What are you looking for?

The four gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) witness to the fullness of life made possible through faith in Jesus Christ. Each gospel has its particular focus on what fulness of life in Jesus looks like through the first words attributed to Jesus in that gospel.

For example, last Sunday’s gospel lesson from Matthew 3:15 focused on the first words recorded by Jesus when he spoke with John the Baptist regarding his baptism. When John objected to Jesus’ request to be baptized by saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me,” Jesus’ first words recorded in Matthew are, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” At first reading it may seem as though Jesus’ first words in Matthew were about fulfilling the requirements of a cleansing ritual. Jesus’ response, however, was about living in right relationship with God. The remainder of the Gospel of Matthew leads to the concluding verses of Matthew 28:19-20 as Jesus’ followers fulfill all righteousness as they “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The Gospel of Mark records Jesus’ first words in Mark 1:15 as Jesus begins his public ministry in Galilee following the arrest of John the Baptist. Jesus’ first words in Mark are heard as Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” The remainder of the Gospel of Mark focuses on what fulness of faith in Jesus looks like as the concluding verse of Mark 16:20 states that Jesus’ disciples “… went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.”

The Gospel of Luke records Jesus’ first words in Luke 2:49 as the 12-year-old Jesus responds to his panicked parents who have searched for him for three days before finding him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions. Luke records Jesus’ mother, Mary, saying to her son, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” To which Jesus replied, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” This response of the 12-year-old Jesus about being in the temple leads to the concluding verses of Luke 24:52-53 as Jesus’ disciples worship the resurrected and ascended Jesus in the temple. These concluding verses speak to fulness of life in Jesus looks like with these words, “And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.”

In today’s scripture reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus’ first words are heard in John 1:38 as John the Baptist exclaims to two of his disciples, “Look, here is the Lamb of God.” In response, these two disciples of John begin to follow Jesus in the rabbinical tradition of discipleship where rabbis imparted knowledge to their disciples. The desired outcome of becoming the disciple of a particular rabbi was to glean the rabbi’s knowledge of scripture and to take on the rabbi’s character. In turn, the goal of discipleship was to include a disciple’s own teaching to what the disciple had learned and then to raise other disciples.

Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of John occur when Jesus turns and sees two of the disciples of John the Baptist following him in John 1:38. Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?” and then answers his own question by inviting them to come and see” by becoming his disciples. Jesus’ question and answer provide the focus of the Gospel of John as Jesus shares his fulness of life with his disciples as the Lamb of God whom John had proclaimed him to be.

To have an appreciation for the definition of the fulness of life in Jesus in the Gospel of John, it is important to realize the uniqueness of John’s Gospel in revealing the identity of Jesus as the Lamb of God. Where Matthew, Mark, and Luke gradually reveal the fulness of life in Jesus through Jesus’ journey to the cross, John reveals the identity of Jesus as the Lamb of God in his opening chapter. It is the fulness of Jesus’ identity as the Lamb of God that Jesus invites John’s two disciples to come and see. In John the fulness of Jesus identity is realized from the beginning proclamation of John the Baptist to “behold the Lamb of God” to the likely original concluding verse of John 20:31: “But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

All of which leads to the question of today’s sermon, “What are you looking for?”

It is not only the question that Jesus asks of John the Baptist’s disciples. It is also the question Jesus’ asks us of us if we wish to be his disciples. It is not only the question that leads to Jesus’ invitation for the disciples of John the Baptist to come and see as they followed him. It is also the question that leads to Jesus’ invitation for us to come and see as we follow him.

What are you looking for? It is the question we must answer if we want to live in the fulness of life in Jesus.

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers — The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath.

He grew up in a Mennonite family, but his life journey led him away from the Mennonite tradition as he stopped going to church and stopped focusing on Jesus. His book David and Goliath was different from his previous books, which looked at things from at a high, theoretical level (considering things like principles that govern the way we behave or how success happens). The book David and Goliath looks at individuals and the choices they make.

Among the people Gladwell interviewed for David and Goliath was a Mennonite couple whose faith was evident in their response to the murder of their teenaged daughter. Both the mother and the father of this girl, while feeling heartbroken and angry, spoke early on about the path of forgiveness. At a press conference after his daughter’s body was found the father said, “We would like to know who the person or persons are [who murdered her] so we could share, hopefully, a love that seems to be missing in these people’s lives.”

Gladwell wondered: How could he say that? Where did this couple find the strength to say what they said about love and forgiveness? Before he met them, Gladwell had been researching stories about strength and power turning up in unexpected ways – like, in dyslexic kids who became successful entrepreneurs or in children who had difficult childhoods, then grew up to be world leaders.

But it was in talking to this Mennonite couple that Gladwell realized what he personally was really looking for. “I was interested,” he says, “in the ‘weapons of the spirit’ – the peculiar and inexplicable power that comes from within.” In many interviews since, Gladwell has said he’s in the process of rediscovering his faith. It’s been a process of coming to see he’d been missing something . . . that there was “something incredibly powerful and beautiful in the faith that he grew up with that he was missing. He’d been writing about people of extraordinary circumstances – strong people like that Mennonite couple . . . brave people, like the Christians of Le Chambon, who risked their lives to shelter Jews during World War II. As he heard about their strength and courage and faith, it slowly dawned on Gladwell: I can have that, too – that powerful, beautiful something. He realized how much he wanted it.

“What are you looking for? . . . Come and see.”

Gladwell realized what he was looking for as Jesus invited him to come and see. What are you looking for as you seek to live in the fullness of faith in Jesus? Perhaps it is time to come and see as you follow Jesus.

What Are You Looking For?

by Pastor Marc Brown
January 15, 2023

Accompanying Scriptures: John 1:29-42

Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for January 15, 2023

Scripture Lesson       John 1:29-42

The Good News      “What Are You Looking For?”

Music                          “Give Me Jesus” by Ralph Manuel



Closing Music      “Variations on ‘Salvation'” by Franklin Ritter

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