Fr Ed Bakker
Come and see”
Scripture sounds the notes of an ending and a beginning on this day, the Sunday Next before Advent. This day both concludes the course of the Son’s life in us – “the Lord our Righteousness” - and returns us to the beginning of the course he runs for us – “Behold the Lamb of God”. The righteousness of Christ, the right ordering of our loves and our lives, is what we have sought in the long course of the Trinity season. But the course he runs for us is the way of the cross, the way of sacrifice. It is the way that we travel with him in the pageant of faith from Advent to Trinity.
Such times of transition signal occasions of renewal - a renewal of love, a re-awakening of the soul’s desire for holy things, a divine stirring up of our wills. We come to the Advent of Christ. Advent is the season of God’s revelation, the motion of God’s Word and Son towards us for the sake of our knowing. Our text sounds the measure of the season and beyond the season strikes the note of our soul’s salvation. “Come and see”.
In St. John’s Gospel, this is Jesus’ first statement. It comes in response to the disciples’ answer to his very first gospel utterance, a question which he puts to them and to us, “What seek ye?” (What do we want?). They answer with a question that has a twofold significance: “Rabbi (which means Teacher), where are you staying?” Here is no question of idle curiosity, but one which is deep and profound. It speaks about the yearning of our hearts and the desiring of our minds. It speaks about the awakened desire of the soul for God. But how is the question twofold? By its address as well as its request.
"Rabbi – Teacher”. They identify Jesus as a Teacher, one who can instruct them, teach them, enlighten them with an understanding which they seek but do not have. They seek to know. To know what? Is it information? Do they seek to know a host of busy details about a myriad of busy things? “God is in the details”, it is commonly said. To be sure, but he is not the details. God cannot be reduced to a data sheet of statistics or to the memory bank of a computer. “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” T.S. Eliot asks, the knowledge of God lost not found in the details, in the rush and crush of busy and disordered lives.
For in such things there is no satisfaction; no true seeking where there is no desiring for a true finding . No. They seek more than information. And so must we. They seek the understanding upon which all our inquirings and all our doings depend. They seek the reason and cause of all things, the knowledge of what is, what remains, and what ever shall be. And so must we.
They seek an understanding of God’s will and purpose. They seek his abiding Word in the midst of the changing world. Why? Because nothing else is worth living for and they would live with the knowledge of that truth. And so they ask, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” They would remain with him who would enlighten their minds to their heart’s desire. They seek the Messiah, the promised anointed one of God, yet Christ will be more than the Messiah they seek. For God’s revelation of himself does not so much mean the lowering of God to us, as the raising of us to God, hence “Come and see”. He has come to us in order that we might come to him.
But our seeking is not itself our seeing. Jesus’s question seeks to draw out their proper intention, their true desire and what is truly to be desired. They seek for what they do not have. They seek for what is beyond them. Such a seeking manifests an openness to God’s Word, to the possibilities of divine illumination. As such it belongs to Revelation, to what comes from God to man, what we could in no wise invent. Revelation, not our seeking, is the premiss of our seeing. “In thy light, shall we see light”. We cannot attain to God simply by our seeking. Our seeking cannot make him in the image of our seeking.
No doubt our lives are lives of seeking, of the desiring to know, to have and to enjoy. But according to our own lights, according to the light of our own experiences, we are but darkness. To know that and not to yield to it, but instead to seek for the light which shines in the darkness, is to be open to God’s Revelation.
“Show us the light of thy countenance and we shall be whole”, the Psalmist cries and behold, “Jesus turned and saw them”. Our illumination depends upon God’s Revelation, his turning towards us, his seeing us in the light of his divine knowing. His motion towards us manifests his divine light and makes us partakers of his eternity, now in the illumination by grace and then in the vision of glory.
We are light only in the light of Christ. We are bidden to “come and see” because that light who is Christ comes to us in the darkness of our uncertainties and fears. It is no mere lightning bolt which comes and goes in a flash; it is more like the beacon of a lighthouse constant and secure, at once a warning and a guide. Our faith shall deepen to understanding if we attend to his revelation and let the Teacher teach us about the truth of himself and the truth of ourselves in the light of his grace. He comes to teach us. And so let us indeed cry out, “Rabbi-Teacher”, but even more, let us “come and see”, this Advent and evermore.
“Come and see”