Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
"Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, 'What are you looking for?'” (Jn 1:35-42)
Have you noticed in John's gospel that the first few words uttered by Jesus were, "What are you looking for?" and "Come follow me!" Jesus' first question, "What are you looking for?" is strange compared to the synoptic gospels.
In Matthew's and Luke's account, the "Infancy Narrative" is the focus. Matthew's Infancy Narrative reveals a Jewish custom by centering on Joseph's life, while Luke, on the other hand, gives us Mary and the Magnificat. These two gospels focus on the birth of Jesus, while Mark's gospel, on the other hand, presents Jesus as an adult. John the Baptist baptizes Jesus, and then immediately, Jesus experiences the Temptation in the Desert, "At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert" (Mk. 1:12). After the desert experience in Mark's account, Jesus immediately proclaims the gospel, admonishing us to repent and believe in the gospel.
The writer in John's gospel introduces Jesus as being divine. Jesus' Divinity appears at the beginning of chapter one, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn. 1:1). A more explicit portrayal of Jesus' Divinity emerged later in this gospel when Jesus spoke about his life, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again" (Jn. 10:18). John wants his audience to know of Jesus' Divinity. However, in hearing these words, "What are you looking for?" one could wonder why Jesus would ask a question that he knew the answer to since he is Divine.
Musing over the second utterance in John's gospel is even more critical for us to understand. Again, looking back at the synoptic gospels, all three have these words, "Come follow me." They also have the familiar theme of the "cross." The idea of following Jesus by picking up your cross daily is pervasive throughout the synoptic gospels.
The only one who carries a cross in John's gospel is Jesus. There is no command for you to pick up a "cross." Jesus picks up His cross, "carrying the cross Himself He went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha" (Jn. 19:17). John here maintains the theme of Jesus in his Divinity.
Therefore, to understand the two comments by Jesus in John's gospel, you must realize that John's audience was looking for the Messiah. The disciples became curious after John the Baptist recognized Jesus as the Lamb of God. They wanted to see if Jesus had roots in the land of their forefathers. (John's audience looks at the Old Testament teaching throughout this gospel) However, John flips the switch and gives the disciples the image of Jesus' Divinity. Instead of picking up a cross, you must know the power of the voice. Later in John's gospel, Jesus said, "my sheep know my voice."
Here, Jesus implores his disciples to not worry about where he came from; they need to follow Him to His glory. Interestingly, the first title given to Jesus is the Word, "the Logos," next the title is "the Lamb of God." Jesus is The Lamb of God, The Innocent Lamb, The Spotless Lamb, and more. Don't worry about where the Lamb lives; follow Him, for His sheep know the Good Shepherd's voice. Do you hear the Good Shepherd's voice? Jesus is calling us to follow him. Is that what you are looking for, the Lamb of God?
My sheep know my voice.
Evangelist Michael Howard, MACS