MEETING AND KNOWING JESUS
1 Sam. 3:3-10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:35-51
It would be a wonderful experience if one were to go around this church and let each person tell how he/she came to know Jesus Christ, and who Jesus IS to each and every one. Each one of us has a different story and experience as to how we came to know Jesus Christ. Some of us grew up “in the church”. Our parents grew up as “cultural Christians”, and so we came to know Jesus through our parents. Others knew and met Jesus in the school they attended. It is a fact that through one way or the other, each one of us has come to know Jesus Christ. The truth behind this “Knowing of Jesus” is that if anyone truly meets Christ and knows him as Saviour and Lord, he/she would also know that there is a vast difference between KNOWING ABOUT CHRIST and KNOWING CHRIST PERSONALLY. Those who know Christ personally are totally changed persons. In the Gospels, we have examples of people who truly met Jesus and their desires and focuses for life changed drastically: Simon become Peter and his whole outlook in life changed; the fishermen-disciples abandoned their nets; Matthew, the tax collector, paid back what he had extorted from people; those cured of one infirmity or the other ran along the road and praised God; Mary Magdalene abandoned past and became a loyal disciple of Jesus all her life, etc. As Paul puts it, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Today’s gospel text begins with John the Baptist pointing out Jesus to his disciples. From moment that these young men go after Jesus and encounter him, they never came back to John, their original master. Their lives are totally changed. The gospel text of today is full of revealing touches.
1. BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD (Jn 1:36)
Once again, John the Baptist is pointing beyond himself. He knew very well that speaking to his disciples about Jesus in the way he did in this gospel episode today, was to invite them to leave him and go after the new and greater teacher, and yet he did it. There is no jealousy in John. He had come to attach people to Christ, not to himself. There is no harder task than to take the second place when once you enjoyed the first place. But as soon as Jesus emerged on the scene, John never had any ambition than to send people to Him. “He must increase but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30) John knew exactly who Jesus was. Those who get to meet and know Jesus always give him the first place. They let God to be God. They do not try to usurp the place of God.
2. WHAT ARE YOU SEEKING? (Jn 1:38a)
The disciples of John followed Jesus stealthily, when their master revealed Jesus’ identity to them. But Jesus did something characteristic of him. He turned and spoke to them. That is to say, he took the initiative to meet them half way. He made things easier for them. He opened the door that they may come in. Probably, they were timid and shy. Here, we have the symbol of the divine initiative. It is always God who takes the first step. When the human mind begins to seek, and the human heart begins to long to know God, God comes to meet us far more than half way. God is always waiting to receive us.
Jesus did not ask them about their intention of following him because he was ignorant about their inner thoughts. Remember, this is the same Jesus who, a few verses later, tells Nathanael that he knew his character and his actions before he ever met him! Similarly, Jesus did not ask Andrew and John what they were seeking because he lacked information. Rather, he asked them the question so that they would think about it. Jesus is asking each and every one of us: “What are you seeking by following me? Do you want status and power by being on the inside circle when I come into my kingdom? Do you want me to give you a comfortable life with plenty of material benefits, free from pain and sorrow? Do you want me to forgive your sins and give you inner peace? What do you seek?”
What do you want? These words are clearly addressed to, and meant for, every disciple who is about to start or has started a spiritual journey. What is your reason for looking for Christ? Some are searching for money and security. Some are looking for career, power, prominence, prestige. These things are not bad in themselves, but they are not sufficient. Take the example of the rich young man in the gospels who, in spite of his wealth, still asks Jesus, “Master, what must I do to have eternal life?” (Mtt 19:16; Mk 10:17). His material wealth did not provide him sufficient happiness, “eternal life”. Some people are searching for some kind of PEACE, for something to enable them live at peace with themselves and at peace with God, and at peace with other human beings. In search, only Jesus Christ can supply us satisfaction.
3. MASTER, WHERE DO YOU LIVE? (Jn 1:38b)
The answer that John’s disciple give is that they wished to know where Jesus stayed. It is not mere curiosity that made them ask this question. They did not wish to speak to Jesus on the road, in the passing, as chance acquaintances might stop and exchange a few words. They wished to sit down with him and talk out their problems and troubles. Jesus’ disciples are never satisfied with a passing word. They want to meet him and know him as a friend. They want to meet him in his house. That is what we have come to do here this morning, in this Church!
4. COME AND YOU WILL SEE! (Jn 1:39)
When Jesus made this statement, he was not only inviting them to come and talk, but to come and find things that only he could open out to them. We ought not to be satisfied with a mere passing look. We ought to seek his dwelling, that he may receive us as guests. One writer explains, “For there are very many people who smell the gospel at a distance only, and thus allow Christ suddenly to disappear, and all that they have learned concerning him to pass away.” The point is, if we have met Christ at a personal level, then we will want to spend more time with him to learn more about him. It was only after Andrew and John had spent that evening with the Lord that they became witnesses to the others.
Jesus’ reply is always his invitation to all seeking hearts (1:39), “Come, and you will see.” If you have never met Jesus as your Saviour, he invites you, as we begin the new liturgical year (Year B), “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
5. SHARING THE GLORY
Andrew is characteristically the man who always introduces others to Jesus. In the gospel of John, Andrew takes central stage thrice, and all three times he is bringing someone to Jesus. Here today, in Jn 1:40-41, he brings his brother, Peter, to Jesus. There is the incident in Jn 6:8-9 when he brings to Jesus the little boy with the five loaves and two small fishes. And in Jn 12:22, he brings some inquiring Greeks into the presence of Jesus. It is Andrew’s great joy to bring others to Jesus. His desire was to share the glory. Having found friendship in Jesus, Andrew spent his life introducing others to that friendship. He is a great example for us. He did not keep Jesus to himself. Are we worthy of such an attribute?
6. ANDREW, THE HUMBLE APOSTLE
From the moment he met and knew Jesus, Andrew manifests a spirit of selflessness. He was a man who was prepared to take the second place. Again and again, he is identified as the “brother of Peter”, yet he is the one who introduced Peter to Jesus. It is clear that he lived under the shadow of Peter. Though being among the first two disciples of Jesus, Andrew was not among the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter; when he went up the Mount of Transfiguration; when he underwent his temptation in Gethsemane, it was Peter, James and John whom he took with him. It would have been easy and understandable for Andrew to be resentful for this ‘second class treatment’, but he was quite contented to stand back and let others bask in the lamplight. He was quite contented to play the humble part in the company of twelve. For him, precedence and places of honour did not matter; all that mattered was to know Jesus, be with him, and to serve him as best as he could. Andrew is known to be the patron saint of all those who humbly and loyally, and ungrudgingly take the second place. Do you fall in that category of persons? Knowing Christ entails living humble lives. It means denying one’s self and taking up one’s cross (Matt. 16:24-27).
7. THE NEED FOR SPIRITUAL DIRECTORS: SAMUEL’S CASE
From the Gospel Reading, we learned how Andrew and John came to know Jesus through John the Baptist. Peter’s call came through Andrew. Throughout the Holy Bible and even in our daily lives, we see how the grace of God works through other persons. In the first reading, the young Samuel recognizes the Lord’s voice through the help of the priest Eli. In our journey to know God, we need human instruments, and assistance in order to discern what God wants of us. We need spiritual directors in our journey to meet and know Christ.
A spiritual director understands that the most important relationship in one’s life is the relationship that one has with God. Therefore, the primary intent of a spiritual director, or a kind of a spiritual coach, is to guide a person in having a deepening intimacy with God. Together with one’s spiritual director, one can explore God’s presence, God’s voice, and God’s activity in his/her life. There is always a great reward in one’s life for having a good, holy and discerning spiritual director. That is what the young Samuel found in Eli, who taught him to answer God’s call: “Speak, for your servant is listening.” As a result, we are told that “Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect” (1 Sam 3:19).
Knowing Jesus is a journey that every Christian, every disciple of Christ, needs to go through. It means much more than just KNOW ABOUT HIM. To know Jesus, one has to search for him in one’s every-day experience, staying with him and listening attentively to him. It also means being humble, and being generous in sharing our experiences of him with other persons who are in need. In this spiritual journey, we need direction and coaching sometimes. Today, and throughout this new liturgical year (Year B), Jesus is inviting us to “come and we will see”. Let us pray for the steadfastness and resilience in our daily journey with Jesus.