Summary: Christianity is experiential. Jesus invites John's disciples to come and see. He invites us to come and see, also. When we look expecting to see Jesus we see him all around us. The Holy Spirit transforms us and excites us when we see Jesus.
John 1:29-42 “Come and See”
In a few moments, we’re going to flash a picture on the screen. I’d like you to count how many saguaro cactus there are in the picture. We’ll give you ten seconds to count them. Are you ready? [Show picture] Now, can you tell me what where the colors of the flowers in the picture? By concentrating on the saguaros, we ignore other aspects of the picture.
I had us go through this little exercise to illustrate an important fact of life—we only see what we want to see, or tell ourselves that we should see. This trait isn’t good or bad. Really, it is an important factor in our survival. If we were searching our environment looking for a predator and were also counting the number of trees and the color of the flowers, the actual danger could escape our notice. What we do need to realize, however, is that this characteristic has profound impact on our daily lives and our walk of faith.
COME AND SEE
Our text for today opens with John the Baptist testifying to the people around him as to what he had seen. When Jesus was baptized by John, John saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove and remain on Jesus. This was a sign to John that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. The next day John sees Jesus and identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God. Two of John’s disciples hear this and follow Jesus and begin to ask him questions. Rather than have a long theological discussion with these disciples, Jesus issues a simple invitation, “Come and See.” After a few hours with Jesus, the disciples were telling people that they had found the Messiah.
We learn an important point in this brief scenario. We learn that Christianity is more than a list of theological principles, and greater than a set of prescribed religious rituals. Being a child of God and a follower of Jesus Christ is experiential. Accepting Jesus’ invitation we follow him and in doing so we see, hear, touch, taste and smell what life, mission, and ministry are like with Jesus. We are immersed in the experience of God. The Holy Spirit uses our encounter with the divine to transform the shapes of our lives, to modify our perspectives, and to enthuse us for witness and service.
There are occasions, though, in our life with Christ when we look but do not see, and seek but do not find. We often blame God and say that God has abandoned us, when this happens. In reality, our eyes are playing tricks on us.
LOOKING IN THE WRONG PLACES
I have a friend whose son says that he cannot see God. The son is in his late teens and the last couple of years have been rough. He was seriously injured in a car accident. Recovering from his injuries was a long, painful journey, and at times the effects of his injuries still surface and he finds himself battling infections, drug interactions, and pain. Jobs have been hard to come by, and his medical issues often play havoc with his job and his studies. This young man is angry and frustrated. He looks at his life and he doesn’t see Jesus. Perhaps some of us can relate to his feelings.
We often see God in only the good things that happen. When we are comfortable, content, and secure we view ourselves as blessed by God and have no trouble seeing God. If our comfort, contentment, or security are taken from us—if bad times come—then we think that God, like Elvis, has left the building.
With eyes open, we might be able to see Jesus in the gift of community when we can’t stand by ourselves, though. We might catch a glimpse of God in the midst of our grief when he comes to us in comfort and strength. In failure we might find approval. In persecution we might find love, and in rejection we might find acceptance.
When we feel ourselves threatened, we frequently focus intently on the problem. We examine it so closely that we can see nothing else—not even Jesus. Pausing to step back and look around we may discover that Jesus was right by our side all the time.
John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said to his disciples that Jesus was the Lamb of God. When John’s disciples followed Jesus, they expected to see the Messiah. The Pharisees, Sadducees and Chief Priests anticipated threats to their power. When they saw Jesus, they didn’t see the Messiah—but only a challenge to their power and authority.
Expecting to find Jesus, we may see him in a variety of places. One young woman shared that she sees Jesus in classical music, nature’s grandeur, and romantic love. I often see Jesus in the early morning hours when things are quiet and I can sip a cup of coffee while reading scripture, meditating or praying.