When we “come and see” what Jesus is about, we are drawn into the transformative fellowship of being the Body of Christ and we are called to shine the light of God’s reconciling love throughout the earth.
Vicar Bristol Reading
Second Sunday after Epiphany, year A
Texts: Isaiah 49:1-7, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42
In the Gospel of John, the first words we hear from Jesus are a question: “What are you looking for?”
Jesus asks this of some curious onlookers who have been following him. They’re disciples of John the Baptist. While John seems completely confident that Jesus is the Messiah, the two disciples aren’t sure yet. That’s why they’re looking. They’re watching Jesus to see what all the fuss is about. John has said that Jesus is Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, that Jesus can baptize with not just water but with the very spirit of God. Understandably, that’s something that these followers want to see! So, they trail behind Jesus, and they watch. And Jesus turns and confronts them with this question: “What are you looking for?”
It seems a little obvious, doesn’t it? They’re looking for… him. They’re looking for some kind of evidence that he’s the Messiah John claims he is. But the question “what are you looking for” goes beyond sight: it is a question about seeking. It is about what is perceived with the heart, not the eyes. Jesus is asking, “What are you hoping to find? What is your soul longing for?”
The disciples answer Jesus with a question of their own, “Where are you staying?” and he says simply, “Come and see.” Instead of dismissing them or scolding them, Jesus welcomes and invites them. “You’re looking for me? Well, come and see. Come and stay a while.” So they do. The text says the two “remain” with Jesus for a time.
And whatever they saw while they were with him, whatever they heard, whatever they felt… was transformative. When they first met Jesus, the two respectfully called him “Rabbi,” teacher. But after spending time in Jesus’ presence, they call him “Christ,” Messiah. Coming into relationship with the Jesus changes them. Not because they find facts or gather proof, but because they personally experience relationship with the incarnate God.
This moment doesn’t just change them, it convicts and motivates them. They leave from this time with Jesus eager to share what they’ve experienced and invite others to do the same: “We’ve found the Messiah – come and see!” They tell friends, they tell family: “Come and see for yourself. Come and experience personal connection with this savior.” So the relationship that is at the heart of this story isn’t only about the relationship between these two potential disciples and Jesus; it’s also about relationship within community.
These two people are only here getting to know Jesus in the first place because they trusted their leader, John the Baptist. John had a relationship with them, and his testimony convinced them to come and see Jesus for themselves. And then their testimony convinces others. Like a ripple effect, the circle grows wider and wider.
This has always been an important part of the church’s story: sharing how your relationship with Christ has changed you welcomes others into relationship with Christ themselves. And staying in that relationship with one other continues to change you, and draw you even closer to God.
This is why Paul talks about the community of Christ followers as a body, interdependent and interconnected, a body that lives and breathes and moves as a collection of all its parts. God has called you into fellowship, Paul writes to the Corinthians. In other words, God has called you into relationship.
But God’s vision isn’t just for a community of people that are alike, like a sort of club. The circles of those ripples grow and grow. The welcome of God isn’t just about one group of people in one place. Paul writes that there are saints in every place who call on the name of Christ, and they all belong to the same God, like siblings in the same family. In every place”! Just think about that for a moment: The body of Christ is as wide as the whole world! That’s the kind of fellowship you’re called into as a follower of Christ.
If the two disciples in the Gospel story had been listening to John the Baptist, they might have had a glimpse that this is what they were getting themselves into. John said, “This is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The world. Not the sin of one person, not the sin of one nation, but the sin of the whole world. This Messiah who has come to dwell among us is serious about reconciling all of creation to God.
Anyone who wants to come and see what Jesus is about is going to be called into that same work of expansive reconciliation. Those who would be servants of God are called to be a light to the nations, as Isaiah says, in order that God’s saving love might shine to the very ends of the earth. This doesn’t mean being a coercive or oppressive presence in the world. Scripture says this light is given to the world by God. It is meant to be a gift, not a harm.
Those who would be servants of God are called into fellowship, into intentional community amidst diversity. That means doing the hard work of staying in relationship, which requires practicing forgiveness and reconciliation. It means healing and serving; it means breaking down barriers and building up community.
When you come into relationship with Christ, you can’t stay the same; you can’t only live for yourself, because you’re transformed, and you become part of the body. Other parts of the body depend on you, and you depend on them. Things will get difficult and there will be conflict, but you are also given this promise: God doesn’t leave you alone in this task.
Listen to what Paul says happens to those who come into the body: “In every way you have been enriched in Christ. You are not lacking in any spiritual gift.” Let these words be a reminder that you have been equipped and strengthened to be the community of Christ, to grow in fellowship. You have been equipped and strengthened to be a beacon of God’s love in the world. You have everything you need because God has given it to you, so you can be a gift to others.
And God knows something about being in relationship because God is relationship. God is Trinity, three-in-one.
If we take the incarnation seriously, then we know that this Gospel story about Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” shows us something of the face of God. It shows us a God who asks and welcomes questions, a God who celebrates the curious and the seeking, a God who draws all of creation into intimate relationship, a God whose forgiveness knows no boundaries.
But this story also shows us the power of God’s mysterious Spirit. It’s the Spirit’s presence that has John even recognize Jesus as the Messiah to begin with: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven,” John declares, “and it remained on him.” But Jesus doesn’t keep the life force of Spirit to himself: he gives it away. He baptizes others with its power, and he teachers over and over that God’s Spirit will never leave his followers, even when the physical person of Jesus is no longer with them. The Spirit will live in Christ followers forever: advocating, empowering, comforting, teaching, transforming.
That Spirit is, right now, living in you, as it is in all those diverse members of the beloved Body of Christ, throughout the world, in every place. That Spirit is, right now, equipping and strengthening you to live out God’s mission of radical love and reconciliation. Can you see it in one another? It is like a light in the darkness. Go out and shine that divine light to the ends of the earth.