And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” (John 1:38)
Two disciples of John have heard the Baptist’s claims regarding Jesus of Nazareth: He is the One whom John has been crying out about in the wilderness proclaiming Him to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Captivated by what John has said the two men decide to follow Jesus.
Who can blame them? How often does God come walking by in the flesh? Jesus turns, and seeing them following asks, “What do you seek?”
It’s a penetrating question.
From their reply, I think he’s caught them off guard. They ask him where he’s staying and our Lord invites them to come along and see for themselves. Can you sense their relief? They’ve got a foot in the door! If he really ends up being the long-awaited Messiah he won’t have slipped through their fingers.
Like these two men, if we have made a decision to follow Jesus, the time will come when he will turn and ask us the same question: What do you seek?
The Bible relates several instances where individuals sought Jesus because they wanted something of him. Often, their requests weren’t even based on a conviction of who he really was—God in the guise of a man. It was enough for many that, whoever he was, he possessed some sort of power. A miracle worker who could solve their most pressing problems.
There were those who sought him because they believed he could free their land from the domination of Rome. His power to heal the sick led many to seek Jesus for relief from their physical infirmities. Thousands were fed by his ability to multiply a boy’s meager offering of fish and bread. Tough questions were answered, such as a rich young man’s desire to know what must be done to gain eternal life and why a particular person was born blind. Even death could be overcome by this worker of wonders!
I find it encouraging that our Lord responded to every sincere request. The honest seeker never went away empty-handed. They may not have always gotten the response from him they were looking for, but they always got a response. And it was always perfect. A gift of love that met their deepest need.
But have you noticed in the Bible that those who sought Jesus solely because of who he is were in a distinct minority? How many came to him because they simply wanted nothing more than to be with him, to have a genuine relationship with the living God? How many come to him today because of who he is rather than what he might do for them?
As a father and grandfather, I take pleasure in helping my children and grandchildren in practical ways. But I absolutely delight in those times when they just want to be around me for no other reason than to enjoy my company. To be with me because of who I am.
God feels the same way. There’s no doubt that he wants us to look to him for the practical necessities of life. He invites and even commands us to ask him for what we need. Yet he also wants us to desire him, to bask in the unique and unfathomable joy found in no other place than in the presence of our Father.
Remember the woman who came into Simon the Pharisee’s house when Jesus was there? She was a well-known sinner and Simon was amazed that Jesus accepted her into his presence. She asked nothing of the Lord. In fact, she didn’t say a word. All she did was pour out tears of shame, grief, hope and adoration and use them, together with her hair, to bathe Jesus’ feet and express her love. To be with him, to be in his presence, was enough for her. He was whom she sought.
There is a penetrating question that I believe Jesus asks all those who seek to follow him: Would you serve me if I were your only reward?
It is a question that demands a thoughtful, deliberate response. In fact, it may be a question that we cannot answer save God reveals our own heart to us. Listen to what God told his people through Moses.
Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would really obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people need more than bread for their life; real life comes by feeding on every word of the LORD. (Deu 8:2-3 NLT)
Perhaps you are, right now, going through a time of incredible testing, trials on the left and on the right. Following hard after Jesus seems to be leaving you with only a single benefit: Himself. Will you remain faithfully obedient to the Lord in love, counting it all joy? Blessed be the trials he brings our way that serve to provide us the answer! May we be like Peter who, when asked by Jesus if he, too, wanted to leave responded by saying, “Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life. We believe them, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
© Michael Kimball 2013, 2017 (This writing may be freely copied in its entirety without prior permission from the author.) Listen to the audio version at FatherBound.com.