Listen to the audio of today’s Reflection:

John 1:35-39

Jesus’ First Disciples

     35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

     37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

     They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

     39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

     So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

The brief passage here is just part of the listed gospel reading for yesterday. But I’ve pulled it out for our Reflection today because it seems to me these few verses ask us a question that we should all ask ourselves from time to time. That’s the question Jesus asks in verse 38: “What do you want?”

In the passage, John the Baptist points out Jesus to two of his own disciples, and identifies Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” The two disciples walk away from John and begin to follow Jesus. That’s when Jesus asks them the question I mentioned above.

It’s not uncommon to hear someone ask, ‘What do you want?’ with a little bit of impatience – it’s meant to express something like, ‘Why are you bothering me?’ But the gospels don’t really portray Jesus as responding to people with that kind of impatience – the kind that borders on irritation. So it seems much more likely that when Jesus asked these men what they wanted, he really meant to ask them what they had in mind in following him. What were they looking for? What were they hoping to find?

After all, these men were following someone who had been identified to them as “the Lamb of God.” That wasn’t really the kind of description that matched the typical Jewish expectation of the Messiah: a mighty patriotic warrior-king. If you were following someone like that, it might have been to see him drive out Romans – or to ask for a position in his future royal court. But Jesus probably wouldn’t strike someone as a mighty warrior. After all, at this early point in his ministry, he was probably walking around in the humble “blue collar” clothes a carpenter would wear. So these two disciples of John the Baptist probably weren’t following him to find power and glory – or wealth and prosperity, or anything else that goes with earthly power.

So, what do you think they did want? What led these men to follow Jesus?

Personally, I suspect that the Holy Spirit had led the men to sense that Jesus could offer them a deeper encounter with God than they had ever experienced before. These two guys had been following John the Baptist, playing some role in his ministry. But John had told them that he had seen the Spirit come from heaven and settle on Jesus. Apparently the men had a hunger to go deeper in their lives of faith, and they sensed that Jesus could get them there.

One of our lectionary psalms this week was Psalm 42, which has a line I always find intriguing: “Deep calls to deep.” It seems to me that’s what was happening in this passage. I think in the case of these two men, the deep power of God was calling to the depths of their hearts and minds, and making them hunger for a deeper relationship with God.

That’s why I think we followers of Jesus should read and think about this passage from time to time – because it seems to me that Jesus asks each one of us the same question he asked those two disciples of John the Baptist: “What do you want?” What is it you want from your experience with Jesus? A little peace and quiet on Sunday mornings? A nostalgic experience of a cherished past, when things seemed simpler and safer? A little time with people who will be nice to you? A place to take your kids so they’ll be taught wholesome values?

Those are all fine things. And if that’s what you want from Jesus, I hope you find them. But it’s a shame to stop there, because Jesus offers us more. Much more. His deep is calling to your deep. Jesus is inviting you to open your heart to a fresh experience of the Holy Spirit.

He’s inviting each of us to become more deeply committed to prayer – and not just to recite the things we want God to do for us. But also to turn off our own egos, to be quiet in his presence and let him speak to us and change us.

He’s inviting us to a deeper experience of worship – to enter the sanctuary expecting to encounter him there, expecting him to hear the worship of our hearts and pour out his Spirit on us in return.

He’s inviting us to a deeper experience of service – to experience the joy of humbling ourselves in service to others as he did, of serving alongside him, because our love for him compels us to serve those in need.

Jesus offers us a chance to know him in a deeper and more personal way than ever before. To really know him, not just to learn about him. To be transformed by a deeper discipleship than we’ve ever known before. But he usually doesn’t force that deep experience of faith on anyone. Instead, he asks us that simple question he asked the two men in today’s reading: “What do you want?”

Let’s pray: Lord, we want to experience your presence in a deeper way than we have in the past. We want to be transformed in your image. Breathe your Spirit into us, and awaken in us a daily hunger to be in contact with the deepest part of you. Amen.

Every Blessing,