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.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. (John 1:35-39 NRSV)
According to John’s gospel, the first two disciples (most likely John and Andrew) were initially with John the Baptist. When they hear John refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God, they are compelled to leave him and follow Jesus instead. Jesus turns to ask them, “What are you looking for?” They reply with a simple question, “Where are you staying?” We know their question is more than it seems, because they address Jesus as Rabbi. The disciples are actually seeking a rabbi, one who will be a teacher and mentor of their faith.
What are you looking for? This question can serve to be one of the most clarifying, guiding, and discerning questions Jesus asks us as we follow him. But we are wise to be mindful of the obstacles that prevent us from answering with greater clarity and certainty. We are wise to notice when:
We are not open-minded when we consider our answer. Last Saturday, my answer to “What are you looking for?” would have been, “I am looking for the portable recycling bin.” My answer seemed simple and obvious. But I didn’t know that the recycling bin was white and short, so I kept looking for a tall, green bin. I drove through town a few times before I realized my mistake. Assuming that all recycling bins looked the same hampered my search.
We are avoiding the answer. Think of the times when a helpful salesperson asks, “Can I help you find something?” and we reply, “No thank you, I’m just browsing.” We may actually be looking for something, but we avoid the answer for several reasons. We don’t want to feel pressured. We want to keep our options open. We want to find it ourselves. We don’t want to inconvenience the clerk. We don’t want to commit to something and then regret doing so.
We are not clarifying the purpose of the question. A friend of mine described her first session with a counselor when she was struggling in her marriage. The wise counselor asked, “Are you here to help your marriage, or are you here to ease your guilt by ‘doing all you can’ before your marriage ends?” What are you looking for here? Clarifying the question and discerning her honest answer helped the counselor guide her future sessions.
Are you talking to ME?
Today Jesus is asking, “What are you looking for?”
As you follow Jesus, what are you looking for? How would you honestly answer him? Will you be open-minded as you reply? Will you let go of your preconceived or usual answers? Would you answer Jesus right away- or want to keep your options open? Are you afraid to fully commit? If you are unsure what you seek, will you trust him to help you find the answer? What might be the true and deeper meaning that Jesus hopes you will find in his question today?
What are you looking for?