This year, in the time after Epiphany, we get two stories of the calling of the first disciples. This week, from the Gospel of John, and next week, from the Gospel of Matthew. To preach back-to-back weeks on very similar texts meant I needed to find some unique detail to this call story. I decided to focus on Jesus’ question: “What are you looking for?” Did the disciples know? Do we?
Readings for Second Sunday after Epiphany: Lectionary Readings
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have you found what you’re looking for?
There’s a song by the Irish rock band U2 that begins with these words: “I have climbed the highest mountains, I have run through the fields…I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls…but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” What about me? We might ask. Have I found what I’m looking for?
The people and relationships I’m looking for? The job or career? Is this it? Is this all there is? Or should I keep looking? We’re searching for fulfillment, for purpose, for peace. And we’re not always sure where to find those things. Is it in our careers, in our families, in our hobbies? Through the newest self-help craze, whether it’s diet or exercise or organization. Will this be the things that makes me happy? Have I found what I’m looking for? I started with that question, but honestly it’s the wrong starting point. We’re better off starting with Jesus’ question in the gospel. What are you looking for?
This is the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel of John. In fact, it’s the very first time Jesus appears in this gospel at all. John the Baptist, who has been waiting for him, watching for this chosen one of God, points to him and declares: Here is the Lamb of God! He’s speaking to two of his disciples, who then leave John and follow Jesus.
Jesus sees them following, and I always imagine this as kind of a comic scene. Jesus is walking down the road, and these two are creeping along behind. Curious, but unwilling to step up. Jesus finally turns around and asks them: What are you looking for?
What were they looking for? They don’t really answer the question. Maybe they don’t know, or maybe they can’t articulate the feelings and longings they are having. They just know that they are looking for something. And John has seemed to say that they will find it with Jesus. Instead of answering him, they ask a question of their own: Teacher, where are you staying?
Where are you staying? That word used for stay also means abide. It’s the word Jesus uses when he says, “Abide in me, and I will abide in you.” Teacher, where are you abiding? How can we find you again if we need you? Where are your roots? Just like the disciples didn’t answer Jesus’ question, he doesn’t answer theirs. He doesn’t tell them where he’s staying, instead he issues an invitation: Come and see.
What are you looking for? In your heart, in your secret and quiet places, what hunger drives you forward? What are you seeking in life? When I come to God, to scripture, to church, when I pray, what am I looking for? Am I looking for anything at all? Or am I just going through the motions?
If I am following Jesus like these two disciples, what am I seeking? What am I looking for? Consolation? Affirmation? Certainty? Healing? Belonging? Am I looking to gain power and influence or to surrender it? When we follow Jesus, when we are part of this thing called Christianity, what are we looking for?
Are we looking for someone who will confirm our assumptions and judgments or someone who will challenge them? Someone who will conform to our understanding of the world, or someone who will help us to reshape it? Someone who will make us feel safe, or someone who will make us feel passionate? Perhaps it doesn’t always have to be either/or, but Jesus’ question is an important one for us to consider. What do we want, what do we seek from following God?
Sometimes, we can answer that with surety. I seek purpose. I seek belonging. I seek love. But other times, like those first two disciples, we might not have an answer. We might not be able to put into words the longing that we have. We just know that something is missing. Something is incomplete. And we know that the answer lies somehow in this person of Jesus.
Come and see, Jesus says. Abide with me, rest with me, and you will see. You will see a new way of life where you are not defined by your past actions, or your bank account, or your grades, or the neighborhood you live in. Come and see a new community that is built on mutuality and compassion, patience and love. Come and see a new call, a new purpose to share this news with others.
We come to Jesus with questions, with longing, with hopes and doubts and wonders. We might be looking for answers to difficult questions: why is my loved one sick? Why is there so much suffering in the world? What am I meant to do with my life? We come to Jesus looking for any number of things.
Like those first disciples, Jesus might not give us answers, but he does give us an invitation. Come and see. The invitation is the answer. Jesus invites us to follow him. Invites us to become disciples. To be part of making real God’s kingdom on earth. Part of his ministry of healing, of wholeness, of bringing good news to the poor and outcast. Come and see. See what God is doing in the world, see what God can do through you and your life. Come and be a part of something bigger than yourself.
There are no requirements to be a part of it. Jesus doesn’t ask these first disciples for anything other than to follow him. They don’t have to pass a test or prove their worthiness. In fact, they’re going to fail numerous times along the journey. But always the invitation is there. Come and see. No matter your past, no matter your doubts, no matter your reservations. Come and see.
The life of discipleship is one of constant longing. Longing to see the promises of God come to life in our world. Longing to be part of that. Longing to share it with others. And along the way, we just might find what we’re looking for. Amen.