Second Sunday After the Epiphany
The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
—John 1:29-42 (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Today’s passage from John is jam-packed with proclamation, with imagery, with narrative. I see at least five major themes in these 13 verses of Scripture:
- First, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and proclaims, “Here is the Lamb of God.”
- Second, John reminds us that he baptized his cousin Jesus, and that the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.
- Third, John testifies that Jesus is the very Son of God.
- Then, two disciples call Jesus rabbi—or “teacher”—and ask him, “Where are you staying?” And Jesus responds with a simple invitation: “Come and see.”
- Finally, we have a recounting of the story of Andrew and Peter deciding to follow Jesus and saying, “We have found the Messiah.”
There’s sufficient material here to fuel many blog posts, not just one! And the theological assertions in today’s gospel reading are profound:
- “Here is the Lamb of God” …
- “This is the Son of God” … and …
- “We have found the Messiah.”
At least, I find those assertions profound. They make me want to ask Jesus not just “Where are you staying?” as the disciples did, but also:
- “What exactly are you up to?”
- “What is your purpose?” or even
- “What do you want from me?”
But to all such questions, I think Jesus would respond with the same invitation: “Come and see.”
- Who exactly is this Lamb of God? “Come and see.”
- Who is the true Messiah? “Come and see.”
- Why should we follow you, Jesus? “Come and see.”
It is as if Jesus is saying, “Why not give discipleship a try?”
This is a difficult thing for us in the 21st century, isn’t it? We are sophisticated people. We know that the choice to follow Jesus is a huge life decision. Discipleship requires commitment. It demands hard work and sacrifice. And as a consequence, we want that choice to be an informed choice.
For most of us, making a major life decision is an arduous and prolonged process. We need time to do research, to consult experts, to ask the opinion of friends. We may consult Consumer Reports before buying a car. We look at Google Reviews when considering a toaster. In medicine nowadays, doctors are very careful to secure your “informed consent” before even a minor procedure, and modern pharmaceuticals come with extensive warnings about their potential side effects.
So we thoughtfully weigh the options. We search for information online or in books, and we begin to compile a list of pros and cons—of positives and negatives. What are the benefits, and what are the risks? I’m sure we’ve all done this at one time or another. Using a process like this, we may have decided to buy a house, or change a career, or move to another city.
Now, I’m not saying this is wrong. Making informed decisions is a good idea. It helps us to avoid making some pretty big mistakes. If we think things through carefully, we can save ourselves a lot of grief. However, I find myself wondering whether our modern habit—of “doing our homework” so thoroughly—may be one of the reasons why so few people undertake serious discipleship.
I mean, let’s consider the pros and cons. If we choose to become disciples of Jesus, then we will be expected to work harder than we ever imagined, to give more than we ever thought possible, and to surrender control over our very own lives.
And what do we get in return?
This is where the invitation to “come and see” becomes pivotal. Because, on the face of it, we get nothing—at least, nothing the world would consider a “gift.” What we get is just more work; more need requiring us to give; and more and more opportunities to surrender our own agendas in favor of God’s agenda.
But that’s because the gift of God’s grace is free, and is offered to everyone without condition. There’s nothing anyone can do to earn it, or to deserve it. And in our transactional world, this just does not seem like a good deal!
No. In our world things go more like: “First I give this, and then I get that in exchange.”
That’s how it’s supposed to work, right? But the gifts of God’s mercy, and love, and grace … they are just not like that. They are given to us freely, without any strings attached. So, if we choose to become disciples of Jesus—and to give our time, and our talent, and our treasure—what do we get for all our trouble?
“Come and see.”
The values of Jesus—the values of Christian discipleship—run counter to the way in which the world assesses value. You really have to immerse yourself in discipleship before you can even begin to understand.
The world cherishes wealth. The world esteems power. The world treasures control. But the gospel calls us to love the poor and serve the needy, without condition. And the gospel compels us to surrender our drive for power and give up our need for control. And what are the potential consequences of that?
“Come and see.”
The Saviour of the world is also the one of whom the Scriptures say: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3a, ESV). That certainly doesn’t sound like someone who’s destined for success or greatness, does it?
The spiritual life is full of paradoxes—full of those seeming contradictions which actually express a deeper spiritual reality. Paradoxes such as: gaining your life by losing your life—or discovering true abundance by giving away your possessions.
Discipleship calls us to become followers of the all-powerful One who emptied himself of power. You really need to “come and see” in order to understand—or to even begin to understand.
For example, without regular experience of fellowship in a specific congregation, Sunday worship may seem like nothing more than empty ritual. So … instead of “church hopping” … or “church shopping” …
Pick a church. Stick there for a while.
“Come and see”—regularly, again and again. As the Letter to the Hebrews says: “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25, CEB*).
Without an ongoing discipline of prayer, our conversations with God can seem hopelessly one-sided. So …
“Come and see”—regularly, again and again. As the apostle Paul advised the Colossians: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2, ESV).
Without personal sacrifice, our lives can become meaningless, focused more upon the accumulation of material goods than upon sharing the love of God.
So, “Come and see.” Come and see the Lamb of God, on whom the Spirit descended like a dove. Come and see Jesus the rabbi, who teaches us the way of salvation.
Come and see Andrew and Simon Peter, who drop their nets and leave behind everything to follow Jesus.
“Come and see.”
Just as the invitation was offered to those first disciples so many centuries ago, it is offered to us once again, today.
Come and see—and be enriched in Christ.
Come and see—and learn once again that God is faithful, and that you are called into the fellowship of God’s Son.
Come and see—so that you, also, can declare with confidence, “We have found the Messiah.”
* Common English Bible (CEB) Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible