Sunday, April 1, 2012

First Words

The first words of Jesus in John’s gospel are a question: “What do you seek?”  Twice John the Baptist had pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Two of the Baptist’s disciples followed behind Jesus.  It was then that Jesus turned and asked them, “What do you seek?”  Such a simple question, yet so loaded.  What?  What is it that you want?  What are you after?  What is driving you?  What is the prize you seek?  What is the object of your desire?  You?  What do you want?  Here the searching eyes of Jesus touch the heart.  This is not an abstract question, not even theological.  This is personal, profoundly so, searching.  Jesus himself turns his penetrating gaze upon two young men.  He has no time for surface conversation.  He wants to know what they think.  He cares about where they are in their journey of understanding, where they think they are.  What do you seek?

As I read it, the disciples are a little shaken, perhaps dazed. Who wouldn’t be?  There is no hiding with Jesus.  No wiggle room.  It was one of those moments when you know that he knows that you know that he knows.  It was a moment in the crosshairs of grace, which necessarily judges or exposes the inner world and its confusion.  Taking our cue from what Andrew, one of the disciples, did next and said—found his brother Peter and announced, “We have found the Messiah”—and the cascading ripples and implications that take shape immediately thereafter, we can see that a lot was happening in this simple discussion. The disciples answer Jesus with a question.  “Rabbi, where are you staying.”  I suspect this was a recovery question of sorts.  They knew how to handle the Baptist and his fiery passion, but Jesus and his question are so simple, so authentic, so real they were stopped in their tracks and rendered momentarily speechless.  The best they could do was, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” 

For John the gospel writer, their question too is loaded.  At first it seems arbitrary, if not inane.  The prophet had just declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and these disciples get a chance to talk with him personally and all they want to know where he is staying?  Why the translators chose to use ‘staying’ instead of ‘dwelling’ is a mystery to me.  For the gospel writer, their question is dead on as well, and he gives them quite a compliment.  Jesus where are you dwelling?    In terms of the flow of the gospel, John had just written that Jesus is the one who was face to face with the Father from the beginning, and that Jesus is the one who dwells in the bosom of the Father, and the one upon the Holy Spirit dwells. 

In his ‘discussion’ with the religious delegation sent out to discover his identity, the Baptist answered, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.”  Among you stands.  He is here, present, not absent, in your presence, and you do not know him.  The Baptist’s disciples, unlike the religious group, hear their leader, turn and follow Jesus.  They see something in Jesus.  They want to know where he dwells.  Jesus does not give a theological answer about his dwelling.  He does not name the place or describe how to get there.  He does not give them a map—if he did, no doubt, we would all try to get there without him. 

Jesus had to be thinking to himself, ‘so, you boys want to know where I dwell?’  With what must have been a wry smile, he simply says to these two young men, “Come, and you will see.”  Walk with me and you will know for yourself.  You cannot find the answer you seek in your heads.  This is not about five esoteric principles that can you apply to your life for your own betterment.  This is not about a place where the Father’s blessings are housed, and can be accessed.  This is about relationship.  Jesus is the one who knows the Father and dwells in his bosom.  Jesus is the one upon whom the Holy Spirit dwells.  He has come to be with us.  He is the living one.  He has life.  We cannot have what he has without him.  He commands us to walk with him.  This is a command of relationship, full of eternal promise.  Walk with me.  Put your agenda away, let go of your ideas, walk with me and I will show you who I am, and who my Father is, and the Holy Spirit, and thus who you are, and what your souls actually seek, and you will dwell with me in my Father’s bosom in my anointing in the Holy Spirit.

“In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (14:20). 


Christopher Taylor said...

Baxter, thanks for pointing out the question posed. In this driven, expectation based, super fast paced world (especially in the States) the question is one worth.considering I think. Is it our Lord that we want? Is it Him that we seek, truly? Great post, thank you!

Christopher Taylor (Texas)

Timothy Parker said...

Quote: Jesus does not give a theological answer about his dwelling. He does not name the place or describe how to get there. He does not give them a map—if he did, no doubt, we would all try to get there without him.
I like this bit!

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a C&W song that talks about "old dogs and children, and watermellon wine". Why is it that God let Satan into the garden? Why is it that hell must be experienced now, before we can appreciate what it is that makes for real life?

D'Arcy said...

I agree with Timothy Parker...
I would SO try to 'get there without Him."