This is a copy of a talk I gave on Wednesday 4 January 2023 at the 10.00 service at Saint Mary Magdalen, Billericay. The Bible Reading was John 1:35-42.
Our Bible reading this morning tells of Jesus calling his first disciples. In the earlier part of chapter one, John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, had been telling everyone that Jesus was the promised Messiah/Saviour they were hoping and longing for. And, in doing this, John would often describe Jesus as ‘The Lamb of God’ the ‘Chosen One’ and this is what he called out when Jesus passed by.
Now this must have struck a chord with John’s followers because they immediately started to follow Jesus. Andrew and his companion (probably John, the writer of this Gospel) weren’t satisfied hearing about Jesus they wanted to get to know him personally, but they followed Him at a distance:
- Following Jesus from a distance
Have you ever admired someone from a distance and wished you had an opportunity to get to know them? A work colleague; neighbour; celebrity?
Andrew and John may have been drawn, initially, by curiosity. They may have been too shy to approach Jesus directly. We don’t know, but it’s not too dissimilar to many folks in our world today, who follow Jesus from a distance. Some say: Jesus seems a good guy, he’s done some good things but they don’t want to get too near to him – so they follow from a distance.
For some it’s because they don’t know too much about him; others, because they don’t understand what it is he’s meant to have done; and for others, it’s because they simply don’t have the time to think about him. Many don’t deny Jesus, but they won’t acknowledge him either.
- What do you want?
Andrew and John must have been taken back by Jesus’ question ‘What do you want? It’s interesting to note that these are the first words Jesus uttered in his public ministry; and they come in the form of a profound and challenging question: ‘What do you want? Some people are so busy being busy they just don’t seem to have time to think about what it is they want or what it is they are wanting to achieve.
What do you want? It’s a good question to think about at the beginning of a New Year isn’t it? What do you want? Good health? A healthy bank balance? A purpose to life? A loving family environment? A reason to live? A faith that makes a difference? I remember the lines of an old Adam Faith song, I’m probably too young to know this, but I seem to recall that he sings to the girl in his life: “What do you want if you don’t want money; What do you want if you don’t want gold?” He goes on to offer her ermine and pearl; a diamond ring and his heart … but nothing seems to satisfy her desires. “Say what you want and I’ll give it to you honey” he cries. I think there is a spiritual message in that song in the sense that we can have everything and still not be satisfied. ‘What do you want?
- Where are you staying?
The question of Andrew and John in vs38 reveals that they wanted to get closer to Jesus: Where are you staying? They wanted to spend time with Him, to talk with Him about their lives, to learn from Him about God, the universe and everything! Where are you staying? When can we meet up for a chat? They wanted more just a little bit of religion in their lives, after all, they had been brought up in the synagogue, they wanted something more. They wanted a relationship with Jesus.
- Come, and you will see
Jesus’ response to Andrew and John was a welcoming and warm response, vs39: ‘Come, and you will see.’ What an invitation to those first disciples. Jesus didn’t say they weren’t religious enough or holy enough or sufficiently schooled in the teaching of the law or the Ten Commandments, he simply invited them to ‘come’.
No questions asked; no accusations made; no expectations raised. Come. What a wonderful invitation from the Lord himself and invitation extended to each one of us here this morning. Come, just as you are … learn a bit more about me. Allow me to bring my healing touch on your life. Come.
I remember a preacher once describing the word come as an acronym: C – children; O – older people; M – middle aged; E – everyone! A bit corny, I know, but it has stayed in my mind and reminds me that Jesus is interested in every single one of us and that we are all precious to him.
‘Come, and you will see.’ Take your time; ask what you want; make up your own mind. Andrew and John were fishermen. Not intellects or scientists; not politicians or idealists; not theologians or philosophers or prominent members of the community. Fishermen. They were men who needed to investigate, and Jesus is instantly responsive to that need. And people are still like that today, they cannot be pushed or driven; they need time to make up their minds. They need to wrestle with their minds as much as their hearts.
Andrew and John knew Jesus had the answer to the missing pieces in their lives and so they wanted to spend time with him and to hear what he had to say. But can you imagine the conversation these men shared with Jesus? Can you imagine the answers they received to their questions? Can you imagine the scales falling from their eyes as things once hidden suddenly began to make sense.
- We have found the Messiah!
At the end of our reading, vs41, we come across the first missionary act of Christianity: The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.”
When your life has been touched in a wonderful way it’s not something that you can keep to yourself. I know there have been times in my life when I haven’t been able to contain myself: When Paula agreed to marry me; joining the Prison Service; being accepted for ordination; the birth of our children; being offered the post of Team Rector here in Billericay!
But if a research professor was to find a cure for all forms of cancer, and kept it to himself, he would be considered to be selfish and uncaring and of condemning people to death; but sharing his secret, as it were, would bring life and hope to many, many people.
In a similar way, if a Christian keeps to himself what Jesus has done in their life, they, too, stand guilty of being uncaring and disinterested in people’s spiritual well being.
However, to share that experience of Jesus brings hope and purpose into the lives of those who are struggling to make sense of the world in which they live.
Andrew couldn’t keep his meeting with Jesus to himself and the first thing he did was to find his brother and invites him to ‘come and see’. “Quick Simon there is someone you must talk too. This is the person; the one John the Baptist has been talking to us about. I’ve seen him. It’s him. I’m sure of it. Come and see and decide for yourself.”
Jesus says, vs42: You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus says: “You are Peter, The Rock on whom I will build my Church.” Jesus had a plan for Peter’s life long before Peter even knew who Jesus was.
In closing … you may not know Jesus, but I can assure you he knows you: with your hurts and pains; your curiosities and frustrations; your optimism and stresses; your busyness and excitement, your grief. And, just like those first disciples, God has a plan for each and everyone one of you – you just need to trust in him.
Not by following at a distance but by being honest about what you want and what you need in your life and then simply come as you are and allow Jesus to touch your heart and change your life. All Jesus asks is that we come as we are and, when we do, we find acceptance and love and a new beginning for our lives.