Summary: The question was asked by Jesus to his first two disciples and still needs to be answered by those who seek to follow him.
The Palestinian sun beat down on the two friends as they listened to John exhort the crowds to repentance. For the past few weeks they had followed John every where he had gone, listened to his message, and watched the crowds reaction.
At first they were sure that he was the one that the prophets had pointed to. The one who would deliver Israel from the hands of the Romans. This guy even looked like a prophet, that long wild hair, a beard that reached down to the middle of his chest and the eyes, his eyes shone with a zealots rage.
But as he preached he said things like, “I am not the Christ”, and “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”
Who would it be? Who could be more powerful then John the Baptist? And then today, a day that really had nothing special about it John said, “Behold the lamb of God”. He was the one, the one they had waited so long for the one who was going to change the world, the messiah, the Christ, the son of God. They were so stunned that they just turned and followed him, thinking that he didn’t look so special as a matter of fact John looked more like a messiah should look then this man.
But they didn’t say anything they just followed wondering what they should do next, what they should say, how they should approach him. And then it happened he turned around and saw them following and asked them point blank, “what do you want?”
The question is asked in John’s gospel Chapter 1 verse 38, and was asked almost 2000 years ago by Jesus of Nazareth. But it is a question that is timeless. It is a question that remains, the question of the day, the $64,000 question. The question which Jesus Christ still asks everyone who seeks to follows after him. “What do you want?” “What are you after?”
Jesus Christ wanted to know what these two men wanted, why they were following him and what they were looking for. Notice that he didn’t ask, “who do you want” but instead he asked “what do you want?”
Were they the legalist who wanted to indulge in conversations about the law? You know the Pharisees? They’re still around today. You know the ones if Christ returned tomorrow they would proudly tell him “We didn’t let anyone call themselves a Christian if they weren’t Wesleyans, or they smoked or drank, or wore their hair too long or went to the movies or danced, or had any fun at all.”
Or maybe they were just ambitious time servers, they were after power and position and were just seeking to use God for their own means, and they’d follow whoever they had to follow.
Or maybe they were fierce zealots who were looking for a political demagogue or military commander to overthrow the pagan Romans and restore Israel to her proper greatness.
Or perhaps they were just humble men of prayer looking for a light to point them toward God and the higher calling. Or then again maybe they were just puzzled bewildered sinners who were stumbling along through life and were looking for a light on the road.