Come and See
by Deborah E. Lewis
John 1: 29-42
I love that Jesus says Come and see (John 1: 39). I love that this is the kind of person God is when walking around in the midst of silly and over-serious disciples – people like us – that God-in-Jesus is flirtatious, invitational, gracious, and a little mysterious.
Think of it this way: What if, instead of “come and see,” when Jesus turns around and sees Andrew and his pal following him, he says instead Ok, this will be a tough road and there will be death. Pretty bloody and fierce. There will be betrayal and you’ll desert me in my time of need – but until then why don’t you join me? Sure, Jesus does tell the disciples things just like that later on down the road. But he could have chosen to start there – get the big stuff out of the way – and he doesn’t. He doesn’t choose what we might call “full disclosure.” He chooses unfolding invitational mystery.
Maybe you’re thinking I’m a little too into this. Maybe you’re thinking, Hmmm, it’s hard to do a cost-benefit analysis based only on “come and see.” You could be right. Maybe I wouldn’t love it so much if I were Andrew or the other guy but at the remove of a few thousand years, reading it instead of encountering it live, I do. It’s a strange little exchange they have. Andrew and his pal have been listening to John talk about the Son of God. In great detail, John talks about the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the One he’s been prophesying about. Then the next day as Jesus walks by John says There he is, guys! Andrew and friend hear this and start following Jesus. Jesus turns around, sees them, and asks “What are you looking for?” (v. 38).
This is where I imagine Andrew and his friend acting kind of like a middle-school kid who rides his bike past the house of someone he likes. He sort-of doesn’t expect that someone to ever come out or see him riding past – no plans whatsoever have been made for what to say should that certain someone come out to say hi. And so he’s caught up short when the object of affection sees what’s happening and talks to him. Flustered, instead of asking the person to go to a movie, he says something completely silly, like, What did you have for lunch? What are you looking for?
Rabbi, where are you staying? (v. 38)
Seriously? Where are you staying? That was your brilliant plan? You’ve been riding your bike in front of that house for an hour and that’s all you got? Here you have Jesus talking to you and all you come up with is where are you staying?
Then Jesus mysteriously, graciously says Come and see. And the next sentence is, “They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon” (v.39).
Sort of like saying to the object of your affection What did you have for lunch? And having him or her say back to you It was a fantastic pizza and there’s some left. Want to come inside and have some? What happens when you go inside? What happens when you see with your own eyes where Jesus is staying and you stay there all afternoon?
In this story, what happens is that Andrew thinks maybe his brother Simon should see this, too, so he goes out and finds him and tells him they’ve found the messiah (v. 40-41). Andrew brings Simon to see Jesus. Notice that: Simon doesn’t run down the road after he’s heard this – he needs to be brought. He’s going along with it but maybe not as over-eager and geeky as Andrew on his bike in front of Jesus’ house earlier in the day.
When they get back to the place where Jesus is staying, Jesus takes one look at Simon and renames him. He says, You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas (which is translated Peter) (v. 42). One look. No questions, no bike riding, no following. Just a vaguely curious guy who shows up with his brother and is renamed – claimed – by Jesus the instant he sees him. Even though I think it’s an amazing story, I’m a little less in love with Simon Peter’s call. Something about that one-look-renaming intimidates me. Reading it at this remove I can feel the power in being named and claimed. I can connect this with what we do at baptism, proclaiming God’s call and claim on each of us. But this part of the story makes me squirm a bit more than Andrew’s call.
Maybe it’s the opposite for you. Maybe this is the one that makes sense and beckons to you while the come and see mysticism seems needlessly over the top. Whatever the case, I submit to you that that’s part of the point. Though there are many similarities and themes throughout scriptural call stories, there is no one way.
Andrew is curious and almost love-struck, following Jesus like a puppy before Jesus has called or taken notice of him. Jesus responds to what Andrew is already doing – there is no invitation before Andrew starts following. Simon Peter is placating his brother, perhaps he’s mildly curious and wants to see what the fuss is about, but he is claimed and renamed before he’s had a moment to think about what is happening. Jesus calls him before Simon Peter has spent any time with him, asked him anything, or thought much about it.
What does this look like today?
It could look like a student I knew a few years back who started noticing mushrooms, taking walks to see where they grow and find new ones to look up, realizing through his mushroom-hunting treks in the woods that he had a new direction and purpose. Or it could look like my friend Molly who read an article about the lack of foster families in her county and thought “I could do that” – and then became an adoptive mother of the child placed with her. Or it could look like a church who says “yes” to someone in need of sanctuary, even though there was no way to know everything else that would happen after that “yes.” Or it could look like brave and justice-oriented community members who have good reasons to be suspicious of churches and church folks but who took a chance on a sanctuary church anyway. Or it could look like the come and see life of someone with a major like English or Art History or Drama or Philosophy, following in the wake of a passion just to see where it lives and what might happen next. Or it could look like the students who have knelt on the Wesley Foundation dining room floor during Sunday Night Worship and let God and us rename and claim them.
None of these calls was a cookie cutter. You might be tempted to think some of them don’t count as the sound of God calling. Don’t give in to that temptation. Know that God is wise and crafty and will use whatever means necessary to get your attention, open your heart, show you your life, meet you in the depths of a relationship – or a breakup. Andrew and Simon Peter and each one of us will be surprised by how and when and how many times it happens. The sure thing is that God meets us and claims us. There is no one way but there is a God who knows your true name and who graciously invites us all to come and see.
Thanks be to God!
© Deborah E. Lewis