Come And See

January 13, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
John 1:35-51

What Are You Seeking For?

1. When John the Baptizer was with two [of his] disciples, Jesus was passing by at the time. John looked right at Jesus and exclaimed, "Behold, [he] is the lamb of God." On the previous day as well, John had said, "Behold, [he] is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," (verse twenty-nine). Upon hearing John's statement, the two disciples of John followed Jesus. They probably did not really have an understanding of what John's words meant. However, in any event, they did follow Jesus seeking something [from him].

2. Jesus spoke to these men as follows. "What are you seeking for?" -- To tell the truth, these are the first [actual] words of Jesus in The Gospel According to John. This statement is recorded as the first of speeches from Jesus, which could be because this is also the first of questions directed to the reader. "What are you seeking for?" In addition, upon reading [this] gospel account, this question will follow [you] around to the very end. [It asks], "What are YOU seeking for?"

3. Well, what are we seeking for? As we open this gospel two thousand years later and we listen to that statement, what in the world are we seeking for? Going one step further, you are here in this place but seeking for what? You have come to church but seeking for what? You assemble together in the name of Jesus each week, but seeking for what? What are you seeking for, are you willing to follow Jesus for it? "What are you seeking for?"

4. In order to give an answer to this question the next conversational exchange between the disciples and Jesus is important. It is written as follows. "When they ask, 'Rabbi -- which has the meaning of master -- where are you staying?,' Jesus said, 'Come. You will understand when you do.' Whereupon, they followed and saw where Jesus stayed. And that day they stayed with Jesus. It was about four o' clock in the afternoon," (verses thirty-eight and thirty-nine).

5. That day turned out to be an unforgettable day in both their lives. The time was even written on purpose, that "It was about four o' clock in the afternoon." Yet, the conversation itself that was going on there was not [written on purpose in] significant detail. They had asked where does Jesus stay at nights. Jesus said, "If you come you will understand." That's it. Even what happened there is not [given in] significant detail. They followed and then saw the place where he lodged. Then it was arranged for them to stay over as well. That's it. No dramatic encounter of any kind was given. Comparing this, for example, to [another encounter], the one of the person healed from an illness of thirty-eight years in chapter five gives a much more dramatic encounter.

6. So, why has such a childish conversation and event been recorded [in the scriptures]? -- It is because this exchange between them has symbolical significance. It is because it points to something very important, what they were supposed to experience later.

7. The word "to stay" has been used repeatedly in this text, and this word in other places has been translated "to abide" or "to be connected to." It is one of the key words that is found over and over in this gospel account. For example, [it appears in] chapter fifteen with the parable of the grape vine. I'm sure you know it. The Lord said, "Be connected to me." This word is repeatedly found there in that text.

8. They inquired of him, "Where are you staying over [spending your nights]? Where do you abide [dwell, remain, stay in one place]?" Well, where does Jesus abide? Jesus said, "Come. You will understand if you do." So, they followed him. They followed, and for about three and one half years, it would come to pass that they had shared their lives with Jesus. Then it would come to pass that Jesus would be arrested, crucified, and killed. Furthermore, after three days, Jesus, risen from the dead, would stand in their midst and say, "May you have peace." What in the world did they see through all these things?

9. They saw where Jesus was abiding and staying. Like Jesus said when he had said, "Come. You will understand if you do," they had followed and understood. It came to pass that they did certainly see. [They saw] where Jesus was abiding. Where was it? -- In the love of the father. It was in a love filled relationship with God the Father. They saw Jesus always in the midst of God the Father's love, in a relationship that could never be lost. [They saw] the figure [of this person] calling on the name of the father, loving the father, trusting in the father, and even going to the cross as per the will of the father. They had seen the unwavering relationship between parent and child there. Furthermore, even in the figure of the risen Christ, they had seen [his] relationship with the father, that nothing could rob away, not even death could rob it away.

10. Then what happened to "them" after they followed Jesus? They too became persons who would abide where Jesus was, in a relationship with God the Father, in the love of God the Father. That day, on that first day, they had started to stay over with Jesus. It started to become true in a real sense [at that moment]. It came to pass that they were also there, where Jesus was. For ever!

11. And in order for that to become true, as John had said it, Jesus had become "the lamb of God," that is, "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

12. In a certain sense it is quite appropriate for the sinless Jesus to abide in a relationship of love with God the Father. However, it doesn't seem right at all that we sinners still call God father and can abide in the fathers's love. It comes by special grace. Because our sins are forgiven and the debt of sin has been taken away, we can abide with Jesus where he is. For that very reason, Jesus not only showed us the relationship with God the Father, but he himself became "the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world," and he became the atoning sacrifice for our sin. He did it in order to grant to us what he showed us.

13. "What are you seeking for?" This was the first question. This is also a question for us. "What are you seeking for?" As Jesus asked that, what was he trying to give? Do you already know? It was the relationship so filled with love for the father, which he had for himself. "What are you seeking for?" We look at the love of God the Father in which Jesus remains, we too are connected to Jesus, and we are seeking to abide in God's love. For that reason we follow Jesus. For that reason we are assembled here in this place. For that reason, we take part in the body and the blood of Christ, who had become "the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world."

Come And See

14. Let's take a look at still one more thing. One of the persons who stayed with Jesus was Andrew. When anybody ever gives a list of the names of the twelve disciples of Jesus, Peter is the first to appear at the top. In either alphabetical order or [Japanese] syllabary order, Andrew is supposed to be first, yet, Andrew normally comes after Peter. However, The Gospel According To John tells us that Andrew was the first one to meet Jesus. It tells us that this same Andrew lead Simon [Peter] to Jesus.

15. In the story just ago, Jesus asked, "What are you seeking for?," and he goes on to invite them saying, "Come. You will understand if you do." They heard Jesus' voice and followed him. Then they see where Jesus stayed and they stayed with him. That was the story. But, in this text the persons themselves who stayed with Jesus become the voice of the invitation from Jesus, the voice of the invitation, "Come. You will understand if you do." Andrew became the voice of the invitation for Peter. Lead by the voice of the invitation, at this time, Peter became one of the persons that remained with Jesus. Later on it would be Peter doing the leading work in the early church, but unless Andrew had become the voice of invitation from Christ, there would not have been a Peter later.

16. Well, this event, which only The Gospel According To John transmits, could be considered, in a certain sense, a symbolic event that shows how future disciples ought to be. [John] called disciples the persons who had followed Jesus and had seen through his life, his death on the cross and his resurrection the places where Jesus stayed and abided, and they themselves had become persons who abided where Jesus was. But they did not just abide in their relationships with God the Father, which Christ had shown them. From there they went on to become the voice of invitation from Christ, inviting [others] into a relationship with God the Father. [They would] say, "Come. You will understand if you do."

17. The next episode after this clearly shows more about this. The next day, Jesus met Philip and said to him, "Follow me." The text says about Philip, he was from Bethsaida, the [same home] town of Andrew and Peter. Its having been written in this matter seems to be hinting at the fact that since he was from the same village as Andrew and them, who had already met Jesus, this turned into a chance for Philip and Christ to meet. Since in verse forty-one the text has "First he met with his own brother Simon," then Philip probably was next.

18. Philip had met Jesus this way, and just as Andrew did, he told Nathanael about Christ. But, Nathanael's response was cold. He said, "Does anything good ever come from Nazareth?" Of course, it is not that he was not expecting the messiah. As a person living in the traditions of Israel, he too was in earnest expectation of the messiah. But, it would have been a stumbling block to say he was from Nazareth. He would not want to believe that the messiah was from Nazareth because Nazareth was no more than a small town in Galilee. Even a modern Bible dictionary explains it as "a town very insignificant in antiquity." He probably meant that the messiah wouldn't come from such a remote corner off in the countryside.

19. The words Philip gave without even thinking to Nathanael were "Come and see." Somehow or other those words were already familiar to him. Jesus had also said them, "Come. You will understand if you do." It has "understand," but this is in the original text the word "see." Jesus had also said, "Come and see." (To be strict, the vocabulary that was used is different, but it is a word with almost the same meaning.) We clearly understand that Philip here too becomes the voice of invitation from Christ to Nathanael.

20. But, the really interesting thing is the exchange between Jesus and Nathanael that follows after it. Philip said to Nathanael, "Come and see." So Nathanael did come in order to see. However, Jesus said the following about Nathanael as he approached. "See. [He] is a true Israelite. There is no deceit in this man." As Jesus spoke of him so suddenly, Nathanael asked, "How did you know me?" Whereupon, Jesus said, "I had seen you before when you were being addressed by Philip, you were under the fig tree." Though he had come to see, he had truly been seen. Before Nathanael knew Jesus, Nathanael was known by Jesus. Philip probably was surprised by this too, because even though he was planning to tell him of Jesus, the one he was speaking to had already been known by Jesus long before.

21. Yet, I think to become the voice of invitation for Christ is that way. When we say, "Come and see," and bring someone to Christ, and when that person meets Christ, one comes to see dead on the truth that Jesus had already been looking at that person. Jesus knew all the person's sorrows, and pains, and requests within his or her heart. I am no more than a voice for such a Jesus. The one who has said "Come, you will understand if you do" is truly Jesus himself. [God will see to it that] you will discover and know that.