Come And See
1. The biblical readings from now till March will be [from] The Gospel According To John. In John, the figure of Jesus as he once walked on the earth is portrayed. However, it wasn't just written to tell of past events. One person expressed the character of this gospel as follows: "By way of portraying Jesus as a man in the past (during his life on earth), the character of this gospel at the same time makes out Jesus as a man in the present (being manifested now as Lord of the church), and on top of that, in combination of the two it is documenting Jesus the man in the future (at the second coming)." Therefore, even we readers of this will not read it just to find out what kind of person this Jesus of Nazareth used to be. We will see in this gospel the figure of the risen Christ alive, at work and addressing us now.
What Do You Seek?
2. [While we look from] such a [position], it is the words of Jesus, from verse thirty-eight, at which we will take our first look in The Gospel According To John. "Jesus looked behind him, he saw them following, and said, 'What do you seek?'," (1:38). While it is the first question posed to those who were following Jesus trying to become his disciples, it is also the first question posed to us as we try to read this gospel. When a person knocks on the church's door, the requests sought for there are different for each person. Were we to ask ten people here now what they were thinking when they first came to church, we'd probably get ten different answers back. The Lord is again asking that question to us. "What do you seek?"
3. The two people appearing in the text at this point were originally disciples of John the Baptist. The circumstances under which they had followed Jesus are recorded in the following manner. "On the next day, John was with two disciples. Then fixing his gaze on Jesus who was walking, he said, 'Behold, it is the lamb of God.' The two disciples heard this, and followed Jesus," (1:35-37). John the Baptist made the same statement the day before. "Behold, it is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," (1:29). At that time as well, these two disciples were probably with John. Thus, in hearing John state it again, they made up their minds and went to follow after Jesus.
4. We don't know to what extent the two understood the statement John the Baptist had made. But, the important point is that they went to follow "the lamb of God." Then, "the lamb of God" looked behind him and said, "What do you seek?" This "lamb of God" was neither "a lamb of God to give success" nor "a lamb of God to take away suffering." As John the Baptist bore witness, he was "the lamb of God to take away the sins of the world."
5. After he asked, "What do you seek?," they answered, "Rabbi -- which means 'master, teacher' -- Where will you be staying over?," (1:38). To which he replied, "Come. Then you will know," (1:39). It seems like an idle exchange. Looking at it on the surface, what Jesus said means "Where am I staying over? You should follow and make sure with your own eyes." Thus, it is written that "They followed, and they saw where Jesus was staying over. Then, that day they stayed over with Jesus."
6. But, the fact is this word translated "stay over" is a word with the meaning "abide, remain" and it is actually a significant word that appears frequently in this gospel. Using this word for a reason, it is written that the two disciples saw where Jesus was "abiding" and they also "abided" with Jesus. So, in saying they "saw where Jesus was abiding and abided with Jesus," it is an important theme that appears repeatedly in this gospel.
7. So then, where was Jesus? For today let's take a look at just one passage. Please open to chapter seventeen and verse twenty-one. It is the words of a prayer offered up during a meal Jesus had with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. "O father, as you are in me and I am in you, make everyone as one. Make them to be in us also," (17:21). Thus, the son is in the father and the father is in the son. Jesus is in such a perfect relationship of love with God the Father. This is what we come to see in [John's] gospel.
8. The Lord says, "Come. Then you will know," (if translated literally, it would be "Come. Then you might see."). What Jesus is trying to show them is this relationship. What Jesus is trying to give them is this relationship. What Jesus wills is that we too be in a relationship with the father and the son and that we too abide in [that relationship]. The Lord graciously prays, "Make them to be in us also."
9. The Lord is asking us "What do you seek?" If we seek riches and success, or if we seek only freedom from suffering, [he] won't need to be "the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." But, if we are looking at where the Lord is and want to abide with him there, that is, if we are looking at the fact that Jesus is in a relationship of love with God the Father and we want to be there with him, he must be "the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." For, unless sin is forgiven and sin is taken away, a relationship with God is impossible.
10. Before too long, the disciples who followed after Jesus would come to see where Jesus was in a true sense. And also, they would come to see what it would mean that the Lord was "the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." They would come to see the lamb of God being slain upon the cross.
The Lord Knows
11. But, only "a glimpse towards Jesus" like this is not of importance. In The Gospel According To John "a glimpse towards Jesus" also has an important nuance.
12. One of the twelve disciples who followed Jesus was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter. He met his brother Simon and told him, "We have met the messiah," and took him to Jesus. This picture of the scene of [their] meeting here is very interesting. The text reads, "Jesus fastened his eyes upon him and said, 'You are Simon son of John, but I have decided to call you Cephas -- meaning the Rock.'," (verse forty-two). Although it is a scene where the Lord first meets Peter, [the scene] is portrayed as if the Lord already knew Peter and had been seeing through everything with sharp eyes.
13. As a matter of fact, Cephas, the name the Lord gave him here (or "Peter" when you make it into Greek), would come to have great turning point significance for his life later and for history afterwards. It goes like this as The Gospel Of Matthew tells it: Later, when Peter said to Jesus, "You are the messiah, the son of the living God," Jesus replied, "I truly say to you. You are Peter. I will build my church upon this rock. Even the power of the underworld cannot resist against this," (Matthew 16:18). It is recorded [this other way] in today's passage of scripture, that the name "Rock (Cephas)" was already given to him by Jesus at the time of their first meeting, when Jesus had fastened his eyes on Simon.
14. When we meet Jesus, the Lord already knows us. -- [This] scene makes [us] think about that. This fact is stated and emphasized even more in the scene where Nathaniel became a disciple.
15. When Philip said to Nathaniel "We have meet the one whom Moses had recorded in the law and also whom the prophets had written. It is the man from Nazareth, Jesus son of Joseph," Nathaniel's reaction was indifferent. He said, "[Can] anything good come out of Nazareth?" Of course, it's not that he wasn't expecting the messiah. As a person living in the traditions of Israel, he too would have been hoping for the messiah. But, he didn't want to believe in a messiah native to Nazareth because it was no more than a small town in Galilee and it was not a town with any importance in the history of Israel. He laughed [because] the messiah wouldn't be coming from such a remote corner of the country.
16. Whatever though then, Nathaniel still hadn't met Jesus. Nor had he seen him. He didn't know him. Upon finding him out, he didn't say, "Something's wrong here." How sad though, human beings get set in their stereotypes and trapped in their prejudices and so shut down doors from the start. But, when Nathaniel approached him, Jesus said, "Look. It's a true Israelite. There is no deceit in him," (1:47). Nathaniel [must have] approached him with a clear look of doubt upon him, [I'm sure]. He had approached him with an attitude loaded with a disdain like "What good [could ever] come out of Nazareth?" But, Jesus had seen right into his true heart.
17. As Jesus spoke of him just right off from the getgo, Nathaniel asked, "How do you know me?" Whereupon the Lord said, "Before you were spoken to by Philip, I saw you under a fig tree." Thus, before Philip called out to Nathaniel, Jesus already knew him. The Lord saw Nathaniel under the fig tree. Being under a fig tree is traditionally the place of meditation and prayer for a Jew. As a true Israelite, while he waited in hope for the messiah he also was seeking for salvation for himself and for his compatriots, and he was offering up sincere prayer. There [under the tree] he must have been suffering pain that only he knew about and no one else could have been let onto. But, Jesus was pouring out his gaze upon this posture of prayer [in Nathaniel].
18. Through [John's] gospel, we are attempting to know the Christ of the resurrection still alive right now. It has in it what we're supposed to see and what we're supposed to know. But, it is very significant that before we see [Him] and before we know [Him] the Lord already sees us and knows us. As we keep this in mind, we will be reading more of this gospel together from now till March.