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