HOMILY & IDEAS

1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20; John 1:35-42.

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots.

John was standing with two of his disciples, and he watched Jesus walk by, he said -- Behold, the Lamb of God. The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.

The setting here is most likely Bethany, thought to be located at that time on the east banks of the Jordon river 23 miles northeast of Jerusalem and 10 miles north of where the fresh, living water of the Jordon pours into the lifeless salt water of the Dead Sea. This is the region where John the Baptist has chosen to administer his baptism with water.

John the Baptist stands with Andrew, the brother of Peter, and an unidentified disciple. Could it be John the evangelist? The supporting role of John the Baptist is emphasized by his dramatic statement in earshot of his disciples -- but yet he remains behind as his disciples follow Jesus. Not jealous of his own importance as a religious leader and charismatic preacher, John the Baptist rightfully directs two of his disciples to Jesus.

Would one expect any other reaction from these two disciples? The individual whose sandal strap the charismatic and commanding figure of John said he was unworthy to untie has been identified and he now walks in their midst. Their immediate instinct is to follow, yet perhaps their timidness keeps them from catching up with the pace of Jesus and initiating a conversation.

Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them -- What are you looking for?

It must have been obvious to Jesus that these two men were deliberately following him. He was not walking in the midst of a busy current of pedestrian traffic on a well-worn road to Jerusalem or Jericho; rather he must have been walking alone -- perhaps in an uncommon direction or on an infrequently traveled path. Feeling intrigued stares upon him and hearing two sets of footsteps maintaining a fixed distance behind him, Jesus turns and faces his followers. I wonder in what tone his question was asked? What word was emphasized? Was it a shout because of the distance? Did the sudden about-face of Jesus and his directed question startle the two disciples of John? It is also worth noting that it is Jesus who takes the initiative by turning and speaking a la -- It is not you who chose me. No, I chose you (Jn 15:16).

They said to him -- Rabbi -- which translated means Teacher -- where are you staying? He said to them -- Come, and you will see.

The disciples answer a question with a question and the title with which they address Jesus implies their respectful relationship to him. They stand as disciples facing their new teacher. The question that they ask seeks a longer, more personal encounter with the Lamb of God. They want to know where Jesus is staying. It is not enough to have a brief conversation while walking with Jesus. What is sought here is a quiet, exclusive exchange out of the hot sun and away from the business. The answer they receive from Jesus is not solely informative -- it is not a street address or the name of a town; rather, it is an invitation -- just what they were hoping for.

So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.

The last sentence here sticks out like a sore thumb. Does it punctuate the end of this verse, or is it an introduction to the next verse? In either case it feels awkward. The most convincing commentary on why the time of day is mentioned suggests that this event was so monumental in the lives of the two disciples that time of day is forever etched in their memories. Still, what does four in the afternoon specifically mark? When they departed for the house? When they arrived at the house? Or, when Andrew leaves the house to find Peter?

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him -- We have found the Messiah -- which is translated Christ.

If, like me, you are the youngest in the family, you may be able to identify with being referred to as the kid brother of so-and-so throughout your years in school or in the neighborhood. In other words, your identity is contingent upon the reputation or stature of another person. Some scholars point out that this is what may be happening with Andrew. That is, he is identified in relation to the better known, more prominent figure of Peter.

It could be said that in the Gospel of John, Andrew is the first disciple called by Jesus -- at least the first identified by name. Yet, he is not included in the core group of three disciples who accompany Jesus during the intense moments of the Transfiguration, the Agony in the Garden, or the raising of the daughter of Jairus. Instead, Jesus calls Peter, John and James to be with him during these moments. Still, one could pause to paint a beautiful picture of Andrew here who was destined to make an introduction between his brother, Peter, and the Messiah. The yearning to share the discovery of the Messiah with Peter is so great that Andrew chooses to leave Jesus in order to find his brother and bring him back to the house where Jesus is staying.

Further, when Andrew finds Peter, he refers to Jesus as the Messiah whereas several hours earlier Andrew addressed Jesus only as Rabbi. The encounter that took place over the course of the afternoon has convinced Andrew of the true identity of Jesus.

Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said -- You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas -- which is translated Peter.

When Peter and Jesus meet Jesus gazes intently upon him and gives him and presents him with a new name -- Cephas, which means Peter. In scripture the presentation of a new name by God communicates that a new and special relationship has been formed (i.e., Jacob to Israel, and Abram to Abraham). Peter will be the rock upon whom Jesus will build his church.

HOMILY: like John the Baptist, we must possess the humility to point out to others the Lamb of God and allow them to follow. Like Andrew, so filled with excitement that he must leave the side of Jesus in order to find his brother to share the good news of finding the Messiah and bring Peter back with him, we must not be afraid to make introductions between Jesus and others. In fact, it should be done with joy and excitement. Come and see where Jesus stays!

HOMILY:Discipleship is an invitation from God -- it cannot be self-invented, self-invited. It begins with an inner call, a dream, an inspiration oftentimes in our lived, ordinary experience. It begins with having Jesus pointed out to us by the John the Baptists of the world. It begins with being introduced to Jesus by the Andrews of the world. What will our response be? Will we immediately follow? Will we make a fundamental decision to orient our lives toward Jesus?

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