Sermon 1/15/2017 “What are you looking for?”

Preacher: Jo J. Belser
Location: Church of the Resurrection
Text: John 1:29-42
Day: 2Epiphany, Year A

“What are you looking for?”

Zurbarán Lamb of God, Prado Museum, c. 1635-1640 (Public domain)

Two men heard John the Baptist exclaim of Jesus, “Look, here is the Lamb of God,” and they began to physically follow Jesus.

Would you follow someone who was identified as the sacrifice to be killed to atone for the sin of the world? The Lamb of God is the Passover animal, the animal whose blood protected the Jews during their great escape from Pharaoh in Egypt. In Jesus’ day, the Lamb of God was ritually slain in the Temple each morning and night to atone for the sins of the people.

The two men—one of whom was Andrew—knew something we might not, though. They knew that the two greatest prophets, Jeremiah and Isaiah, foretold that the Messiah would be led “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Jeremiah 11:19 and Isaiah 53:7) and that his sacrifice would redeem Israel.

So these two men knew on some level that they were following the Messiah, the Christ. But I wonder what that meant to them. Why were they following Jesus? Were they seeking prosperity? Fame? Superhuman powers?

Jesus asked these men, “What are you looking for?” This was an excellent question. What ARE you looking for in this life by following Christ Jesus? What is your deepest desire in life? What do YOU want God to do for you?

The 20-century psychologist Abraham Maslow identified five basic human needs that he called a “Hierarchy of Needs.” Arrayed as a pyramid, Maslow said that we have to have the needs at the bottom of the pyramid met before we can work to attain our higher needs.

The most basic of our needs are our physiological ones: to breathe, to eat, to hydrate, to sleep—all basic health needs that we might take for granted until age or illness or poverty threaten our basic bodily functions. Maybe the two men following Jesus wanted him to keep their bodily systems operable—you know, forever.

Maslow’s second tier of need is for safety. This tier includes employment and the security that having financial resources provides. Perhaps these men were following Jesus because they expected that God would therefore make them RICH beyond compare.

The third level of Maslow’s need pyramid is for love and belonging: friendship, family, and intimacy. The two men seemed to desire Jesus to meet THIS need. They responded to his question, “What are you looking for?” by asking him where he lived. At first I didn’t understand their answer, until I remembered this third level on Maslow’s hierarchy of need. By all accounts Jesus made the people he was with feel very good about themselves. He loved them unconditionally and his love and acceptance offered them a place to belong. They liked being with Jesus, and Jesus not only let them follow him, he told them, “Come and see.”

There’s a curious thing about Jesus’ answer, though. The Greek word for “see” that is used here isn’t the kind of sight one gets with their eyes. Instead, what Jesus invited these men to do was to gain spiritual insight. Jesus invited them to come and grow in their knowledge and love of God.

These two men took Christ Jesus up on his offer. Andrew even went and recruited his brother Simon to “come see,” as well. The gospels tell how Jesus’ eventual twelve disciples worked toward realizing their full potential as human beings, through love and the top two tiers of the hierarchy of need above love: esteem and self-actualization. Judas Iscariot failed miserably in reaching self-actualization, but the other eleven did well.

Both of these upper tier categories of need—esteem and self-actualization—like love and belonging, involve obtaining the need for ourselves and then using what we have to help others. This is not just a psychological reality, it is a gospel truth as well, a gospel paradox: we get what we seek by giving that very thing away.

  • If we seek love, we obtain love by giving love to others.
  • If we seek esteem, we can only be truly esteemed if we respect others.
  • If we seek the ultimate in self-actualization, which is recognizing and acting on our God-given purpose in life), we ultimately must free ourselves of prejudice about others.

These are not solitary endeavors. We cannot love all by ourselves. We have to “Come, see” Christ Jesus in community, where we learn that our life’s work is not so much what we do to make money, but how to help others. Our specialty here at Church of the Resurrection is to invite people to “Come, see” Christ Jesus by providing his people with their most basic human needs, especially food. We do this in Jesus’ name, as a matter of love. Good works matter, and actually change our world. A hug, a card, a ride, food, just being physically present to people in need—to each other—actually change US.

What are you looking for in Christ Jesus? Perhaps, recognizing that Jesus is the Lamb of God, we look to Jesus for a relationship with God, or for a deeper understanding of God. This is how we find a sense of purpose in life, validation that we are self-actualized, or a connection to the mystery we intuit is beyond the ability of our five senses to see and understand.

Whatever you are seeking, this is the place to find Christ Jesus. His answer to us today is the same as for Andrew and the other man who followed Jesus in our gospel lesson today: “Come, see.”

You will notice that Jesus made no promises to these men about what they would discover. He didn’t promise them health or safety or esteem or self-actualization. He didn’t promise them wealth or special insight about life. Christ Jesus makes no such promises to us, either. Instead, he offers us the opportunity to simply, “Come, see.” Come, see what difference God makes in your life. I observe that there will be love involved, to the extent we give love away.

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