33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptise with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
A. [John 1:35-38a.] At the second opportunity
Imagine what it was like the first time that John pointed Jesus out to his disciples. Seeing Jesus coming toward him, [John] said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” And you can be sure that every eye turned to see what John saw. However, what John was saying about Jesus was so interesting that everyone took their eyes off Jesus; and he was gone. So the next day when John repeated his “Lamb of God” affirmation, Andrew and the other disciple took the second opportunity, stopped listening to John, and followed Jesus. We spend so much time lamenting “lost opportunities” when in God’s ordering of things, the supposed first opportunity is only an alert that a real opportunity or perhaps even a succession of opportunities will come along.
B. [John 1:38b-40] Getting at the heart of the matter
So you’re Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, following Jesus; and Jesus turns round and asks: “What are you seeking?”: what do you say? It may well be that the disciples’ reply was just blurted out becasuse they were surprised to be asked and, after all, it was getting late and they were hoping that they might meet up with Jesus the next day. As it happens the theologically important questions are often those that we blurt out when we are thus blind-sided. John the Apostle — not the Baptist — wrote “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” years after everything had happened and we wonder at his ability to say so much in so few words but these disciples ask “Rabbi” … “where are you staying?” and we are embarrassed for them. But we oughtn’t be because they were on to something. Jesus said to them, “Come and you will see.” and if you complain that we’re not actually told what the lodgings of Jesus were like, you’re still not getting it. What the disciples saw was the incarnate glory of Christ and what they received from the fulness of that glory was “grace upon grace”. No theological questioning, however brilliant could have got that experience. When Jesus asks what you’re looking for, what you blurt out is the answer he’s looking for. Remember, he doesn’t need to ask in order to know. Maybe it’s an unexpressed desire to see where Jesus lives that’s brought you here. Maybe.
C. [John 1:33f.] What the delegates didn’t wait to hear
All was not lost for those other disciples of John that didn’t peel off to follow Jesus when Andrew and the other disciple did. Andrew’s brother Simon was obviously close by and soon transferred his allegience. Besides, those who stayed with John were getting better answers than the investigating priests from Jerusalem had been able to get for all their clever questions. They’d asked, “Why are you baptising, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” and its as if John started to tell them why, “I baptise with water…” before seemingly going off at a tangent “But among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” Presumably the delegation had gone back to Jerusalem when the epochal encounter took place the next day, but anyway, this time John really did tell his disciples why he baptised:-
He who sent me to baptise with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’
So far had the delegation been fixated on John’s authority to baptise that he wasn’t even able to tell them that he was Elijah, only not the Elijah of their blinkered and dogmatic expectation. Speaking to his disciples the next day John explained that he had been sent to baptise.
If you come to the Scriptures like the deligation with a determination to recruit them to some cause of man, you will be, like the delegation, disappointed. If you listen like John’s disciples to what the Scriptures actually say, you will find them to be full of Trinitarian statements of faith from Gesnesis to Revelation. Best of all when you blurt out to Jesus what you really want to know you receive an answer, in measure pressed down, shaken together and running over.