John 1:43-51 Sermon Ideas For Part 2
The invitation to discipleship Jesus extends to his first disciples seems to occur in an almost casual manner. John the Baptist acknowledges Jesus passing by and exclaims, "Look, here is the lamb of God" (1:36 NRSV). Some of the disciples of John begin to follow Jesus until Jesus asks them, "What are you looking for?" (1:38b NRSV).
Discipleship begins with this question asked by Jesus to those who would follow him. "What do you seek and what are you looking for?"
The question is also crucial to the opening pages of the German poet Soethe's epic work, Faust. This Faust is an adaption of a medieval legend concerning a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for certain benefits and powers to be enjoyed during this life.
Goethe's Faust is a professor, disenchanted with the various spoils gained by human ambition. Wealth, knowledge and fame have proven empty attainments for Faust, and he considers ending his life.
A devil, Mephistopheles, who in Goethe's Faust is the embodiment of the spirit of negation, appears in the professor's study to strike a bargain. Mephistopheles, with his powers to deliver the objects of many human wishes, will serve Faust in this life. However, in the life to come, Faust will have to serve him.
Faust must now face the question of his own longing. What in this world most directly and completely answers what Faust is looking for in his life?
Eventually, Faust answers Mephistop- heles: "Sure and fast! When to the moment I shall say, `Linger awhile, so fair thou art! Then mayest thou fetter me straightaway, then to the abyss will I depart."
In exchange for his soul, Faust desires a moment of perfect contentment and beauty, a moment empty of the ache of his deep dissatisfaction with human life and human pursuits.
Alongside Faust and his struggles with human longing and the object of human desires, we measure our own search for meaning and fulfillment. How might we reply to discipleship's first question, "What are you looking for?"
After the question is raised, the disciples ask where Jesus is staying, and they are invited to come along with him and see. The second stage of the call to discipleship, based on this model provided in the first chapter of John's Gospel, is the summons and invitation to a relationship. The disciples are invited to come and spend time with Jesus, to come and know him as a person.
In Dante's Divine Comedy, the poet journeys through the many realms of human experience through the artistic invention of a man's pilgrimage through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. The beginning of this epic poem finds the pilgrim attempting to climb a hill and being prevented from doing so by three fierce creatures.
In his despair, the pilgrim meets Virgil, the admired Latin poet, who will be the first of many companions traveling alongside the pilgrim during the difficult way ahead. The pilgrim is unable to travel alone. Progress through the various regions of human experience is made from the resources found in the pilgrim's relationship first with Virgil, then with a host of companions and saints.
Our discipleship, likewise, is our entrance into relationships. "Come and see" are the words of Jesus inviting us into that community.
This call is echoed in the invitation of the church to all who stand alone unable to climb the hills they have encountered in their lives. The church's invitation to them is, "Come and see the life that is shared, the savior whose presence is known in that sharing, and the new vistas which appear within that fellowship."
A vision of that fellowship is expressed in a drawing of the Dutch Master Rembrandt. The drawing is titled Jesus and His Disciples, and it dates from 1639. In this painting we see a circle of disciples, with Jesus sitting on the right of the picture. The circle is formed by the faces of the disciples, each face expressing various levels of interest and disinterest in Jesus who is speaking to them. The circle of faces contains a warm light which holds these figures together. This light is the unifying principle of the drawing. As such it proclaims the reality of a call which is a summons to shared life.