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?” 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. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
- John 1:38-46
John the Baptist was spending time near Bethany at the Jordan River, baptizing people who wished to repent. Baptism has its origins in a Jewish rite of purification and was practiced by Jewish religious leaders before John came on the scene, which is why they were questioning him about what he was doing, and also why he told them Someone worthier was coming. The next day when Jesus walked up, and John immediately recognized that He was “the One” the Jews have been waiting for. But I want us to focus on the men in the story. After being pointed to Him, a couple of John’s followers wandered over to follow Jesus and sort of check Him out. I love Jesus’ question, “What are You seeking?” Isn’t that the million-dollar question for us all? What do you want? What are you looking for in life? These are two guys who have been following John the Baptist around the area. Can’t you just see them, loyal men of John, looking at Jesus and trying to think of an answer. ‘hmm… what are we seeking?’ “Well, we just want to know where You’re staying.” Jesus’ enigmatic answer is, “Come and see.”
“Where are you staying?” is a question with implications. Think about your day. Where do you stay during the day, and where do you sleep at night? The answers to those questions reveal a great deal about you and your interests. Think of all that is in your home that tells people who you are, and, likewise, think of what your activities each day reveal about you. In the same manner, the invitation Jesus issued the two men was far greater than simply showing them where He was sleeping while in Bethany. Where Jesus was staying revealed what Jesus was doing and with whom. In short, He was inviting the men to come into His life.
Even so, the men weren’t ready to hear everything about Jesus. “Come and see” was merely an introduction to Him. What the disciples would see while following Jesus were things they could never have imagined. So, Jesus didn’t try to describe what they should expect. Instead, He just invited them to follow Him and see where the road goes. The next stop was Galilee, where Jesus issued the call to Philip, “Follow Me”, and Philip in turn went to his friend, Nathanael, and invited him to “come and see” what good can come from Nazareth. The exchanges, the gathering up of men to be His disciples, are important because these reveal how Jesus begins the process of making disciples.
Recently, an email advertising another program to make disciples, offered by a different set of experts, arrived in my inbox. This was not the first time I had heard of the program, and it is supposed to be the latest and greatest plan for making disciples in churches. The program is going to use the scientific method for making disciples – measure what works, quantify the results, and replicate what’s successful in other churches. I admit, my first thought was that scientists aren’t even using the scientific method all that much these days. You’ve probably noticed this as well, but it’s not uncommon to see scientists form a conclusion (opinion), then go in search of supporting data. But, leaving science to the scientists, I do not see how the scientific method could possibly apply to the making of Christian disciples. The program can only measure activities such as participation in the life of the church – being in some sort of ministry or mission of the local church, supporting the church financially, these sorts of measurable activities that can be done by anyone, regardless of the state of his or her soul. True discipleship begins with a relationship, specifically a deeply personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and that is not measurable by any human standard. Moreover, the ways in which God works within each of us is somewhat similar – God being consistently Himself, so to speak – but how He loves and what He does in the life of a specific individual will be suitable for that individual. The work of the Spirit of God within us is unique to us and cannot be measured and replicated by a human method.
Consider, for example, repentance (and I certainly think we Methodists ought to give that a whirl!). Everybody needs to repent, to turn away from sin, but everybody doesn’t have the same sins in the same degree. Not to worry, though, the program materials I’ve seen – which are limited – don’t mention repentance. But then, the programs we use never do. Apparently, repenting of sin is out of fashion these days.
Certainly, there is something to be gained by observing churches that are successful in ministry, but to try to replicate that would require the same God-given gifts and graces in the same ministries and mission fields. How do we measure what God wants to do in any given church or neighborhood? How is it possible to require God to replicate His work in one church after another? Why would we think that the needs God sees in one town are the same needs He sees in every other town? In the most basic sense, of course, that is true! Everybody needs to know Jesus Christ, to repent of sin, to strive for virtue, and to bear witness to the hope and sacrificial love of God in concrete, tangible actions. But that last thing on the list – the tangible actions – are wholly dependent upon the preceding intangibles.
We make this harder than it has to be. Discipleship is a simple yes/no decision for each of us. The heart of discipleship begins with the call of Jesus Christ, “Follow Me, come and see where I am and where I am going.” Like the men in the passage above, we are invited into the life of Jesus Christ, to go with Him and to learn Who He is and what He is doing. The word disciple in Greek has the same root word as to follow. In other words, discipleship begins with following Jesus. It’s a messy business, that’s certain. Following Jesus is akin to heading out on a trip with no idea of where you are going. God intends for discipleship to be that way because, as you follow along with Jesus, He will show you what you truly seek, as well as who you truly are, which is usually a disillusioning experience. But we are better off without our illusions, and we cannot even imagine the wonders we will see with Jesus. We can’t begin to know what we seek in the depths of our beings. All around us are things we desire and hope to have, but most turn out to be lesser goods, unworthy of our devotion. Likewise, most of us have never known to explore the depths of our being – our heart, mind, and soul – if, indeed, that is possible at all. We haven’t a clue what will finally, truly, and completely fill the deepest longings within us.
Jesus’ answer to the men, “come and see” is the same thing He says to us. ‘Come and see. Come, see where I am and what I am doing. Follow Me, and I will show You immeasurable wonders, unbearable suffering, the power of hope, and the resurrection to new life.’ If we want to make disciples of Jesus Christ, then this is where we must start. Jesus didn’t use a method of any kind to make disciples. Instead, He invited them to follow Him, to learn from Him, and to be transformed by Him. Not only can we not replicate that, each disciple must continue following where He leads. One may know Jesus a little better than another, but to the extent that any of us is Christian, we are followers. The most we can do is invite people to come with us on this remarkable journey that leads to life.
The invitation stretches across the centuries to us today. “Follow Me…” Are you up for a journey? Do you want to go and see where Jesus is staying and what He is doing? It is a straightforward yes or no question. It’s a great journey, going great places, but you lose control of your own destiny. Still, there is more ahead of you than you know to imagine.
What’s it going to be? Yes, or no?
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau
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