Saturday, January 19, 2008

Come and See (John 1:29-42)

Since the disciples were human beings, I imagine they had this thought from time to time:

“What were we thinking?”

At least, they had that thought if they were anything like real people, such as myself, are today. Every now and again during my Christian journey, I wonder about why I chose like I did. Why do I follow Christ and ground my life’s meaning in God, rather than something else? It’s hard work and sometimes it’s plenty weird, and what the heck was I thinking when I made this choice?

Not about ministry – in that case, I have to wonder what God was thinking – but about everyday Christian life.

So stories that remind me of how I came to follow Jesus for real help me out in those times. And this one, where we learn how Andrew came to follow Jesus, is one of those. When we read it, we see the path to following Christ outlined for us, and some characteristics common to the way we all began to follow him.

As soon as Jesus has been baptized by John, John describes him in such a way that his own disciples now want to see about Jesus. Two of them follow him right after the baptism, until he calls to them. All three go to where Jesus is staying, and the next day one of them brings a third person into the group.

Let’s unpack this quick tale. First, let’s remind ourselves about hospitality customs in the Ancient Near East.

Among these people, the obligation to welcome a stranger was a custom so strong it was almost a law. Their history had roots in desert nomad culture. To turn a stranger away from their tents out into the wilderness might endanger the stranger’s life. Even today, the lifelong villagers of the area will welcome a guest in much the same way. Stay as long as you like, and when you come back, stay with us again, for you are part of our family once you’ve eaten at our table.

So when Andrew and the other disciple ask Jesus where he is staying, they aren’t just making small talk. If Jesus answers “No place,” then either Andrew or the other disciple will offer him a place in their homes, or wherever they are staying themselves.

When they ask “Where are you staying,” they mean two things. One is that they really do ask where he lives right now, and they invite him to live with either of them if he doesn’t have a place of his own.

Jesus matches their invitation with one of his own. “Come and see,” he says. They invite him to stay with them and he responds by inviting them to stay with him.

Does this describe, at least in some ways, how some of us came to follow Christ?

At first, we hear about him or learn about him some way. Maybe we read about him, maybe someone talks about him or maybe we experience him in some way. But something about what we learn makes us want to know more, so we approach him with an invitation. Somehow we know that if we want to know more of him, we have to offer him the chance to know us.

Most of the time I think we get that part. We seem to understand it, especially when we quote Revelation’s passage about Jesus who stands at the door of our lives and knocks while he waits for us to let him in.

But I know that I, at least, overlook a very important part of what should happen next in our lives. I suspect many people do.

Notice that Jesus answers Andrew’s invitation with an invitation of his own. As much as he waits to come in and be a part of our lives, he wants us to come and be a part of his. Had the two disciples decided not to go with Jesus, they would have been stuck with only a partial relationship with him.

Even though we invite Jesus into our lives, there’s really no question about whether or not he will say yes. We ask God if he will be a part of our limited existence as his creatures, and he has already shown that he will be, by coming as a human being to live among us.

The question that has yet to be answered, of course, is how we in turn answer Jesus’ invitation. “Will I live in your life?” Jesus says when we invite him in. “Of course I will. And now, will you come and live in mine as well?”

We have the chance to say, “Yes!” And that is the good news.

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