What do you seek?

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Bible Study John 1:35-41

What do you seek?

by I Gordon


Recently, I needed to prepare a communion message for the church which I attend. Now I like communion. I like it because it is part celebration, part evaluation and part dedication! It is a great time to come back again and celebrate the awesome work of Jesus for our behalf in dying for our sins. It is also a good time to evaluate your own heart, and where you are at with your relationship with the King of kings. So anyway, as I was praying and looking for a passage to speak from, I was taken by a few verses in John chapter 1. They are simple verses about the disciples first meeting with Jesus... and yet challenging verses at the same time. Now, I certainly don't want to be greedy and keep these convicting verses to myself! No, no, no. Let me share some of the conviction with you! This simple study then will be based around three questions...

Where are you looking? What are you seeking? What are you sharing?

Let's have a look.

Where are you looking!

John 1:35-37 'The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God!'' When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.

So we start our little study with John the Baptist and his two disciples. Now I like John the Baptist. I like him because he always has a habit of reminding us of the true focus in the Christian life... 'Behold the Lamb of God!' he cries, and in doing so, he loses two disciples! The job of any true preacher of the gospel is to get the hearers focus off themselves [1] and onto the true source of life - Jesus Christ. Any true preacher, or Christian for that matter, must live by the principle that John the Baptist lived out in practise - 'He must increase, but I must decrease.'

But let's look at his statement in the passage before us. 'Behold the Lamb of God!' It is a simple enough statement but I would suggest that it is one of the most important principles in the life of any Christian. The Greek word translated 'behold' in this passage carries a few different ideas with it. It means 'to perceive, or take notice', 'to turn the eyes, the mind, the attention to something', 'to inspect, examine, gain knowledge of', and 'to have regard for and cherish'. John is saying to his two disciples 'turn your eyes upon the Lamb of God! Perceive and understand that He is our Passover Lamb! Regard and cherish greatly this one that God has sent to die for your behalf! Behold Him! [2] '

Now, I trust that you have done this very thing! I trust that you have come to see the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God who died for your sins. For that is the true starting line for real life and to fail in this regard is to miss the very reason for which you have been created. But also let us fear that having seen this, we have not pressed on to behold Him as the risen Lord! For our 'beholding' doesn't stop at salvation. No, the degree to which we display the glory of the Lord in our life is proportional to the time spent 'beholding' the glory of the Lord.

2 Cor 3:18 'But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory.'

So as we go on to the next section, let me ask you - Where are you looking? Have you been looking to the Lord for not only salvation from the penalty of sin, but also for salvation from its power? Simple message I know but I'm amazed at how often we forget! Whatever you are going through at the moment, hear the voice of the one speaking from the wilderness and turn and 'behold the Lamb of God'.

What are you seeking?

John 1:38-39 'Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, 'What do you seek?' They said, 'Rabbi' (which means Teacher), 'where are you staying?' 'Come,' he replied, 'and you will see.' So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.

Now, it is fair to say that this is the question that stopped me in my tracks when I read this passage. As these two disciples of John leave to follow Jesus, Jesus turns to them and says 'What do you seek?' And for me, that is as probing a question today as it was then! You see, Jesus knew that people come to Him for a multitude of reasons - then [3] and now. So Jesus wanted these disciples to evaluate what exactly it was that they were seeking from Him. So think about your own life for a second. Well, a minute. What is you prayer life like? Does it just consist of 'Bless me Lord' type prayers or have you truly desired to know Him better? [4] What is it that you are seeking from the Lord?

Well, back to these two disciples and let's see their response... 'Rabbi, where are you staying?' In other words, they wanted to be with Him! They weren't satisfied with just meeting Him. They desired to be close to Him and spend time with Him. You can imagine the pleasure and the smile on the Lord's face as He says 'come, and you will see.' No one is turned away or disappointed when they come to Him with a true heart, desiring to know Him better. So do you still have a heart that would long to be with the Lord? What is it that you seek from the Lord? It is good to take a little time to evaluate the motives of our heart from time to time.

What are you doing?

John 1:40-42 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, 'We have found the Messiah' (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

Finally, I just wanted to look at the response of Andrew, who was one of the two disciples who had followed Jesus and spent time with Him. It says in the verse above 'the first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him 'we have found the Messiah!''. Can you imagine it? Can you imagine the joy that would have been in his voice as he told his brother? The Jewish people had been waiting thousands of years for the Messiah to come. Each generation longed that theirs would be the one to see His arrival... and here He was! Andrew had found Him and actually spent time with Him! So Andrew went straight away to his brother and told him the unbelievable news. He had to tell others... He couldn't just keep it a secret... the news was far too good to keep to himself.

So the last thought that I have concerning this passage is one of dedication. We have seen that communion is a time of celebration. That there is a Lamb of God that died for our sins is great news. It is something to celebrate. But there is also a time of evaluation as we examine our heart for God and what exactly it is that we are seeking from Him. And finally, from verses 40-42, we are challenged by dedication. That is, what are we doing now that we have found the Messiah? Are we, like Andrew, now thinking of others who also need to meet the Lord? Or have we kept the good news a secret?

We should offer ourselves back to the one who saved us to be used by Him for His glory. In whatever capacity He decides is best for us is up to Him. He is the head and you are His hands and feet. So, to wrap up, this passage suggests to us three questions - Where are you looking, what are you seeking, and what are you doing?

[1]  It is certainly a sign of the age in which we live that many leaders still love the limelight and having the attention upon themselves. It is a sign of the times that some church members tend to follow their Pastor and fix their eyes upon him instead of the one who gave his life for them. Now, it is true that we can learn from others and it is good to have someone whose faith we can imitate (Heb 13:7). But what we are to imitate is their trust and confidence in the Lord... not place them in a position between ourselves and God. Paul said that it is a sign of carnality and spiritual immaturity to follow another man! (1 Cor 3) For 'Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.'

[2]  I really like what A.W Tozer writes in his book 'The Pursuit of God' in the chapter called 'The gaze of the soul.' He brings out that looking, or beholding, is the same as faith. He writes 'Believing then, is directing the hearts attention to Jesus. It is lifting the mind to 'behold the lamb of God', and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives.' He goes on to say (and I really like the simplicity expressed in this statement) 'Now, if faith is the gaze of the heart at God, and if this gaze is but the raising of the inward eyes to meet the all seeing eyes of God, then it follows that it is one of the easiest things possible to do. It would be like God to make the most vital thing easy and place it within the range of possibility for the weakest and poorest of us.'

[3]  A couple of examples for you from the book of John... Have a look at John 6:24-27. These people were following Jesus and we would naturally think 'great!' but Jesus was under no illusions as to why they sought Him out. In short, they follow Jesus for what they could get out of it. They wanted to be fed, and not spiritually, but just physically. Things haven't changed. There are probably millions around the world this week praying the prayer of Jabez asking the Lord to 'prosper me in this, increase that, give me more of this... Excuse my cynicism but I doubt that what most are hungry for is the Lord Himself. So we are back to the question of Jesus 'what do you seek?'

2nd example - John 2:23-25. Here again we have more people following and believing in the Lord Jesus. 'Fantastic' we would think. 'The Lord will be pleased to have such a crowd!' But no... look at the response of Jesus - 'But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.' Mmmm. Seems that Jesus was well aware of their hearts and why people followed Him and didn't commit Himself back to those who were simply after physical or material gain, or were just amazed by the signs He did. So, again, were back to the original question... 'What do you seek?'

[4]  I remember reading a book called 'The secret to the Christian life' as a young Christian. Some books you've basically forgotten a month later, but this book had a lot of things that stayed with me. One of those was a statement that was on a page by itself at the start of the book. It said 'Your love for God is tested by whether you seek Him or His gifts.' I'll leave you with that thought!