It seems John the Baptist’s announcement about Jesus did not quite work the first time. So he repeats his declaration of John 1:29 in verse 36. But this time, there is no accompanying explanation or description. John the Baptist simply announces boldly:

‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ (John 1:36)

John the Baptist does add one piece of instruction – “Look!” Wake up! Pay attention! This is important!

This time, the announcement has the desired effect on John the Baptist’s disciples.

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:37)

This was John the Baptist’s goal all along. He wanted to stir inside his followers the desire to get close to Jesus. He was not looking for a particular statement of faith. He did not need them to say a special prayer. He did not demand any change of behaviour. John the Baptist only wanted his followers to find within themselves the desire to get close to this person he was identifying as “the Lamb of God.”

John the Baptist trusted that, if his disciples found within themselves the desire to get close to Jesus, then everything else would flow from there. They only needed to open their hearts to all that Jesus embodied.

Jesus understood this as well as John the Baptist. So, when Jesus saw these two disciples of John following him, he asked them,

‘What are you looking for?’ (John 1:38)

Like John, Jesus does not administer a test of theological competency to his prospective disciples. He does not demand anything of them. He only wants to know what is in their hearts.

It is a great question for Advent, or for any time of year – What are we looking for? What is it we believe is our heart’s longing? Where do we think we will find deep satisfaction and contentment in life?

If you look at much of the Christmas celebrations as they are portrayed in popular culture you may get the impression that what we are really looking for is more stuff, or a perfect family celebration, or a fancy new outfit to impress everyone at the office party. But, most of us have probably sensed that we were in fact created for something more, for something deeper, than the pleasures that are offered on the surface of life.

John the Baptist’s two disciples understood that their heart’s desire lay in a direction deeper than getting and spending or impressing their neighbours, so they answered Jesus’ question with a question of their own,

‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ (John 1:38)

It is the perfect answer. Their questions says, “Teacher, we are looking for you. We want to get close to you.”

All any of us have ever longed for is to get close to Jesus, to find out where he is “staying.” To get close to Jesus is to draw near to those qualities Jesus embodies. To find where Jesus is staying is to find those qualities of love, truth, peace, hope, beauty, and light that we know are our true nature. To get close to Jesus is to open more deeply to the rich, extraordinary, beautiful beings we were created to be.

This is why, when Jesus meets Simon, he gives him the new Aramaic name “Cephas,” which means “rock.”  As we meet Peter in the rest of John’s Gospel, he will frequently appear to be anything but a “rock.” But Jesus looked more deeply into Simon’s true nature and, by giving him a new name he called Simon to become more fully the person he was truly created to be.

Jesus desires that we might all become more truly the people we were created to be. We will fulfill this goal, not by self-will, determination, and sheer grit, but by opening to the presence of Jesus in our lives. We become the people we were created to be, by opening more deeply to the power of love. We become more fully the people we were created to be, by getting closer to Jesus.

May we receive more truly and deeply, the gift of our true self as we open more fully to the beauty of this season that is the presence of Jesus in our lives.