“What are you looking for?”
It’s not a sermon. It’s not a thesis on the meaning of God. It’s just a simple question. And these are the very first words from Jesus’ lips in the gospel according to John.
“What are you looking for? What do you want? What do you desire?”
With these words, Jesus shows that he has his finger on the pulse. He understands the core of what it means to be human, because being human is about desire.
Originally, Jesus asked the question to two of John’s disciples. They’re out walking with John when John points to Jesus and says, “LOOK! here is the Lamb of God who take away the sin of the world!”
The two disciples hear this and leave John to follow Jesus. They come up to him but before they can speak, Jesus turns and asks them: “What are you looking for? What do you desire?”
In religious circles, we sometimes think of desire with some uneasiness. We might not talk about desire much because our first thought may be of sexual desire, which we often don’t want to talk about, even though it is how God has designed two people to make a third person.
Or maybe we are uncomfortable with desire because we think about desire in terms of wanting material possessions. We might feel guilty for desiring these things. I sometimes desire a $10,000 guitar, but that’s not the most faithful use of the resources entrusted to me. SO maybe I get to the place where I feel uncomfortable talking about any kind of material desire, but a person must desire and get for themselves food, clothing, a place to live, and all the rest that makes for a healthy life!
Desire can get a bad rap.
But as Margaret Silf says in her book Wise Choices,
We tend to think that if we desire something, it is probably something we ought not to want or to have. But think about it: without desire we would never get up in the morning. WE would never have ventured beyond the front door. We never would have read a book or learned something new. No desire means no life, no growth, no change. Desire is what makes two people create a third person. Desire is what makes crocuses push up through the late winter soil. Desire is energy. The energy of creativity, the energy of life itself. So let’s not be too hard on desire.
Jesus understand the place of desire in our human experience and Jesus asks us: “What are you looking for? What do you desire?”
His question isn’t surface-level. The answer isn’t a new video game, a cooler car, or a vacation home.
His question is: When you think of life – of the short amount of time you have – what are you looking for out of life?
Do you want to serve?
Do you feel called to teach?
Do you want to travel?
Do you want to learn?
If so what do you want to learn about?
What kind of people do you want to work with?
Understanding our deepest desires helps us understand who we are.
Understanding our deepest desires may help us understand how God is calling us.
I think God even communicates with us though our desires.
In my own life, I have felt God use my desires to help bring me closer to him.
After I graduated from college, I had a strong desire to help people.
My parents had provided for me generously throughout my life, had sent me to college and I thought about how I wanted to help others who may not have had that advantage.
I volunteered to serve for a year in Baltimore in a homeless shelter for men. Some of them were veterans. Some were living with HIV and AIDS. I helped them by cooking for them, cleaning, making sure they were making it to their appointments with doctors and case managers, and wlaking with them through the ups and downs of their days.
As I became friends with them, several of them invited me to church, and I would go with them.
At that time in my life, I had decided I didn’t much need the church. I had a relationship with God, I read my Bible, and I could do it on my own.
But I met the churches that these men were part of. Communities who loved them, gathered around them even though it didn’t seem that many of these people were much better off, and prayed for them and with them, and I saw the church was this amazing way God is active in the word…I saw the church as God’s presence in the world. God met me there and invited me to walk more closely with him.
Jesus asks all of us: “What are you looking for?” And then he uses your answer as an invitation to relationship.
Of course, if we were to turn that question on Jesus: “What are you looking for?” — We might wonder what he would say.
He would smile at us. He might laugh!
He IS God’s answer to that question.
Jesus comes because of God’s desire for us…because of God’s desire to be in relationship with us.
In this passage we see there are so many ways he reaches out to us.
Look how many names for Jesus there are: Jesus, which means “savior,” Son of God, Lamb of God, “Rabbi” which mean Teacher, “Messiah” which means “Annointed…”
We were talking about that this past week. I asked if anyone had nicknames. Paul Beauller said, his kids call him “Dad” and his grandkids call him “Granddaddy” and when he was in the Air Force he had a nickname too.
What was it, I asked.
Paul said, “Everybody called me ‘Sir’!”
Jesus has many names so that many can understand him.
What names for Jesus resonate with you?
“Wonderful Counselor” resonates with Ellis, who is a lawyer… easy to see why that resonates.
“Shepherd” resonates with Caroline. Her husband was a pastor and she writes cards and letters to shut ins, calls people at home, and tends the flocks…it’s easy to see why “shepherd” resonates for her.
That Jesus is our ‘Lamb of God’ recalls the story of the Angel of Death passing over the homes of the Israelites who had followed God’s command to put the blood of an unblemished lamb on their doorposts. All the Egyptian children were struck down, the Israelite children were spared, and Pharaoh said, “Get these people OUT of my land!”
Jesus saves our life. Because of him, death cannot claim us.
Jesus comes to be with us. He looks for us. He finds us. He remain with us and stays with us.
And this is not a question.