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.”
Andrew and the other disciple of John’s could not have possibly known that day what “Come and see” meant; but whatever it would come to mean, what they experienced that first day was enough for them to follow Jesus, and enough for Andrew to tell his brother Simon to come and see.
In this season of Epiphany, we come to see who Jesus is. On the day of Epiphany Jesus’ kingship is made known to the wisemen, gentiles who have followed the star of a great kind whom they have come to worship. Right from the beginning, Jesus is shown to be the savior of his people and all people, even those outside of the covenant. In Jesus, there is a new covenant that covers all of God’s children. As we move through this season of Epiphany, Jesus’ identity will be revealed in various was by the people who experience him.
In this short passage from John, we have four different titles for Jesus: Lamb of God, Son of God, Rabbi, and Messiah. Whatever those titles may have meant before Jesus, they begin to take on new meaning in Jesus. What the disciples may not quite understand yet, but that John’s gospel makes very clear, is that Jesus is not just the Son of God, but is God in human flesh. John works hard to make it clear to us that Jesus and the Father are one. God has come into the world to save the world, not by wars and conquering, but by becoming human, living a human life, and giving the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world. Those early disciples would come to know that in time; but today they are invited to “come and see”.
The invitation to come and see is also given to us. I think you and I are always invited to come and see where Jesus is staying and what he is doing. Sometimes we can see in our own lives those places where he has stayed and acted; and sometimes we are invited out of our comfort zones to see where he is staying and acting in the lives of others. Andrew and the others would come to see Jesus moving from place to place, healing the sick, pronouncing forgiveness of sins, feeding the multitudes and raising the dead. Even with all of that evidence, when the authorities condemned Jesus to death, the disciples fled in fear; they had a crisis of faith where they could not continue to believe that Jesus was all of these things that he had seemed to be. Fear got the best of them, and they abandoned Jesus, God in the flesh to save their own skin.
But back to the invitation to come and see. What comes up for us when Jesus invites us to come and see? Oftentimes it’s hard to see where Jesus is acting in the world, but I am certain he is there. When I was a child going through a catechism class I remember the book we used said something to the effect that Jesus was everywhere and in everyone. I can remember being awestruck by that possibility. As a child, it was kind of easy to see Jesus in the beauty of the world; in my friends, in the flowers, in puppies… but as I got older, the “Jesus is in everything and everyone” theology got harder to see. Where was he in the death of people I loved? What about people who were homeless, those who committed crimes? In my early adulthood, I too had a bit of a crisis of faith where the things I thought I knew, I could no longer count on.
Luckily, I didn’t give up entirely. Little by little, my faith began to be stronger, and I began to see Jesus in places where it was hard; the deathbed of patients I cared for, in the homeless people who came to the cathedral to worship and to be fed in their bodies as well as their souls. And even in the darkest moments when I asked Jesus where he was in all of this mess, I was always reassured by his presence that reached out to say, “I am right here…come and see”.
This invitation to come and see that Jesus gives Andrew and the other disciple is one that changes their lives forever. Not only do they witness the things that Jesus does, but they begin to witness the effects of what he does which are life changing and far reaching; they watch Jesus touch people whom the purity codes say are unclean; they watch as he invites non Jews into the kingdom of God; they watch as people who live on the margins are brought into wholeness; they watch as those who think they have it all are told they really have nothing. That is where you and I are invited to come and see; we are invited to see those people and places that society has forgotten and continues to push to the margins… when we begin to act as Jesus did in the world, we begin to affect those people, places, and things that keep God’s people on the margins. We affect our own fears and prejudices that keep others out; we might even tangle a bit with the people and systems that uphold a status quo where people are without basic necessities that you and I take for granted.
Jesus, lamb of God, Son of God, Rabbi, Messiah, is constantly issuing an invitation to come and see. My prayer for all of us is that we can put aside our fears and our preconceived ideas so that we, like Andrew, might come and see where Jesus is staying. May we answer that invitation, and may it change us and change those we encounter.