And They Saw, and They Went

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, Louisiana Area

The next day John was standing again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus walking along he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard what he said, and they followed Jesus.

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “What are you looking for?”

They said, “Rabbi, . . . where are you staying?”

He replied, “Come and see.” So they went and saw . . .

                                                                                —John 1:35-39 CEB

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And they went, and they saw; or is it they saw, and they went?

John is standing by with two of his disciples when Jesus comes along. John says, “Look! The Lamb of God.” The two hear what John says and they follow Jesus. In two verses, they followed Jesus! They don’t ask any questions. They don’t ask, “You sure that’s him? How do you really know, John?”

What follows is a domino effect; Andrew, one of the two, goes straight to his brother Simon and says, “We have found the Messiah.” He leads him right to Jesus.

The next day Jesus finds Philip, and Philip follows. I wonder if he was lost? Then Philip finds Nathanael, and says, “We have found the one Moses wrote about.” Nathanael is a bit sarcastic, and that’s when we hear his famous line, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Then it’s as if Philip double-dog dares him and says, “Come and See.” See for yourself!

This calling of the disciples comes quickly.

There is a lot of seeing and hearing in the Gospel of John. The writer employs all the senses, which might help us understand why seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling might be important to believing. Once a person meets Jesus—once you see, and hear and taste and smell life in Jesus—you don’t see things the same way ever again. It is risky business to enter into conversation with Jesus. Who knows where it might take you? Sometimes it takes just two words: Follow me!

When we traveled to the Holy Land with the ordinands in 2013, we had a magnificent guide. He is smart, knows his Bible and his history.

He also comes from a long line of olive wood carvers. Actually, they are more than just carvers, they are artists. His father and grandfather were both artists, and now he is following in their footsteps.

On the trip, I fell in love with one of his pieces, truly a piece of art! It is Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. He agreed to carve a special piece for us that would be shipped to us later. Several weeks passed, and a magnificent—and I would add huge—piece of olive wood art arrived at the episcopal residence. It is far more than I ever imagined. We found a perfect place for it in our home, and it has become the center of a great deal of conversation.

Last year, our guide visited Baton Rouge, and we invited him to dinner, along with several people who had traveled to the Holy Land. Of course, the olive wood piece was once again the center of conversation. The carving is so intricate. Jesus’ hair and eyes are unbelievably detailed. Someone asked our guide if he had a picture to follow as he carved. He said, almost nonchalantly, “No, that is just how I see Jesus in my mind’s eye.” I turned to him in astonishment and said, “In order to carve with this kind of attention to detail, you have got to not just see Jesus in your mind, but you have to see him from the very depth of your soul.”

I believe this is the kind of “seeing” the gospel writer is trying to convey. People in this gospel see—they come and see, they saw and they went, they see greater things, you will see the heavens open—this kind of seeing is much deeper. It is not just visual.

In A Longing for Holiness, John Wesley wrote, “where the loving eye of the soul is continually fixed upon God, there can be no darkness at all.” [1] To see with your soul is to see through the heart of God.

Today we are called to “see” through the heart of God.

There are several times in this gospel when people see and hear with more than just their ears and their eyes.

There is the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well, and she can hardly contain herself. A Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman and at high noon!

She runs back to her village and says, “Come and see this one who knows everything about me” . . . and you almost want to finish her sentence for her . . . “and loves me anyway.” She is so moved by her experience of Jesus and is in such a hurry to tell everyone in her village that she leaves her jar behind. As soon as her friends hear her story, they leave the city and are on their way. I envision the people being so moved by what the woman has to say (I find it remarkable that they would even listen to her!) that they too want to experience what she has experienced. They probably leave their soup pots on the stove and forget to lock the door (read John 4:1-42).

There are others who hear and see it and believe it. There is Mary Magdalene at the tomb. She doesn’t recognize Jesus until she hears her name. Maybe seeing and hearing is believing. It is risky to enter into conversation with Jesus. It might lead you to places you don’t want to go.

Jesus has a knack for that and for making unlikely choices. He didn’t stand outside the temple waiting for holy people. God shows up most of the time when you are minding your own business. He calls ordinary people to extraordinary tasks so that we might share our story of God’s extravagant love. We have a story to tell. People invest in dreams they are part of. People want to be a part of your kind of story.

I have this pesky problem when I read a book or watch a movie or a sporting event. I become a character in the movie or the book. If I watch a basketball game, I play every minute of the game or every down of a football game. I even get really nervous on the Food Network cooking competitions, like Chopped, when they have only minutes to prepare an entree. I am exhausted when it’s over. I invest myself in the story, so much so that sometimes I stay up all night trying to “finish” the story or change the outcome of the game, or I think, “You know, if she had only remembered the secret ingredient.”

People want to be a part of a great story.

Do you dream of a love story of ministry filled with the life-giving breath of the Spirit?

We must be attentive to the stirring of the Spirit. Proverbs 20:12 reminds us that we must have ears to hear and eyes to see. The Lord made them both! I am not sure we can just see or just hear; perhaps it takes both to fully grasp the working of the Spirit upon our lives. Attentiveness is a gift from God, and it causes us to pay attention most often to what we don’t want to see. Think of all the times you haven’t paid attention and an accident occurred, or we missed the laughter of a child, the homeless woman, the hungry child, the sunrise. We must be attentive and open to the movement of God all around. God often shows up when we are minding our own business.

When children’s television host Mr. Rogers was asked why he talked so slowly, his answer was that the time between speaking and hearing was sacred. It is in this piece of time that the Spirit can take what is said and translate it for the hearer.

This world is in a rush, and we rarely do one task at a time. We are multi-taskers. We don’t just drive; we talk on our cellphones and drive and juggle multiple tasks at work.

The Spirit can work within all of our rushing around. However, are we as good at noticing the Spirit if we never slow down?

It is not likely that our world will slow down. However, maybe within the rush we can be like Mr. Rogers and create a space for the Spirit to move. Instead of listening and forming our reply, we can listen first for the Spirit. Then with fuller knowledge and understanding, we can reply.[2]

What might happen if we first listen for the Spirit’s stirring? Is it possible we could discover the unexpected?

We must be prepared to share our own experience of the living God. We have a story to tell, and people want to be a part of it. Sharing our story can be risky, but we are called to risk, maybe to risk it all so that the world might be changed.

We have to focus on that which will make for a different place for your children, your children’s children, and their children, that they might also have a story of faith to tell.

Can you imagine what might happen if we focused—with laser-like focus—on leading people to Christ so that they might be changed people? Can you imagine living in a changed world?

We may not yet have eyes to see or ears to hear, but even then the Spirit will twist and turn and churn and weave our lives into a legacy that will set the world on fire. It will be more than you could ever imagine.

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “What are you looking for?”

They said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”

He replied, “Come and See.”

So they went and they saw.

Do you know where Jesus is staying? Come and See!


[1]John Wesley, A Longing for Holiness: Selected Writings of John Wesley , Keith Beasley-Topliffe, ed. (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1997), 42.

[2] Mr. Rogers story from the United Methodist Church Development Center in Nashville; http://umcdevelopmentcenter.org/news/mr.-rogers-and-the-holy-spirit, accessed October 30, 2015.

 

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