On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me a call to come and see – John 1: 35-42
The author of a play takes great care with the first words spoken by the main protagonist. These words must grab our attention and they usually reveal something of that person’s character. Here we read the first words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John. It begins with Jesus addressing John’s disciples who are following him. Jesus always asks pointed, direct questions in the Gospel of John. The question is not a teaching, a precept, or a challenge (as we might expect), but a simple question address directly to them: “What are you looking for?” or “What do you want?” That’s a good question, isn’t it? The two disciples are asked a deceptively simple question.
Jesus asks about our desires so that he can respond to them. At one level, the question asks why are they walking after him or following him. But fundamentally, this is the existential question asked of any potential disciple: What do you seek when you come to follow Jesus? Are you looking for a comfortable life? Are you looking for the glory that comes from being one of God’s servants? Are you looking for praise and recognition? Or are you ready to do whatever it takes to serve in God’s kingdom – even if it means suffering the way Jesus did? Are you ready to take up a cross in order to follow Jesus?
Such a searching question, ‘what are you looking for?’ may also have many responses, ‘I’m not looking for anything! I am just trying to survive.’ But in sober moments we realise that we would like our lives to amount to more than just getting and spending, eating and sleeping.
Today, the call of Jesus is written all over this and every Gospel. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus calls the disciples away from their fishing boats to follow him (Matthew 4:18-22). In the Gospel of John, the disciples come to Jesus as the result of John the Baptist’s witness rather than in response to Jesus’ call. Instead of leaving their boats, the disciples leave their apprenticeship under John the Baptist. Our lives of witness are therefore imperative to evangelization.
Note the pattern of witnessing that occurs in these verses. John the Baptist witnesses to two of his disciples concerning Jesus. One of these disciples, Andrew, witnesses to his brother, Simon Peter, who becomes a key figure in the Gospel story. The ripples move ever outward, and only God can predict how far they will reach.