When Jesus turned and saw [two of John’s disciples] following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” --John 1:38
In my ministry as Bishop of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod I spend a lot of time on the road. The interstates and highways of the synod are as familiar to me as most people’s neighborhoods. In all my road experience I have learned to spot a driver who is either lost or looking for someplace. There are telltale signs: they slow down at each intersection, you can see them looking around anxiously or nervously consulting their GPS again and again, and there’s a certain hesitancy about their driving. (I do the same thing when I don’t know where I’m going.) Often, I would like to stop them and ask, “What are you looking for?” and “Can I help you find it?” But, in traffic that’s usually not possible.
Decades ago, theologian Paul Tillich said that everyone has an “ultimate concern.” According to Tillich, everyone has something which is their highest priority, value or focus in their lives. That thing – whatever it is – is their god. It demands their time and loyalty, and shapes who they are and how they live their lives. It seems to me that, these days, there are many people who really don’t know what their “ultimate concern” is. (Maybe this has always been true.) Like the driver who can’t find the address they are looking for, these folks wander from one thing to the next trying to find something that will give their lives meaning, hope, direction, control, happiness, self-worth, or whatever it is they are seeking at the moment.
“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks two of John’s disciples who are following him after John declares Jesus is the “Lamb of God.” Apparently, there were people in the first century who were seekers too. Like us, they searched for meaning, hope, direction, control, happiness, self-worth, and other things in a tumultuous world as they tried to figure out how to live in the face of it all. Some retreated into their traditional ways. Some collaborated with the Roman overlords. Some yearned for the long hoped for Messiah. The disciple’s response, “Where are you staying?” was more than a request for Jesus’ address. It reflected a desire to know where Jesus “was at” in the midst of their tumultuous world. They wanted to know if he was really worth following.
What are YOU looking for as we begin this new year? Are you searching for meaning, hope, direction, control, happiness… or something else? Are you simply searching and don’t really know for what? Are you pretty settled in your life and have a pretty clear idea of your “ultimate concern”?
“Come and see.” Jesus’ invitation to John’s disciples and to us is both simple and profound. No matter where you are on life’s road, in Jesus you will find direction for your journey. In him you will find a Way that gives meaning, hope, and direction. Through Christ, you will discover that control and happiness are overrated and that trusting in him brings both freedom and joy to life. In him, you can find the ultimate concern you’ve been looking for.
Pray for those who are lost and searching. Pray too that God gives us opportunities to accompany them on their way… and to share the story of Jesus’ invitation like John’s disciples did.
Thanks for reading.