to have been included around the table that night?

While we don’t know exactly how the evening was spent, we do know that for at least one of these men it changed everything.  Andrew was one of the two.  And John’s account here makes clear that Andrew’s time with Jesus was transformational.  So
much so that the first chance he gets, Andrew races to tell his brother.  “Simon,” he says, “we have found the Messiah!  Come and see, Simon!  We have found the Christ!”

Don’t miss it.  A day earlier Andrew called Jesus “teacher”.  But now, having spent time with Jesus, Andrew knows better.  Now Jesus is “Messiah.”  Could Andrew have understood all that this title meant?  Of course not.  Nevertheless, God’s promise was beginning to be worked out in his life.  He had gone seeking with all his heart, and now he was finding.  And already it was changing everything for him.

I mean, what is the very first thing he does after meeting Jesus?  It’s beautiful, really.  Having been given the opportunity to come and see himself, the first thing he does is rush to his brother and extend the same opportunity to him.  I got to come and see.  Now you come and see!

You see, there’s just something about Jesus that, when you come to truly know him, you find yourself wanting to share him.[13]  When he does, it turns out that Simon, like
his brother, is also a willing and eager seeker.  Just like his brother before him, Simon goes to see for himself if what he has been told about Jesus is true.  When he does, Jesus welcomes Simon, just liked he welcomed his brother before him.

In fact, Jesus goes even further.  We’re told that when Simon came face to face
with Jesus, Jesus looked carefully at Simon.  The word in the original language here suggests that Jesus gazed intently at Simon.  Jesus, in other words, wasn’t simply studying his face; Jesus was studying his heart.  And he was not studying Simon’s heart to see what sort of man he was.  He was, I believe, studying to see what sort of man he could become.

And in a moment that changed Simon’s life forever, Jesus said to him, essentially, “I know people have known you as John’s son.  People call you Simon.  But from now on you will be known as Peter.”  And so, from that day forward, Simon became Peter, a name which literally means, “the rock.”

It’s a name, frankly, that must have sounded strange to people who knew Simon back then.  For a rock suggests stability and faithfulness, cool-headedness andself-discipline.  But Simon, as you may know if you’ve read much about him, was none of those things.  He was, instead, impulsive and unstable, known for putting his foot in his mouth and acting without thinking.  Which meant that calling Simon “The Rock” was a bit like calling Donald Trump the “Humble One”, or Simon Cowell the “Gentle
One.”

Was Jesus really that poor a judge of character?

Legend has it that the great sculptor, Michelangelo, believed that when he sculpted he was merely releasing the masterpiece which was trapped inside each shapeless piece of marble.

Jesus, looking with divine eyes, saw within Simon the God-given potential which was trapped inside this bumbling fisherman.  He saw the courage trapped inside the coward, the loyalty hiding behind the traitor, the sacred sown beneath the profane, the
image of God tarnished by the stain of sin. Again, Jesus did not name Peter forwhat he was.  Jesus named Peter for what, by the grace of God, he could become.

Remarkably, Jesus does the same for each of us.  If we would seek after him, we will find him.  And when we find Christ we also find, to our surprise, ourselves.  For in
Christ we discover who God made us to be.  Only Jesus, in fact, can really tell us our true identity.  Only the Creator really knows that for which the creation was made.

This is why when we come humbly into the gracious presence of Jesus, so many of the names we were, for so long, known by fall away.

Enemies of God become friends of God.  And not just God’s friends, but his children!  Sons of God and daughters of God.  Princes and princesses of the EternalKing.  The person named “Despair” finds his name changed to “Joy.”  The person named“Doubt” receives the name “Faith.”  Theperson named “Shame” takes as her new name “Beloved.”  The person named “Sinner” is now henceforth addressed as “Saint.”

If and when you come seeking Jesus, he will turn to face you and looks deep within you.  Not as much to see who you are but, rather, to see what you can, by God’s grace, become.  And then he will give you a new name, the sort of name you never imagined in your wildest dreams could ever be attached to you.

You see, everything changes in life when we go seeking after Jesus.  Among other things, we discover that Jesus has already come seeking after us.  We discover that Jesus isn’t some great distance away.  He’s not way up in heaven, beyond some chasm
of time and space we can never cross.  He isn’t the proverbial guru sitting on top of the proverbial mountain we have to climb to reach.

Jesus has come near.  All the way from heaven to earth.  The divine Word has become flesh, full of grace and full of truth.  Come to extend this invitation to all who want to know where he is staying.  “Come and see,” he says.  “Come and see.”

At this point in the sermon, the congregation was invited to watch the following images and listen to the following music as a way to prepare our hearts to come to the Lord’s Table.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU48-u-kVic

The Next Step

A resource for Life Groups and/or personal application

~ Read John 1:35-42 again.
What is the most interesting or intriguing part of this story for you?

~ Do you think that these two disciples knew what they were getting into when they followed Jesus?  Why did they follow him?

~ When was the first time in your life you remember feeling drawn to follow after Jesus?  What was it about Jesus that first drew you to him?

~ How would you respond to Jesus if he turned to you today and asked you, “What are you looking for?  What are you after?”  What would you say to him?

~ In Jeremiah 29:13 we hear God promise, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Do you believe this is true?  Do you believe that any person who truly seeks God will ultimately find God?

~ Who is one person you most eager/longing to take to meet Jesus?

~ If Jesus were to come and give you new name which represented what you could become with God’s help, what name would you want him to give you?

~ Who was a “John the Baptist” figure in your life?  In other words, was there somebody along the way who first pointed you in the direction of Jesus?  What has that person meant to you?

Further Scripture Readings for the Week:

Monday:               Jeremiah
29:1-23 – Letter to exiles

Tuesday                Matthew
7:7-12 – Ask, seek, knock

Wednesday:         John
7:25-44 – Come and drink

Thursday:             Matthew
22:1-14 – Come and feast

Friday:   Matthew
16:13-20 – The Rock confesses

Saturday :             In
preparation for worship on Sunday, read and reflect on John 1:43-51.

 

 



[1]
See Matthew 11:11.

[2]
William Barclay, The Daily Bible Study
Series: The Gospel of John,
Volume 1, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1955), p.
69.

[3]
Barclay was helpful here and I’m stealing a bit of his language.  (p. 71)

[4]
Matthew 7:7-8.

[5]
Matthew 11:28.

[6]
John 7:37-38.

[7]
Matthew 19:14.

[8]
Matthew 22:4.

[9]
NIV.  See also Deuteronomy 4:29.

[10]NIV,
italics mine.

[11]NIV.

[12] We do know that Jesus did not perform any miracles
at that point.  See John 2:11.  So at least we
know Jesus didn’t put on a magic show for them.

[13] It’s a bit like this.
Imagine you and a group of others are dying of thirst out in the
desert.  Finding Jesus is not like
finding a cooler containing just a few drinks and wanting to hoard the
life-saving water because there’s just not enough to go around.  Finding Jesus, rather, is like coming across
a perpetually flowing sweet-water spring with more water than you could ever
drink yourself.  Naturally, you want to
go and tell everybody else in the desert who is dying of thirst to come and see
what it is you have found.  There’s
plenty for everybody!