Come and See
At the opening of John’s biography of Jesus (the Gospel of John), two individuals (Andrew and probably John, the author of the biography) become intrigued by Jesus when John the Baptizer refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God. They begin to follow Jesus. Noticing them trailing Him, Jesus turns and asks them, “What are you looking for?”
They come up with the right answer to His question—the answer that leads to genuine discovery. They ask, “Where are you staying?” They want to spend time with Him by which they can watch Him and listen to Him and discover His character (the essence of who He is).
They provide a good model for us: If you want to discover Jesus, the most important thing to do is not to read a theological treatise about Him but to spend time with Him, drawing near to His heart, discovering who He is.
Indeed, that’s what Jesus said to Andrew and his friend, “Come and see” (John 1:39).
Sadly, many people, wanting to “see” Jesus, have looked at perverted images of Jesus in Christians they have known. In her book Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, Rachel Held Evans shares many such examples: “Likening their conquests to Joshua’s defeat of Canaan, European Christians brought rape, violence, plunder, and enslavement to the New World, where hundreds of thousands of native people were enslaved or killed. It is said that a tribal chief from the island of Hispaniola was given the chance to convert to Christianity before being executed, but he responded that if heaven was where Christians went when they died, he would rather go to hell.” A woman identified as C.J. wrote to her, “We left for so many reasons, but the night we made the decision for good was the night my husband looked at our tiny newborn daughter sleeping in my arms and said, ‘I don’t want her to ever know that God, the God we grew up with, the one the church at large preaches. I don’t want her to grow up with the crap we did. I want her to know God, but not that God. Never ever that God.’”
In the book Severe Mercy, Sheldon Van Auken points out, “The best argument for Christianity is Christians—their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians—when they’re self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration. When they’re narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.”
Despite the poor representation of Christ that Christians have often provided throughout the centuries, Christ continues to offer to people the strategy that He extended to Andrew and his friend, “Come and see.”
That strategy worked for me. As a young person I took a serious look at myself and at the Jesus I found in the Gospels. When I looked at myself, I saw a young person who was so anxious to fit in with others that I was two-faced and insincere more often than I wished, but when I looked at Jesus I saw one who was true to Himself in all circumstances—no matter what anyone else thought of Him. When I looked at myself, I saw a person who was unsatisfied with life, always trying to find what could make me happy, but when I looked at Jesus I saw someone who was at peace with Himself even in the most trying times. When I looked at myself I saw someone who struggled so much with jealousies and resentments and prejudices, but when I looked at Jesus I saw one who was consistently filled with love and who unswervingly acted with love toward others. When I looked at myself, I saw a person who was often consumed by fear, but when I looked at Jesus I saw a person of tremendous courage, who put love for others ahead of self-protection.
Continually, when I looked at Jesus I saw what I want to become! Interestingly, this short story at the beginning of John’s biography of Jesus (John 1:35-42) ends with Andrew bringing his brother Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at Simon and said to him, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas (which is translated Peter).” By all indications, Simon was not, at that time, a strong, dependable, and unbreakable person. Jesus saw beyond what Simon was at the moment to what he would become. I love how these two pieces of the story go together: When we come and look at Jesus, we discover not only who He is but also what we will become in Him.