Come and See!

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : John 1:37-39

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.”

John 1:37-39 rsv

Sometimes when I ask people about their relationship to God, about their spiritual pilgrimage, I put the question like this, “Have you committed your life to Jesus Christ or are you still on the way?” Somehow a yes or no answer doesn’t always tell all that people want to say. Some who wouldn’t call themselves Christians yet seem open to the gospel. I’m surprised at how many people will tell me, “I’m on the way.”

In the message I have today, I’m thinking especially of such people. They’re not convinced followers of Jesus, but they wouldn’t call themselves unbelievers, either. Maybe you are like that. Maybe you’re one of those Jesus spoke of as “not far from the kingdom of God.” You haven’t come all the way in becoming a Christian, but at times you feel like you’re getting close. Let’s say you’re willing to give consideration to the possibility of Christian discipleship. Here’s a word for you. Listen. I’m reading from the Gospel according to John, chapter 1, verse 37:

The two disciples heard him [that is, John the Baptist] say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

Notice that these men had been pointed to Jesus by someone else. They had formerly been followers of John the Baptist. They had heard his burning call to repentance and had been moved by it. They saw him as a man with a message for their time. His urgent call, his fiery intensity, had gripped them. Now, surprisingly, he was pointing them away from himself. This John looked at Jesus as He walked by one day and said, in the hearing of his friends: “Behold, the lamb of God.”

This, apparently, was the person for whom John had been preparing the way. Here was the greater One to come after him, whose sandals John was not worthy to untie. The men who heard this were intrigued. Someone much greater than John the Baptizer would surely be worth learning about. These two men started out after him.

Maybe something akin to that has happened in your life. You’ve heard others speak highly of Jesus Christ. You’ve known people whose lives seem changed for the better by Him. You’ve listened to preachers, perhaps, who seemed enthusiastically devoted to him. You wouldn’t call yourself a disciple of Jesus at this point, but you’re at least beginning to be interested. You’re ready to listen, open to be persuaded. If not a convert or even a serious seeker, you could certainly be called an inquirer, someone who wonders about these things.

The little scene we’ve just read about features a searching question from Jesus, a counter question from the two men and then a simple invitation to which they respond. Think about those with me. Maybe you fit into this picture somewhere.

WHAT ARE YOU AFTER?

First there’s the question of Jesus. He turns around and sees the two disciples walking along behind Him, and He asks, “What do you seek?” It’s as though He said to them, “What are you after in life? What is most important to you? Tell Me your heart’s desire. Why are you following Me? What are your expectations? If I could grant your one wish, what would that be?”

I suppose every one of us has a supreme wish. The British theologian P. T. Forsyth wrote once of how everyone has a great “life prayer.” Not just religious people, but everyone. They may not think of it as a prayer. They may not be able to articulate readily just what it is, but anyone who knows them well, who examines their lives carefully, will sense that they are pursuing one aim. In their desires and plans, their efforts and struggles, they’re giving priority, all of them, to something.

It may not be a life goal we’re willing to make public. If what we are really wanting most in life is to please ourselves, most of us aren’t likely to say so. Some will. Some will tell you that they want to be the richest person in the country or that they intend to get to the top in their business, no matter what it takes, or that they want to be a star of some kind and have their name in lights.

That’s like a life prayer because it represents what we long for most, what we prize most highly. If all our desires and plans and actions toward the goal were to be given voice, they would say, “Let me, above all, have this!” And, of course, whatever our life prayer is directed toward becomes in the deepest and most real sense our god. It’s from this that we expect our happiness and fulfillment. On this we set our fondest hopes.

These men we read about have started out to follow Jesus. That tells us something about them, where their hearts are. True, there are all kinds of reasons for a growing religious interest. Why do you suppose these men were starting to come after Jesus? Some became adherents for a time because it seemed the popular thing. Others returned day after day because Jesus had given out bread or because they hoped to see a spectacular miracle. What about these? What was the nature of their interest in walking behind Him? Just how deep did it go? Were they serious about discipleship or only curious? This was a searching question, maybe the most significant and revealing one we have ever wrestled with. What are you seeking?

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

The question apparently caught these men off guard, took them by surprise. I can picture them stopping, looking at each other, maybe glancing down. They weren’t ready for such a penetrating question about their intentions. Their answer, when they finally came out with it, was in the form of a question, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”

At first glance, that doesn’t seem like an answer. They haven’t really heard the question. What does this have to do with their life goals?

But Jesus didn’t dismiss their question or even treat it lightly. He heard something that opened the way for fuller interaction. They had called Him “Rabbi,” which was a salutation of respect: “My teacher.” They were indicating a willingness to learn from Him, to sit at His feet. That said something about their life search, didn’t it? Anyone who is willing to be taught by Jesus is already on the way, quite a distance down the road. In fact, Jesus once said that eagerness to hear His Word was the one thing needful.

Besides, the question they asked had more to it than first appears. “Where are you staying?” Or, “Where do you live?” Maybe these men couldn’t articulate at this point just what it was that they were after. Maybe they needed to think about Jesus’ question and sort out what was most important to them. Maybe it’s to their credit that they didn’t give a snap answer.

Apparently, they wanted time to listen. They were asking for more than just a few words with Jesus. They sought an extended interview. That tells us something about their degree of interest. They were serious. They gave signs of being in this relationship long-term. They wanted to know where they could talk things over at length.

But even that wasn’t the best part. They wanted to know where Jesus lived, apparently, because they wanted to be where He was. They were interested not only in His teaching but in Him. We sense the beginnings here of an attachment to Jesus’ person. Where He stayed, they wanted to stay. It sounds like a readiness to throw in their lot with Him. If they could only find out what His call meant and where it might lead! “So tell us, teacher, where You dwell.”

COME AND SEE!

However that question may sound to us, Jesus heard in it something promising. He could sometimes be stern with volunteers for discipleship. He often saw through their shallow promises and punctured their excuses. But He knew that these men were showing some earnestness. They were real inquirers. He said to them, “Come and see.”

Rabbis in Jesus’ day often used this expression. They meant to show by it that the solution to a particular question or problem could be discovered. They were giving an invitation to search for it together. They were pointing to something new and important waiting to be found.

Jesus’ invitation had that flavor too. It was as though He had said: “You call Me rabbi? You want to be taught? Here’s your opportunity. Come and see. You’d like time to converse, a time to reflect, prolonged conversation?” Jesus was saying, “I’m open to that. So you want to know where I live? You’re interested in finding out what it would be like to stay with Me? You’re more than welcome. Come and see.”

Isn’t that a welcome invitation for anyone inquiring about the Christian faith, anyone wanting to know more about Jesus and His claims? The Lord proposes a simple test. You don’t have to make any advance commitments, any binding promises. You don’t have to know all the answers in your theology. You don’t need everything in order in your life. You may even be mixed up in your mind and messed up in your morals. You may not be sure at all that Jesus has the answers to your questions or that He can meet your needs. The Lord isn’t put off by that. He says, “Try Me. Come and see.”

It’s interesting that Jesus’ followers, once they have responded to His invitation, use the same words in their witness. Shortly after this, Philip finds Nathanael and says to him, “We have found him of whom Moses and the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip doesn’t argue, doesn’t give a lengthy defense. He extends the same invitation he has heard from the Lord, “Come and see.”

That’s what Jesus’ witnesses today are trying to do. We tell people what we have found in Jesus Christ, what He has come to mean to us, what He has done for our lives. Some raise questions about all that. They have their objections. It’s hard for them to accept our testimony. Maybe they’re skeptical, inclined to chuckle at what seems to them our naivet?. But we aren’t bothered by that. We know that if they can taste what we have experienced, it will all seem different to them.

We’re like richly favored people who have just been fed a marvelous banquet. We’re telling people outside how delicious it was. They can hardly believe it. We say, “Don’t take our word for it. Come to the feast. Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Notice how it was with these two men. They responded eagerly and promptly to Jesus’ call. When He said, “Come and see,” they came and saw. They found out where He was staying and they stayed with Him that day. And that was only the beginning. They kept on staying with Him until the very end of His public ministry. And after He was risen from the dead, they stayed with Him for the rest of their lives.

“How was that?” you say. Remember these familiar words Jesus spoke, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). That word abide, which Jesus uses over and over again in talking about the vine and the branches, is exactly the same verb we’re thinking about today. “Teacher, where do you abide?” They came and saw where He was abiding and they abode with Him that day.

Do you get the picture? They stayed with Jesus, in close proximity all the way to the end of His earthly ministry. After that, they stayed with Him in the Spirit, as branches in the Vine. When He ascended to His Father’s throne, they were brought into a relationship with Jesus, continuing fellowship with Him all during their ministry on the earth. He was with them as they carried out their apostolic labors, all the days, even to the end of the age. Finally, when each one departed this life, breathing his last, it was “to be with Christ which is far better.” “Absent from the body, present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

Let me speak to you now as warmly and directly as I possibly can. We Christians are ordinary folk, obviously. There’s nothing worthy or virtuous or superior about us. We simply tell others what we have found. In Jesus Christ we have found forgiveness of sins. We have found release from our inner bondage. We have found God as our gracious Father, our loving Savior. We’ve tasted joy. We’ve discovered hope. We have something great now to live for. We’d like to invite you to trust the same Lord, Jesus Christ, and make the same wonderful discovery. But don’t take our word for it. Don’t take mine. Find out for yourself. Come and see.