"Epiphany 02: Come and See"
by Tim Suttle
*We had some audio difficulties.
01.15.17 – Epiphany 02
John 1 – Come and See
Confession: I am hooked on podcasts… anyone else experiencing this?
I’m not alone: 57 million Americans listen to podcasts each month.
That’s roughly the same number of people who use Twitter.
Youth group retreat – 3 cars – no direction – other side: podcasts.
One of my favorites is called Invisibilia: Latin - “invisible things.”
Billed as a science podcast that explores the invisible forces shaping human behavior… including spiritual things… metaphysics.
When it debuted, it went straight to number one on iTunes.
Earlier this year I was writing an article for a journal & I interviewed Lulu Miller, one of the hosts of Invisibilia.
I was asking her why do a science show that so often crashes into the realm of spiritual things?
This is what she told me…
“I came from a super-athiest background—dogmatically atheist. My dad is just like, there’s no point. There’s no meaning. There’s no God. I think I have largely accepted that, but I’ve always had a craving for meaning and explanation and even moral instruction… the things that I imagine you get when you go to church… my whole life’s game and journey has been, look dad, there IS magic, there IS meaning… but by your rules! I swear that in every story, somewhere in there is a conversation where I am striking out into the universe for proof of magic in the molecules. I’m just serving it back to him on a platter by his rules.”
This is so fascinating to me… I think in part because Lulu Miller is not religious in any sense. She told me that she’s never even been to church.
This super-smart & talented girl who grew up in a dogmatically atheist family w/a dad who told her: no point… meaning… god.
But she had a craving… for those things… she said, in fact:
“You can’t rip the craving for meaning or spirituality out of the person. No matter where we’ve shifted in culture there’s an ancient, deep craving,”
And this craving drives her on this quest to find what she calls “magic in the molecules” … some evidence of the transcendent.
So I was working w/a theory & I wanted her to weigh in on it.
My theory is: My generation grew up with four media sources: newspapers, television, radio, and magazines.
But, that world is gone.
Anyone under the age of 30-35 grew up in a world virtually flooded with information sources:
YouTube, cable news, television, social media, Wikipedia, fake news, and an entire Internet full of source material.
So learning to efficiently sort through the content, assign value to sources, weed through the noise and the garbage, and make their own decisions as to which sources they will ascribe credibility…
This has become an important life-skill.
It’s like they’re sitting at the head of a boardroom table convening a conversation about their world.
And they have to decide who gets a seat at the table.
And this is what I’ve noticed: Science always gets a seat at the table.
Religion? …maybe … maybe not.
There might be a youth director, pastor, a bible…
But there will often be a whole team of experts from medicine, psychology, sociology, neuroscience, cosmology, and technology
So I was asking Lulu Miller if she agrees … as a journalist whose audience is made up of so many young people… She said:
“I think people treat religion with this suspicion… are you just going to tell me how it should be? Are you going to just give me one answer?”
In other words: religion doesn’t always seem to play fair.
Religion stacks the deck so they always come out on top.
So as an editor at their table, they’re suspicious of that source.
The more we talked the more she honed in on one common theme: It was about questions… and the way religious people ask & answer questions.
Historically Christians are fine with questions only to the extent that they are able to control the answers.
When was the last time you heard a religious person in front of a crowd ask a question to which they didn’t already know the answer?
Much of what passes for Christian in our culture is driven by answers, not questions.
PT: And that’s the fine point of it: Christians like to put answers at the end of their questions. Scientists like to put questions at the end of their answers.
Lulu Miller’s take on it is that when you have an answer for everything, it takes all the mystery away… & the mystery is what keeps us interested.
“You go back to ancient rites of storytelling… A question is like a mystery. That’s the most basic way to lure somebody in. It’s not with an answer. It’s the question. We are wired to keep listening if there’s still some mystery in the room.”
We’re wired to keep listening if there’s some mystery in the room.
If not? … people will simply check-out.
Answers dissipate mystery… questions foster mystery, wonder, awe.
Jesus was a huge fan of questions. He loved to put questions at the end of other people’s answers… in fact:
Scholars tell us that in the NT, JS asked between 2-300 questions
That’s a LOT of questions!
His teaching often came in the form of a question … or a story in the form of a question.
Here are just a few of JS’s questions:
“What are you looking for?” Jn. 1:38
“What do you want me to do for you?” Mk. 10:36
“Who do you say that I am?” Mt. 16:15
“Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to your life?” Mt. 6:27
“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Mt. 8:26
“Why do you worry about what you wear?” Mt. 6:28
“Why do you worry about the splinter in your brother’s eye & fail to perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? Mt 7:2
“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life, & what can one give in exchange for his life? Mt 16:26
“If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?” Luke 12:26
“Do you love me?” Jn 21:16
“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Mt 27:46
PT: Jesus loved to put questions at the end of religious people’s pat answers. He seemed committed to the power of a good open-ended question that wasn’t tied up in a bow w/a nice neat answer. I wonder if that’s because he knew the questions are where all the power is. We see this in our txt for today
John 1 29The next day he [JTB] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.
33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, & they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.
So… John the Baptist introduces two of his followers to Jesus, and they immediately leave John & begin to follow Jesus.
And this sets up Jesus’s first line of dialogue in this gospel:
So, his first act isn’t a miracle, healing, sermon, or a protest…
It’s a question: “What are you looking for?”
And they reply w/their own question: “Where are you staying?”
PT: Okay, just a helpful hint – if you ever see Jesus, & he asks you what you are looking for, please think of something better than, “Hey, where are you staying? We’re over at the Motel 6… what room are you in?”
Jesus’ 1st words in the Gospel of John are a Question:
In fact, they are the central question of the entire gospel of John:
What are you looking for?
What are you seeking when you come to Jesus?
What are you trying to get him to do for you?
What do you want out of this encounter?
This is a good question… we should be asking this question.
Remember movie Goodwill hunting? Robin Williams & Matt Damon.
Kid has photographic memory, reads books so fast…
Whenever he gets in trouble… or feels insecure… or exposed…
He spouts off all of his answers, knowledge he gets from books.
Until the day he’s w/his therapist, who he likes & trusts and the therapist asks him a really simple, basic, question:
“What do you want? … What are you looking for?”
And the genius who has a smart-aleck answer for everything – is stumped by this simple powerful question.
“What do you want? … What are you looking for?”
We encounter all kinds of questions each day = have no great power:
What time is it? What do you want for dinner?
Who’s the best rock-n-roll band ever… anyone… Beatles…
Those are not the kinds of question I'm talking about
I’m talking about the kind of questions that have the power to cut us to the heart… they leave us exposed & vulnerable.
Precisely because they are hard to answer… maybe impossible.
PT: Jesus asks these questions, in fact, not because he wants them to answer at all. Mostly he wants them to wrestle with the question.
When it comes to the spiritual life, especially struggles & times in which we just feel stuck or trapped:
It’s almost always the question that opens the door.
A simple Q that cuts to the heart because there’s no easy answer.
“What are you looking for when you follow Jesus?”
Answers? Help? Healing?
Truth? Certitude? Peace?
Power? Control? Religion?
It’s a brilliant question.
“What are you looking for when you engage with Jesus?”
So they answer him with a Q of their own, “Where are you staying?”
And it sounds like they choked because it doesn’t come off in English at all.
Transliterated: it says, “Where do you stay, remain or abide.”
This word “stay” or “remain” is Meno.
It is used 5 times in this short passage.
And you find it all over the gospel of John; 42 times by my count.
6:56 – “Whoever eats my flesh & drinks my blood menos in me, & I...”
8:31 – “If you meno/stay/remain in my word, you are my disciples”
8:35 – “A slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son menos/stays/remains with the family forever.”
14:10 – “The words I speak I speak not of myself, but the Father, who meno/stays/remains in me...”
15:4 – “Meno in me as I meno in you… as branches meno in vine, so…”
15:7 – “if you meno in my & words meno in you… ask what you wish…”
15:9 – “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you, so meno in my love”
15:11 – “These things have I spoken that my joy may meno in you…”
So their question isn’t just about where he’s staying. They’re asking:
Where does Jesus is draw his life from… what’s the source?
Not just where does he live, but what’s the source of his living.
It’s like the Godfather … “I didn’t know who you were with.”
It’s a question about who he’s with… where his loyalties lie.
And the fascinating thing is:
Jesus refuses to answer it.
He just says, “come and see”
And the power of this whole section is in his refusal to answer the question!
If he would’ve answered it plainly all the tension would dissipate.
It’s almost like Jesus was saying,
“Look, I could tell you who I am... but there are things about who I am, what I’m doing…”
“You’re just going to have to see them for yourself & then decided who you think I’m with.”
“I could give you answers, but I’m not going to. Because what you really need to do is wrestle w/some questions.
“Plus, if I tell you, then all the mystery goes out of the room & you’ll lose interest before you ever really get to the good stuff.”
PT: So he says, “Come and see.” And I think this is the situation we find ourselves in very OFTEN during our lives as we attempt to follow Jesus.
And sometimes it’s frustrating.
We just want some answers… & all we get is: come & see.
Nick’s 4th grade teacher told all of the parents that 4th grade is where the kids start to be asked to take responsibility for their own learning.
They do more of their work w/out the parents looking it over.
Which means mom & dad aren’t correcting mistakes.
Which means the grades go down & the parents freak out.
They start calling her to see what’s wrong.
Asking if they can bring it home for mom & dad to check it over.
She says, “If you correct homework so they give me all the right answers, then I can’t tell what they know & what they don’t know.”
She’s kind of calling them out: “You just want them to get good grades. I want them to learn! Translation: can’t have all the answers”
PT: It’s a similar situation w/Jesus. He knows we don’t need all the answers! (we’ll almost always convert answers into a way to gain more power & control anyway). So Jesus forced his followers to wrestle with the questions. And this is how it is for all of us: Nearly everything we need to learn about Jesus & KOG, will not come thru answers, it will come thru the questions.
Who are you with? Who is Jesus?
What is the KOG? How can I see it?
What does God want me to do with my life?
What’s wrong… what is killing you… why do you always do that?
Why did he get sick?
Why were my parents like that?
What happens when we die?
Why do I always feel like something’s wrong with me?
Are you really real, God? Do you have me? Am I gonna be ok?
PT: These are just a few of the questions that we all live with. And one of the great lessons of this text is that questions are so much more powerful than answers, in terms of their ability to shape us as disciples.
Over & over, in the Gospel of John, when somebody asks Jesus a question – he refuses to answer it.
In fact, usually, he actually builds the tension purposefully.
And the biggest question for John was: “What are you looking for?”
They answer back with their own question:
“Who are you with, what’s your deal? What camp are you in?”
Jesus doesn’t answer … “Come & see. Come find out.”
PT: There will be no easy answers for their questions. If they want answers, then they’re just going to have to come & see.
This is teaching US something important about our own discipleship.
As much as we like to have answers… & pursue knowledge…
And as good as knowledge and answers can be…
What we really need more than anything else is to “come and see.”
To follow in the way of Jesus – pursue life w/God like he did.
Okay so, let’s say you are up for this. You want to “wrestle with the questions,” which btw… just sounds so pretentious doesn't it?
I mean, seriously… let’s just tell the truth you know?
“Wrestle with the questions”… can sound nauseating.
Couldn’t we just watch a football game instead?
… but i’s not as bad as it sounds.
Jesus isn’t trying to get everyone to be philosophy majors here.
He’s just saying, “Look I know how this goes. If I give you the answers you’ll either lose interest, or leverage them for power & control over other people.”
Which was the big struggle of Jesus’ day, btw.
When they said, “Where are you staying… who are you with?”
There were really 4 answers for Jesus to choose from…
Zealots – their answer to all of Israel’s problems = Holy war.
Pharisees – their answer was holiness.
Essenes – their answer was to segregate themselves.
Sadducees – their answer was to get while the getting’s good.
PT: those were the main Jewish factions of the day (They were the political & religious parties of the day) And Jesus refused to pick a side. Jesus refused to pick a team, because he was trying to change the game.
The game of “my information is better than your information” is such a silly game & it can’t get us where Jesus wants us to go.
Zealots game: “I’ll beat you up if you don’t do what I want.”
Pharisee game: “Follow the rules… all of them… perfectly.”
Essenes game: “I’ll take my marbles & go home if u don’t do…” … si
Sadducees: “Let’s cheat to win… just win… doesn’t matter how.”
So: any answer Jesus could give would end the conversation, because everyone asking had already chosen sides.
Everyone was already highly invested in their answers.
And none of those approaches could get people to where JS was trying to get them to go.
The normal answers of the day were of no use to Jesus.
Because he was trying to give them a whole new way of framing the question…
This is one of the most confusing things about being a disciple.
For the most part, following Jesus isn’t about LEARNING
It’s really more about UNLEARNING.
“The reason questions are so much more powerful than answers, in our discipleship, is that most of the hard work of what it means to chase after Jesus is more like an un-learning than a learning.”
And what most pastors won’t tell you is that much of what we all need to unlearn is stuff we learned at church… but the problem is:
Most churches are more interested in control than in truth.
Most of the time when religious people get all concerned with protecting the truth… they’re really just protecting their power.
Questions are dangerous… because we might not like the answers.
As a pastor I think it’s my duty to keep the questions in front of us.
At the end of day: all we can really say for sure is that God’s love & grace & mercy is a mystery.
We do not get to determine, control, or administrate God!
God is free to love & forgive & redeem whomever God wants…
PT: One of the most important tasks of our discipleship is about unlearning all of our sophisticated means of controlling God, boxing God in, & limiting God’s exposure… & instead, embracing childlike faith, learning to trust … to wonder.
For that kind of a task, questions are incredibly helpful.
Answers just seem to mostly get in the way.
Answers dissipate all of the mystery… they take away all the heat.
Questions? The questions are where all the power is to change lives.
PT: All throughout the gospels, Jesus is trying to push us toward a life that is deep & rich & resilient & powerful it only comes through a kind of struggle w/questions that help us let go of our old way of seeing the world & to trust Jesus for his new way of seeing the world…
So, how can we do this well? How do we wrestle w/the questions? How do we unlearn everything we need to let go of & start to embrace Jesus’ way?
Well, there’s really only one way to do it right.
And there are lots of ways to mess it up.
The one way to do is to respond to his invitation: “Come & See”
We can’t wrestle with the questions Jesus wants us to wrestle with, without remaining in him, without meno-ing in him.
Come & See just means follow after me…
Pursue life in the way that I’m modeling & teaching.
We talked last week about the YOKE of a rabbi… teaching?
Come & See, in a very real sense, means “Carry my Yoke.”
My guess is this is counter-intuitive to most of us – because we come from churches in which we’ve been taught follow Jesus out of guilt/fear/shame.
These guys are invited almost out of a sense of adventure.
“You want to know what I'm all about? Come and see!”
Come follow me.
Do the things I do.
See the world the way I see it.
And then you’ll know who I am, & who I’m with… AND
You’ll start to know who you are & who you’re with
And that long list of questions you’ve got… they’re going to do exactly what they need to do to your soul in order to set you free.
When Jim & Jennifer Schmidt & Bart Farmer go out to the homeless camps with food & supplies 2-3 times a week.
They learn things about God you can’t learn by reading your bible.
You have to come and see.
Tom Pomarico goes up to the prison at Lansing every Thursday & mentors young men who are in prison, so when they get out = more healthy ground.
Tom learns things about JS sitting behind those prison walls that he could never learn sitting here in church.
You have to come & see.
PT: If you want to know the truth. If you want to see the world the way Jesus saw it. Then, you have to do the things he did… I mean … His characteristic call was “take up your cross & follow me”
“Come and see” means “come follow me & imitate my way of life.”
Which is not about being good little boys & girls..
It’s not about knowing all the right answers to all the right questions.
Come and see is his way of saying:
The answers you’re looking for have to be lived, not just talked about.
You guys, this is huge.
If you get this you are far above 95% of all Christians on the planet.
We don't follow Jesus because we’re afraid if we don't God will send us to hell.
We follow Jesus because our souls have to wrestle with some really difficult questions!
And the only way the questions won’t destroy us in the end…
Is if we are living life in obedience to Christ, following his teaching.
Because following Jesus’s teaching provides a safe space in which we can wrestle w/the Q’s & not end up in the ditch.
EX: wagon trains…
PT: Follow Jesus is not about keeping God from killing you or sending you to hell. Following Jesus is about finding safe ground upon which your soul can ask the questions it needs to ask in order for you to become fully human as God intended you to be.
I have 2 questions for us to wrestle with today:
What are the questions your soul is trying to ask?
Where do you need to follow Jesus more closely, so that you can come & see how he works those questions out in your life?
Epiphany is about revelation & response…
How do you need to respond to this call from Jesus: Come & See…
How do you need to act in obedience to Jesus?
- Tim talked about remaining/abiding (original text meaning) with Jesus, where (or how) do we allow ourselves to abide in the world rather than with the Lord?
- What (next right thing) must we do to change that?
- Tim shared protecting truth = protecting power. What are your thoughts on God not needing us to protect him?
- How does it feel to learn that faith comes through struggle and not through prosperity?