“I T WAS ABOUT the tenth hour.”
That’s what time it was when Andrew and another fellow (perhaps John) encounter Jesus. On our clocks, that’s around 4 p.m. (We’ll address this later.) Late in the afternoon, two inquisitive followers of John meet Jesus. Significant conversation happens quickly.
Jesus notices two folks following him. He turns around and speaks for the first time in John’s gospel:
“What do you want?”
A closer translation is:
“What are you seeking?”
It is the underlying question of John’s Gospel. What are you looking for? What do you need? It is a question worth wrestling with — as individuals, as congregations, as communities. What are you seeking? What motivates you?
What is it you really need, not just on the surface, but deep down into the core of your being? What are you looking for?
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THEIR REPLY is a question. “Where are you staying?” I think of this as something along the lines of “let’s go get a cup of coffee because this is going to take a while.”
So, Jesus invites them to “come and see.”
If “What are you searching for?” is the underlying question, this answer captures a primary message of John’s Gospel. If you want to know the Word made flesh, come and see Jesus.
If you want to know what love is like, come and see Jesus.
If you want to experience God’s glory, to be filled with bread that never perishes, to quench your thirst with living water, to be born again, to abide in love, to behold the light of the world, to experience the way, the truth, and the life, to enter into life everlasting … .
If you want to know God, come and see Jesus.
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IT IS ABOUT the tenth hour (4:00 in the afternoon) when this conversation starts. Raymond Brown, in his commentary on John, thinks this time notation has meaning. A suggestion Brown finds persuasive is that the day when this conversation takes place is a Friday. Friday afternoon around 4:00.
This is an important detail. You may remember that the Jewish Sabbath begins at 6:00 Friday afternoon. Once the Sabbath starts, a faithful Jewish person is to stay in place from 6 p.m. Friday until 6 p.m. Saturday.
Andrew and John (?) think a conversation over coffee will be enough time for this conversation. They can drop by Jordan Java have a cup of coffee chat for a while and be home before 6:00. But if they really want to “see” Jesus they will have to stay on with Jesus from 4 o’clock on Friday until Saturday evening when Sabbath was over.
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SO, HERE on Sabbath eve, these would-be disciples have a decision to make. If they really want to answer the question “What do you seek?” they have to “come and see.” They have to spend the weekend with Jesus.
To come to Jesus and to see him indicates belief in him. Once they meet Jesus, sticking around becomes their preferred way to spend their time. (Brown 75)
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THE DISCIPLES GET to stick around Jesus. What could the disciples have experienced in their 24 hours with Jesus? What might we experience if we stuck around Jesus, if we sought out intentional time to commune with God through him?
■ We could experience the weakening of the power of sin in our lives as we spend time with the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. For Jesus as the Lamb of God removes the obstacle to the world’s reception of the divine gift of life.
■ We could be strengthened in our witness to his unique status as the Son of God. This is John the Baptist’s witness in the gospel of John as a whole and in this passage.
■ We could open our inward lives to the Spirit, which lit upon Jesus and that he continues to bestow. As John tells his disciples “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and it remained on him.”
■ We might, like Andrew, be empowered to invite someone else to “come and see” where Jesus is and to remain with him as well. In John’s Gospel, it is Andrew who recognizes Jesus as the Messiah here at the start of his ministry and goes to find his brother and brings him to Jesus.
■ If we remain with Jesus, communing with him in prayer and scripture reading, we might, like Simon Peter, be given a new name, Cephas, which means rock.
■ We might, like Andrew and Peter, grow in the maturity and stability of our faith to direct and support others in their search.
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IT WAS THEN about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It is the beginning of Sabbath. It is significant because Sabbath means staying in one place until the end of the following day.
That means that these two men had an extended opportunity to remain with Jesus and commune with him, enjoying his presence and learning from him. They had the chance to stick around Jesus. When they did, they became disciples.
We do, too.