What Are You Looking For?

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.’  John 1:35-39.

In the Daily Office today, we read the Gospel of John, which again offers us a fine reading for the season of Epiphany.  Once again, we encounter John the Baptist, this time on the day after Jesus’ baptism.  As Jesus passes by, John again announces that Jesus is the Lamb of God.  

Rather than stepping into the spotlight, John  illuminates Jesus.  That phrase, “the Lamb of God”, would have carried immediate connotations for his Jewish audience.  The Passover operated as the pivot point for the Jewish people’s understanding of their salvation, and the Passover meal was lamb.  John thus bears witness that Jesus offers their deliverance. 

Andrew and another of John’s disciples hear this startling announcement and begin following Jesus.  The next passage provides us with insight into the kind of man Jesus was.  John doesn’t record Jesus announcing his ministry in a dramatic proclamation.  Jesus doesn’t attract his disciples with miracles or a sermon or a sales pitch. There’s nothing ecstatic or charismatic in his response. A friend of mine has recently convinced me that all forms of ministry (teaching, preaching, liturgy, outreach, and evangelism) are, at their core, pastoral

Jesus’ first question to the disciples reveals his pastoral nature:  “What are you seeking?  What do you think is missing?”  The world brims with people who are looking for something:  God, happiness, wealth, enlightenment or something new and exciting.  Each of us who claims to follow Christ, however, should regularly ask ourselves that very question:  “What are you looking for?”  If our response is something other than Jesus, we might want to reorient our pursuits.  Jesus’ question may call to mind God’s first question to mankind, “Where are you?”  Gen. 3:9. 

The disciples then ask Jesus, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  That translation leaves a bit to be desired.  Their question wasn’t so much “Where are you spending the night?”  Rather, they wanted to know where Jesus lived, where he dwelt, where he “abided.”  We would do well to think here of another passage in John’s Gospel:  “Abide in me as I abide in you.”  John 15:4.  The disciples aren’t asking so much about geography as they are beginning to probe his teaching, his “yoke”, and his idea of relationships.  Jesus’ remarkable response, “Come and see”, will shape the lives of his disciples forever. 

In the Gospel of John, the word “see” always involves something more than one might understand initially.  The Greek word orapo connotes more than visual observation.  It suggests spiritual vision, insight or understanding.  Jesus thus invites these two disciples to follow him, understand and find what they are looking for.  He’s extending the same invitation to you, and to me.


James R. Dennis, O.P.

 © 2012 James R. Dennis


12 responses to “What Are You Looking For?

  1. barbaraduffield

    So much to think about here, Br. James. I love it when I am shown a new way to consider a word…it always gives me a better understanding and appreciation for our gift of Scripture. In particular today, the word staying as actually more accurately defined as abiding. I need regular reminders at times to just abide in Jesus and all will be well. Not without troubles, but certainly safe within His timing. I also absolutely agree with the thought of all our gifts as being pastoral. All are needed and yet we are not all given the same gifts. If Jesus is love as I believe, then He wants the best for all of us and that requires the pastoral care of all of us.
    Your words have blessed me once again, my friend.

    • My dear Barbara,

      The rich wisdom of Scripture is, so often, only enhanced as we look more carefully at the language. As we’ve discussed, one of my many faults lies in trying to read too quickly, and we all overlook the texture of the Gospel when we read it as we would any other text. Many thanks for your kindness and your support.


      Br. James

  2. That really is the question, isn’t it? “For what are we looking?” I have to ask it of myself every day, all the time. Thanks for this grounding.
    Marjorie George

    • Marjorie,

      I think it is. And it’s very closely related to the question I believe may be among the last questions Jesus asks: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” I think we keep expecting Jesus to be absent, to live in the past. What are you looking for, indeed.

      Peace, my friend,

      Br. James

  3. Dear Br. James
    Your words are always like choice food for the soul and I feel all warm and well wrapped up in Christ’s love every time I read them and reread them. This inner feeling, then, I can take out into the world to do my work for Him whom I love the best and it is catching and spreading and transforming in my relationships with colleagues in church and students I work with. It is the ‘Being’ you convey in your worlds that I soak up like a little sponge and this is good for rekindling joy when it begins to ebb. I shall call your blog my Cosmic PlugIn.

    • Constantina,

      You are too kind. Thank you for your support and encouragement. I hope your work is going well.

      Peace be with you,

      Br. James

  4. greetings, Brother James
    Because of your enduring inspiration to others as well as myself, I have nominated you for the Candle Lighters Award. You can follow this link on my site to learn more!

    • Linda,

      Thank you so much. I’m not familiar with the Candle Lighters award, but will look on your site.

      Sabbath peace,

      Br. James

  5. apocalypseicons

    It is very good that you are keeping me in line – I have been drifting off focus these past weeks and your short phrase, “I hope your work is going well.” has pulled me back into focus. it is very easy to get sidetracked when working out in the world with other people. A good few hours with my icon of a Mt Athos Christ I am writing, this morning, and this afternoon all my student prep has been coming together with barely any effort and much creativity. What a joy! Bless you heaps. My next weekend will be at a Friary – which I liken to a Star Trek ‘Beam Me Up, Scotty,’ experience and getting reassembled again with no effort on my part but just being there. Magic.

    • Constantina,

      I think your work is amazing. I hope your time at the Friary is also amazing. Have a wonderful Sabbath, and a great week there.

      I wish you joy and peace,

      Br. James.

  6. I will gladly add my voice to this, Brother James. I visit your site not just for what you say but for how you say it. You do indeed seem to remember your pastoral calling at all times on this site, and especially in the way you respond to each of us. Thank you for giving us substance in a world of fluff, but thanks even more for the spirit in which you offer it.

    Ron Johnson

    • Ron,

      I think that notion of all our work as pastoral touches us the core of our ministries; just as it touched and ignited the disciples. I know the heart of your work with Faith & the Workplace lies in this pastoral idea: I’ve read your blog often enough to get a sense of that. Thanks for the encouragement, and your friendship.

      Br. James

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