January 15, 2023
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is 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 ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When 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?” He 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. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He 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). ***
The folks in Hollywood love to shower themselves with awards. There are many of them: the Emmys, Tonys, Grammys, Golden Globe Awards and more. To be sure, other fields present awards: journalism and literature have the Pulitzer, the sciences have the Nobel Prize to name a few, but none gain more attention than the entertainment industry.
If you pay attention to awards season in Hollywood, you know what happens before the ceremonies begin. Outside the theater, the red carpet is rolled out for the stars to make their entrance. Crowds gather to watch and cheer as the likes of Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney begin their high-profile trek down the red carpet.
It’s amazing how much excitement can be generated by having a person of some particular status walk past you. Today’s reading, which is the introduction of Jesus to the world according to John, is a stark contrast.
Unlike Hollywood’s ways, Jesus is introduced to the world while walking past John the Baptist and it provides a delicious contrast to the red carpet routine. We’re told right away that without divine help, Jesus would never have been picked out of a crowd. John the Baptist admits that if God hadn’t let him see the Spirit descending onto Jesus like a dove, he himself wouldn’t have known who Jesus was.
This focus on Jesus is almost humorous by its understatement. Jesus had no red carpet to walk on. He wasn’t some kind of star who was the center of attention wherever he went, causing cheers and rushing reporters. Here Jesus was just another face in the crowd. And yet hidden inside was all the Divine. Somewhere under the modest outer trappings shined the light of the world, the Life of every one of us.
But it took a person like John to point out Jesus: “he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’” And it could be said, the rest is history as others began to notice.
The two disciples heard John say this, and they followed Jesus. When 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?” He said to them, “Come and see.”
Come and see. How many times have you heard a child say, “Come and see” “Come and see what I made” “Come and see what I found!” “Come and see me swim.” Such words come with excitement and joy, even urgency. They are words of invitation to share in a discovery, to experience the child’s world, and to participate in the child’s life. The invitation begs a relationship, too. You cannot say to the eager child, “No, just tell me about it.” In such moments there is only one thing to do; get up and go see.
When the two disciples asked Jesus, “Where are you staying?” he does not offer an answer of information, but invites a relationship. “Come and see.”
The invitation is transformational, integral to firsthand faith — a faith that calls us forth, engages body, mind and soul and provides views into the mysteries of Jesus’ presence in life. “Come and see” is an antidote to secondhand faith which is content to simply learn of but never experience or extend the ways of the Divine. Secondhand faith does little to sustain or prosper the living of these days.
Firsthand faith is experiential. Think about it for a minute. Would you rather be told how pretty the sunset was or be drenched in the pinks, oranges, and purples of the evening sky? Would you rather read a travel brochure or travel to a new land? Would you rather know about Christ by someone telling you about him or grow into a relationship with him through following him and enacting his ways?
The most meaningful firsthand faith experiences I have witnessed among people has involved their whole being engaged — serving, sharing, lifting, listening, building, comforting, forgiving, loving. Firsthand faith begins in God’s ceaseless call to us to love neighbor as we are loved by God.
So, naturally a firsthand faith won’t let us stay where we are. It moves us to a new place. It opens our eyes to a new reality. It keeps our lives moving forward and sustains it in a way secondhand faith never will.
The deepest and most profound firsthand faith experience is Jesus himself. In each of our lives he comes toward us. His coming is always combined with the question of whether we will be spectators of or participants in his life and his ways. That was the choice John the Baptist set before his disciples.
John “was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’” It was their moment of decision. Would they stay or go? Would they settle for a secondhand faith, information and facts about Jesus, or would they choose a firsthand experience of his life?
If they went with a firsthand experience, they would have to leave John behind. They would have to let go of that which was familiar, comfortable, and known. This would necessitate opening themselves to something new and different.
Perhaps you remember times like that. It can be difficult to let go of a secondhand faith and life. It usually means there will be more questions than answers. What are you looking for? Where are you staying? Those are not so much questions to be answered as they are experiences waiting and wanting to be lived. A firsthand experience invites us to discover the answers by living the questions.
Think how different it would have been if Jesus had answered their question “Where are you staying?” “Oh, it’s a couple miles down this road. Yellow house on the left just after you cross Exodus Avenue.” What do we do with that? How does that change anything? What difference does it make if we know Jesus’ address but ignore the invitation to enter in. We might as well stay where we are. But that’s not how Jesus responds.
Jesus offers more than his address when asked “Where are you staying?” He says, “Come and see.” There is reassurance and promise in his words. That means He has something for us. It means that He is opening himself to us and inviting us forward. He has gone ahead of us, offering us a purpose and ultimately a place for us. Regardless of what’s going on in our life he makes it safe to move forward and take the next step in confidence that his life and presence await us. “Come and see” is his invitation to find the grace and mercy of the Divine and discover that gift applied in the living of these days.