He said to them, “Come and you will see.” John 1:39a
The Gospel of John has a funny way of describing the baptism of Jesus. Rather than narrating the events, we are introduced to John the Baptist who recalls it in his own words, and he explains how big of a deal it really was. Considering the things that John the Baptist is saying about Jesus and what he’s acknowledging about himself, there will be major ramifications—we see this in the remaining Gospel account. In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ baptism itself was a major precursor to his public ministry, and there were many who had come before him claiming to be the messiah.
In this gospel account, the words of John the Baptist are making big waves—even the priests and Levites were sent out from the temple just to ask him who he was. This is a big deal. His message is getting a lot of attention not just from the people living in the area but even from the Temple elites. They travelled no small distance to ask him are you a prophet? Are you Elijah? Are you the Christ? Who are you? Whereas the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke refer to the prophecy from Isaiah 40 to describe John in his ministry, in the Gospel of John, John the Baptist responds by using it to describe himself. And he tells them “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” The next day John sees Jesus coming and he says “Look! It’s the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
John the Baptist makes it clear that this is the guy. And now he’s telling people, “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I didn’t know him, but I was told by the one who sent me to baptize with water, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And now I’ve seen, and I’ve borne witness that this is the Son of God.” So, yeah, John’s got everyone’s attention now. I don’t know if this would have caused the people to fear or be in awe, but one thing’s for certain: there’s no turning back at this point. And just like that, Jesus goes from nobody to known by everyone.
Now Jesus is walking around town. He’s been revealed as this special figure—the real messiah, the real Christ, whom people are beginning to believe is the one who embodies the coming of God himself. He’s the one who bears the Holy Spirit, which was a huge deal. And John sees Jesus just kind of pass by and he tells two of his disciples, that’s the Lamb of God! That’s him!
Have you ever met a celebrity or spotted one in public? What was it like? It’s funny, every so often I’ll see somebody share an article on social media, and it’ll be titled something like: “celebrities that are really jerks in person.” Magazines at the checkout counter will have articles: “what celebrities were seen wearing.” And sometimes you see people’s first-hand accounts with famous people or these larger than life figures, and our society seems to be amused with them.
When John tells his disciples, that’s the Lamb of God, they’re starstruck. They go and follow Jesus. That’s kind of what’s happening here. What might they expect from this larger than life encounter? And then Jesus confronts them. John writes that Jesus realized that they were following him and he asks them What are you looking for? Likewise, they respond Teacher, where are you staying?” Can you imagine the audacity? But, unlike our own culture theirs valued hospitality. So, he responds in a very welcoming way. He says, “Come and you’ll see.” So, they did. And they stayed with him all day.
It’s significant, because the Lamb of God—this now larger than life figure—not only wants John’s disciples to stay with him, he also wants them to be a part of what he’s doing—what he’s about to do. The text continues saying that the next day he takes them all to Galilee, and right after that we see him turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. And he goes on from there to change the world with his disciples at his side. He’s teaching them, instructing them, so that they too might carry on his ministry once he is gone from them. He promises them the Holy Spirit.
The Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world invites us to stay with him as well. He invites us from our sorrow and pain. He invites us from our uncertainty and doubts, our stress and our anguish. He invites us from our guilt and our shame, our self-obsession and over-indulgence. He invites us from our sinful lives. Except he doesn’t just invite us to stay with him in some small house for a day at the bank of the Jordan River. Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Our true home is with Christ in the presence of God the Father, wherever that may be—in this life or the next. He doesn’t want to avoid us or dismiss us. He wants to live with us. Just as he invites us to be with him, he has come himself to be with each of us.
As Jesus invites us into his home, he also brings us along to be a part of what he’s doing here and now—to be a part of the transformation that he has brought and continues to bring. He invites us to bear witness to his sacrifice as the Lamb of God, that we ourselves might embody his love and his mercy, which he has freely given to us. Jesus invites us to be with him in his mission to bring the Holy Spirit to the world, that everyone might be baptized with the Spirit of God and receive his forgiveness. That they too might experience his peace and his joy.
God’s Kingdom is present as Jesus reigns over heaven and earth, and it’s present in us—in our hearts and in our souls as our God uses us to reveal himself to everyone around us. He leads us and guides us with his Spirit. In his own life and death, he’s shown us the way and calls us to follow. That’s how we grow as disciples of Jesus: by listening to him, by giving our lives to him each and every day no matter where it might take us. Wherever we are, Jesus will always be with us. As he says to his very first disciples, come and you’ll see.