December 17, 2017

Difficult Scriptures: John 1:35-38

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them,“What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” (John 1:35-38, ESV)

Jesus’ first words to his first disciples were a question: “What are you seeking?” I read this for the bazillionth time this week, and for the first time those words jumped out at me. They punched me in the gut and sent me reeling. I’ve been reeling all week. “What are you seeking?”

At first, several things came to mind.

I’m seeking answers to piercing questions in front of me right now.

I’m seeking a way to earn more money without taking on a job that overwhelms me with stress. (Please don’t ask me to do any more ghostwriting projects for a while.)

I’m seeking peace, and joy, and, yes, love. These are all good things to seek after, right?

I heard those words deep within once again. “What are you really seeking?”

So I thought I would swing far away from me and my wants and desires. “Jesus!” I said. “I am seeking Jesus!” Yet somehow that felt hollow, smacking of even the slightest hint of insincerity. Yes, I want Jesus and more of Jesus. But is that what I’m really seeking? I was about to put this question back on the shelf when I had a chat with the Synonymous Rambler about it.

SR: What do you think Jesus wants you to be seeking?

Me: Well, I thought it would be to seek him.

SR: Let’s go to Scripture. (SR really likes Scripture.) What does Jesus say there?

So we went to the Scripture.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Oh, of course. Now, how do I do that? How do I seek his kingdom? How do I seek after God’s righteousness? And in doing so, can I really trust him to give me all else that I need? Really—not just in a nice religious way, but can I really, really trust him?

What about my desires for meaningful work that will pay the bills and for better health and for more time to read and think and for my Reds to start playing above the AAA level? Can what I seek be fit entirely into Matthew 6:33? A close reading of that verse reveals that we are to continually be seeking after God’s kingdom and his righteousness, that it is not a one-time search. That seems to indicate that we are not going to find what we are seeking in this world. Did Jesus have this in mind when he asked his first disciples that prying question, “What are you seeking?”

What do you think, iMonks? What answer was Jesus looking for? What answer is he looking for from me—and from you—today? Is Matthew 6:33 sufficient, or is there more in Scripture we should be considering? Now is your time to wade in with your insights. Remember, as we wrestle through this together, no eye gouging, and no biting. Play nice, iMonks.

Comments

  1. Life

  2. First thing that comes to mind is the rich young man, and what Jesus said to him: “Sell all you have, give to the poor, and come – follow me.”

    In other words, no security, no reassurance, no rainy day nest-egg or guarantee of any kind of prudence. Just leave all that behind and go out in blind trust.

    Scary.

    • Scary indeed, Martha.

    • That was my first thought too, when the Synonymous Rambler pulled out the “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” verse. I can’t remember the citation, but I thought of this verse: “Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep one’s self unspotted from this world.” Is that what the guiding principles of our lives should be?

      I suspect that’s a rhetorical question: yes, obviously they should. Makes for a difficult look at one’s own life.

  3. *raising right hand into the air, waving frantically…*

    “Alright, Pattie, you may speak now……”

    (Just being a polite student!)

    I have spent many years seeking God~~~ so that he could rubber stamp my plans and ideas, hold my coat quietly when I was doing important stuff here in the world, console me when I was anxious or sad, and not get in my way too much the rest of the time. I wanted Him to be a Sugar-Daddy who kept me happy, safe, and free of work or committment. Oh yes…..and an iron clad promise to take me to heaven, no matter what.

    It has taken a long time to start to move away from this personal heresy and stop thinking of God as a cosmic vending machine for my wants. Some days I remember this better than others.

    I want to know the real God enought to trust Him with every scrap and morsel of my life, without closing my eyes and gritting my teeth in fear of what He might “do to me” if I drop the reins and let Him drive this carriage.

    And every day a nanoparticle of fear goes away and a speck of trust replaces it. Not that things will be easy or peachy keen, but that they will be for my good. Even when I can’t see it or feel it.

    So, the old Baltimore catechism had it right…..I was created to love and serve God in this world, and be with Him forever in the next.

    *exhale~~a bit of raw truth is thrown to the world*

    • One of the best comments ever, Pattie!

    • Yes…yes…
      As you noted pin the piece on Ephesians…”it is living between the already and the not yet.” That is the picture of living in pursuit of the Kingdom of God. I know what he has accomplished and I wake up each morning in this flesh that brings me to daily reality…my flaws…sins…and the effort ir takes in seeking.
      And daily I see a bit more of what he has done in me working it’s way out..two steps forward, one step back …but that equates to one step forward…
      The tension between the already and not yet is exhilarating and frustrating…but it is where we live until we see him face to face..

  4. Adrian Z says:

    Sitting on the bus on my way to work and pondering Jesus’ question “what are you seeking?”

    A few things jump to mind. peace would be nice. World peace would be great, but to be honest I’d be happy with just some in my soul. Maybe ‘meaning’ – but that’s a bit too new age. Answers? – good luck on that one buddy. Too be honest a good cup of coffee and a few minutes of quiet would be acceptable right now.

    I looked again and Johns disciples did have an answer/question – ”where are you staying?’ maybe it was the ol’ answer a question with a question tactic. Maybe their only answer was to spend some time with this Jesus. Who knows, maybe share a good coffee and a few mintues together. Works for me. ‘Jesus – where are you staying today?’

  5. They were following the object of their faith. John preached Christ was the lamb or God who would take away the sin of the world. Believing that Word, they sought out the object of their faith, that lamb of God, to be in his presence.

    There’s a reason we sing the Agnus Dei during Communion.

  6. Joseph (the original) says:

    what do i seek?

    to be both blessed (this can be clarified) & to be a blessing…

    i think all the law, prophets, gospel impetus, divine destiny stuff+God has a wonderful plan for your life really begins & ends here…

  7. Kerri in AK says:

    What do I seek?

    Simply to offer my hands and feet to God; to be of service. Mind you, my success rate isn’t worth writing home about at this point but I ask forgiveness and give it another go. The more I become convinced that God has an endless supply of love and forgiveness, the more I’m able to keep my eyes on him and the more I want to serve him. Backsliding happens and will continue to happen; there’s not much I can do about being human. But I am getting better at listening and going where lead – someday I hope to do so without moaning about it first!

  8. “What are you seeking . . . continually, all the time?”

    That question, coming from the Man who knows the thoughts of all men is, quite frankly, terrifying for me. On my very best day of pursuing the Kingdom of God, the righteousness of God, and whatever else the Scripture may require, I know that my heart has a thousand or more tangents seeking to fullfill the “me” project.

    I am all the more terrified when I consider that Jesus not only knows the answer, but that He is also the final Judge and arbiter of my eternal state. The question, like so many of Jesus’ words, leaves me exposed and with a guilt that cannot be defended.

    There is one consolation, however, and it brings great relief and joy. The One who asked the question loves me. He asks the question not to condemn me, but to graciously point out how blind I am to my shortcomings. He asks me to help me realize that my “seeker” is incredibly warped (even on my best days) and that it is ever in need of adjustment. The miracle of it all is that through His grace, mercy, and Spirit I have been given a desire to make such an adjustment.

    I believe that He asked the question for our benefit, that we might pause and examine the object of our heart’s affection.

  9. Ti zhteite? What seek thee? Zeteo translates several ways:

    Left Brain: to seek in order to find
    to seek a thing
    to seek [in order to find out] by thinking, meditating, reasoning, to enquire into
    to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after

    Right Brain: to require, demand
    to crave, demand something from someone

    My left brain usually dominates. I think I need to listen to my right brain more.

    I asked this very question this morning. In response, God had me looking for (seeking!) jewelry parts to attach a Miraculous Medal I just received to my wooden Tao cross. Really? I asked. Really? This to that? Medal to wood?

    Really, came the response. So I spent the better part of my morning hour of prayer in search of the necessary parts. I came across all sorts of jewelry parts, things I hadn’t seen in years. Other crosses and medals as well. All part of a message I needed to hear. In My time, not yours. A message that came in a very intimate and rewarding way. A message I don’t think I would have heard if I hadn’t sought something that seemed ridiculous at the time.

    BTW, I did get the medal attached. Looks rather good, much better than I would have thought. Another benefit of listening…

    Blessings

    • I left two things out of the post. Things I forgot until later. The first was a question that came as I worked on finding the right piece to affix the medal to the Cross: What kind of jewelry would I (God) want my child (Jesus) to wear? As the King of Kings, I initially thought an elaborate gold crown and other rich jewelry. Then I realized it was a crown of thorns, and nails forced through his tissue. Those were the ornaments chosen by his Father for him. A follow-up question: Can you wear the crown he wore? A verse from a song, the most beautiful Eucharistic prayer ever sung, Tableprayer: The Winter Name of God, by Michael Joncas, popped into my mind:

      Give us the strength to live his gospel,
      The grace to bear his flesh and blood.

      So I got out the album and listened to the whole song. Tears flowed as I listened to it anew. A song of the journey of His people, seeking, always seeking, throughout the centuries. I would never have listened to it, been enriched by it, had I not listened to the original instruction to affix medal to cross. I would have missed it all.

  10. “What do you seek?”

    Shelter from the storm.

  11. It reminds me of the Northumbria Community’s liturgy – every morning we say:
    ‘One thing I have asked of the Lord
    This is what I seek:
    That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    All the days of my life;
    To behold the beauty of the Lord
    And to seek Him in his temple.’

    Then we respond to the question:
    ‘Who is it that you seek?’ with ‘We seek the Lord our God.’
    Then we are asked how do we seek Him? Do we seek Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength?
    After each question we respond with ‘Amen. Lord have mercy.’

    After doing this for some time I have concluded that I do indeed require his mercy in order to seek him properly – I can’t even begin to seek him without his help.

    • Kerri in AK says:

      Ali – I have the Northumbrian morning prayer memorized. But as for the need for mercy, evening prayer says it more powerfully:

      Lord, You have always given bread for the coming day;
      and though I am poor,
      today I believe.

      Lord, You have always given strength for the coming day;
      and though I am weak,
      today I believe.

      Lord, You have always given peace for the coming day;
      and though of anxious heart,
      today I believe.

      Lord, You have always kept me safe in trials;
      and now, tried as I am,
      today I believe.

      Lord, You have always marked the road for the coming day;
      and though it may be hidden,
      today I believe.

      Lord, You have always lightened this darkness of mine;
      and though the night is here,
      today I believe.

      Lord, You have always spoken when time was ripe;
      and though you be silent now,
      today I believe.

      While I hadn’t looked at it that way before, the Northumbrian prayers at morning, midday and evening (plus all the wonderful compline prayers!) all are seeking prayers. Thank you for pointing that out!

      • Thanks to Jeff really – I haven’t looked at them like that before either before his post!

  12. Glenn Lashway says:

    Another way to look at “Seek first the kingdom…” is to understand that usually when the N.T. speaks of the kingdom it is not thinking of a “place,” but of a relationship. Try this: “Seek first the kingship…,” or putting it in other words, “Seek first his Lordship…”

    If Jesus is the Lord of your life–not just in some abstract way, but in actuality–if he is really YOUR Lord, everything changes, including the source of all your provision and how you live your life. Read it this way in the context of the rest of Matthew 6. You may get a new perspective on this verse.

  13. Judy /Ca says:

    Takes me a while to think through the deep questions. 20 years wandering in this wilderness has taught me to seek truth and light, both characteristics of the Kingdom of God. Trying to figure out the big picture is fruitless, looking for the light to take my next step towards the Kingdom always is rewarding. Thank you to Ali & Kerri for pointing me to a new source of light.

  14. “What are you seeking?”

    I would point to John 5:6, “Do you want to be healed?” There was the invalid waiting by the pool, doing what had not worked and couldn’t ever work. Even if the pool were miraculous, he couldn’t do the necessary. I imagine Jesus with a tone of incredulity: “Do you even *want* to be healed???” Lord Jesus, I an invalid unable to heal myself, ask for healing. If salvation follows, well and good.

    “Where are you staying?”

    Or “abide” or “remain”. I think the two disciples must mean “Where do you sit on the ‘Lamb of God’ question?” or in other words, “Are you the one who is to come?” (Luke 7:19). As usual, Jesus turns the question aside, “come see for yourself.” And they did go and they did see. “Come” and “see” are aorist, so perhaps we could translate “they kept going with him and they kept seeing.” Is the reference to the “tenth hour” a foreshadowing of how short Jesus mission would be?

    (No grammarian here, I hope knowledgeable people will please correct me as necessary.)