Foolish questions are better than no questions

2nd Sunday after Epiphany – 2017

John 1:29-42

Marian Free

 

In the name of God to whom we can speak as an intimate friend. Amen.

The meaning of life

The meaning of life

We’ve all seen the cartoons about the seeker who climbs up a steep mountain to receive guidance from a guru or wise person only to be met by a smart retort. “What is the meaning of life?” might be answered by “Google it.” or “If I knew do you think I’d be wasting mine by sitting up here alone?” or “The meaning of life is don’t ask don’t tell – and now we’ve both blown it.” or “I don’t know. The computers are down.”

A cartoonist could have a field day with this morning’s gospel. Two disciples follow Jesus on the road and when he asks what they seek, all they can come up with is: “Where are you staying?”

Our gospel reading covers two days. On the first day, John the Baptist sees Jesus and identifies him as “the Lamb of God”, the one about whom he spoke, the one who is both before him and greater than him, the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit – in fact the Son of God. On the following day John is standing with two of his disciples when Jesus passes by again. Presumably these two were not with him on the previous day because John again says: “Look, here he is the Lamb of God.” Without hesitation, John’s disciples abandon him and set off after Jesus.

Jesus appears to realise that he is being followed because he turns and asks the pair: “What are you seeking?” “What are you seeking?” This is exactly the sort of question that a wise person, a guru or the incarnate divine might ask someone who was chasing after him. What are the disciples looking for, why have they come after him, is there something missing in their lives, an emptiness that they need to fill? Why indeed have they left John the Baptist? “What are you seeking? It is a reasonable question. After all, these two have been until now been followers of John the Baptist. They know what John has been saying, so they are not approaching Jesus in complete ignorance. Of all John’s disciples only these two, Andrew and one other, see fit to find out more about Jesus. They must know what it is that they are seeking.

This story is so familiar to us that we may have never really noticed the disciples’ strange reply to Jesus’ question. The disciples seem to be dumb struck. They don’t respond to Jesus’ question by asking something meaningful or profound. They certainly don’t give the impression that they are seeking a word of wisdom or the answer to life’s problems from someone whom their own teacher has identified as being greater. They don’t even ask the question that the priests and the Levites have asked of John: “Are you the Messiah?” Instead they seem to blurt out what must be the first thing that comes into their mind: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Something that might explain why they have been following him.

“Where are you staying?” I wonder, “If you had the opportunity to ask anything at all of the Saviour of the world would this be the first question that came to mind?”

“Where are you staying?” Did John’s disciples have no game plan when they left John so abruptly? Was it a spur of the moment thing or had John’s teaching prepared them to follow someone else? Were they simply curious – wanting to observe for themselves this ‘Lamb of God’? That they are surprised or inarticulate when confronted by Jesus suggests that they had hoped simply to be observers – to see what Jesus might do and to hear what he might say so that they could decide for themselves whether he really was greater than John. In all probability they didn’t expect to be caught. They were just checking Jesus out, gathering all the information that they could before making the radical decision to leave John and follow Jesus.

An alternative view is that the disciples accepted what John had said, believed that Jesus was the one that John had been announcing and were in fact hoping to become disciples of Jesus but were overcome with awe or terror when Jesus turned to address them. After all, what does one say to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?

You and I don’t have any of these dilemmas. Thanks to the boldness of Andrew and the other disciple we know that an intimate relationship with Jesus is not only possible but is freely available. Thanks to the gospel records we know that even though the disciples themselves asked foolish questions they were not excluded from Jesus’ company. We know that there is no need for us to be coy or careful because we are assured that our relationship with Jesus is direct and personal. We do not need to be in awe of Jesus, nor do we need to self-conscious about our burning questions. In reality, we have the opposite problem from Andrew and his companion. Our problem is that it is easy to become over-familiar to be so confident and so comfortable in our relationship with Jesus that we begin to take it for granted. We can fall into the trap of treating Jesus as a comfortable friend, forgetting that he is, after all, the Saviour of the world, the Son of God. After all, we are already followers of Jesus, what more is there to do or to know?

How is your relationship with Jesus? Where are you with Jesus right now? When did you last think about following after him? What would you say if he turned right now and asked you: “What are you seeking?” Does your relationship with Jesus have the right balance between awe and familiarity?

Andrew and the other disciple took a risk. They knew that Jesus was something special and they weren’t sure what to say but they didn’t flinch when Jesus turned and they didn’t run away. When the journey got hard they stood by Jesus and when Jesus was no longer there, they carried on alone.

Foolish questions are better than no questions. Any relationship is better than no relationship. The right relationship with Jesus will see us through the hard times and if we work on that relationship the world will see Jesus through our lives and come to seek him for themselves.

 

 

 

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