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All are welcome ~ Come as you are

Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Come And You Will See - 01/19/2020

For a long time my imagination has been caught by some of the dialogue between Jesus and those who would become his disciples in this passage. It is dialogue so rich and diverse with interpretation and multiple layers of meaning. It is agile dialogue – it rings a little differently in each and every soul.

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks two of John the Baptizer’s disciples who have started to follow him as he walked around the region of Galilee. Jesus could be asking about anything here. He’s just turned around and seen two guys following him in a place and time where a lone traveler would have to be pretty savvy about encountering thieves and cons … desperate people exiled to the wilderness because they were “possessed,” had seizures or were disfigured or something … outlaws and revolutionaries trying to hide from the Romans.

What were they looking for? Some money? Some food? Someone to terrorize so they could feel more powerful?

Or was Jesus asking a deeper question than that? Maybe he fixed their gaze with his eyes and it felt like he was seeing right into the very core of who they were, like the way God sees us when we are knit in our mother’s wombs. And maybe Jesus was asking what they were looking for in there, in the depths of their souls.

Was it forgiveness for something they had done that haunts and shatters their quiet moments? Was it healing balm for a wound, deep and invisible to most? A wound from a time when they were disrespected and made to feel worthless by another? At the depths of their soul where they really looking for permission to lift an angry posture to God and scream out “Why, God!?”

Or was Jesus asking if they were looking for the answers to those existential puzzlers of all generations? Why am I here? What am I meant to do with my gifts and abilities? Who is God? How can my soul survive my broken human nature? Is there life after death? Is there life after death for me?

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks.

Thankfully, the two following respond with respect. “Rabbi,” or “teacher,” they say which helps to show us they mean no harm and they aren’t just being creepy stalkers. But they don’t answer Jesus. Rather they ask …

“Where are you staying?” It’s always seemed to me like such an impertinent way to respond. I mean if they are becoming convinced that this is the one John the Baptizer was pointing everyone to – the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” – it seems like they might respond with something more appropriate and worthy. Like maybe just the truth. “We are seekers of God and God’s truth. We are looking for the Messiah.”

 But no – instead they question the Lamb of God. “Where are you staying?”

Maybe they were really concerned Jesus did not have a place to stay and so they were going to offer their own homes. That’s what my Midwestern-polite perspective would categorize best case scenario for such an odd question in response to Jesus’ question.

Or …They could have just been very nosy or trying to throw Jesus’ off his game … maybe they didn’t know if they knew the “right” the answer to his question and so they were desperate to change the subject.

Maybe Jesus kind of liked they did this and it was one of the things that made Andrew and Peter seem like they could make good disciples. After all, Jesus is no stranger to answering questions with questions.

Like when Jesus was talking with Nicodemus about the baptism and birth of water and Spirit he was bringing into the world in order that all may see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus asked, “How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?” (John 3:9b-10)

Or how about when he flips this question for a question thing around on Peter later in story? Peter seemed to believe he could lay his life down for Jesus after it was revealed there was a traitor among them and Jesus started ominously saying he must go where they could not. “Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me?...’” (John 13:37-38a)

We might also think of Jesus’ encounter with Pilate. “Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’” (John 18:33-34)

It’s a pretty clever teaching and communication tactic because it leaves the initial question hanging out there, demanding attention and energy, as if to say … “listen again to the question you have asked – listen with that place deep within your soul …

“How can this be?” “Why can I not follow you now?” “Are you the king of the Jews?”

One commentary I was checking out ( Martin B. Copenhaver, Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered) discussed how effective this tactic can be for questions such as these. They are big questions and there are more. By not answering the question and ending it there, Jesus teaches us to go deeper and discover something new, to unearth new knowledge. I don’t know if Peter and Andrew were trying to do this when they responded to Jesus’ question with a question, but I’m pretty sure Jesus does this to stimulate thought, to show us how to consider other angles and perspectives.

The commentary also pointed out that of the 183 times Jesus is asked a question in the Gospels, he answers them with a statement only three times. I believe we have one of those instances in our reading today.

“Where are you staying?” Peter and Andrew ask. “Come and see,” Jesus says.

We lose a little in the translation here of these powerful verbs that are so key to the Gospel of John. Jesus answers very directly.

For one thing, Jesus speaks this direct, action-oriented response to the plural “you” – as in you, Peter; you, Andrew; and “you” any and all others who hear and read this. Us.

The verb “come,” is in the present tense. Right now – come with me, Jesus says to them – to us. It’s an invitation rooted firmly and always in the present moment.

And the verb “see” is in the future tense. It would be more roundly translated as “and you will see.”

As I said, this idea of “Come and you will see,” is key to John’s gospel. It’s all about following and seeing what Jesus does and is. And so if we follow this invitation with the disciples though what Jesus is teaching us, it begins to take shape a little more.

In John much of that revelation happens through the signs. In the Wedding at Cana we see a demonstration through water turned to wine of God’s surprising and lavish abundance poured out for the world in Jesus.

In the healing of the Roman official’s son, we see that Jesus has come to the world for the sake of even our enemies.

When Jesus heals – on the Sabbath – the blind, lame and paralyzed man languishing by a pool of healing waters for 38 years, we see that Jesus intends to break through human-made barriers to the whole and holy lives God intends for us – barriers imposed by others and ourselves.

Jesus’ disciples answer his invitation and in these signs we see our God incarnate who feeds all who come to his humble dinner feast of five loaves and two fishes; who has authority over all of creation, even the most tempestuous sea; who does not afflict God’s people as a punishment for sin; who in the raising of Lazarus, has power even over death.

“Come and you will see” indeed.

In recent weeks, we have heard a lot about John the Baptizer and that day Jesus came to the Jordan River to show us he is all in – he’s walking with us through all of this – and I mean all – from our basic needs for sustenance, love and community, to what goes on that deep place God has knit within each of us. John the Baptizer has pointed us to the One.

And now we too are continually invited, in every moment, to follow. And Jesus turns to us and says …

“What are you looking for?”

“Where are you staying?” we ask.

“Come and you will see.” Jesus says. Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~

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