|Image from The Brick Testament|
When Jesus turned and saw two of John’s disciples following him, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” He said to them,“Come and see.”
Jesus’ invitation to Andrew and his fellow disciple, and Phillip’s subsequent invitation to Nathanael, are the same: “Come and see” (John 1:39, 46). Though there are two different words being used for “see” (the first to do more specifically with physical sight and the second including the idea of mentally apprehending), the implications are the same. What is being described is the two-fold process of discipleship: 1) Leaving behind life as one knows it; and 2) Opening oneself to Jesus’ revelation. Come. See.
It begins, of course, with Jesus’ first words in John’s Gospel: “What are you looking for?” We must answer this question, to Jesus and to ourselves. What are you looking for? If we say to Jesus, with these two would-be disciples, “Where are you staying?” then we must be prepared for his answer: “Come and see.” He doesn’t settle for giving directions. The call isn’t to follow a set of platitudes and self-help principles. This is confrontation with the offense of the Incarnation.
There is more “seeing” in Jesus’ subsequent discussion with Nathanael, who is too easily impressed with Jesus seeing him (47-51). “Don’t just believe because I saw you,” says Jesus. “You must begin to see, to see great things, including the angels coming and going around the Son of Man. Come out from under your fig tree and see heaven on earth.” Come out from the blindness of tepid trivia (Where are you staying? Can anything good come from Nazareth? How do you know me?) and see God revealing himself in the world. Come and see.
We try so hard to reverse the order: See and come. Even in our attempts at spiritual quests and seeking God we want answers and direction before we follow. And to some degree, just hearing the invitation of Jesus is a way of beginning to see. But we often leave it there. “I’ve heard Jesus’ invitation. I recognize that he is the Savior, that he loves me, that he wants me to repent and believe his good news. It is enough.”
But recognizing Jesus and following him are very different. Even seeing that he is God’s revelation is not the same as actually seeing what God is revealing. In order to truly see—to see God, to see heaven on earth, and to know Jesus as teacher and lord—one must first come. Come…and see.