John 1:35-51; Psalm 66:1-5 07 January 2018
Query: Where have you been abiding in this season of your life? Is that where you want to remain?
I’m going to borrow an image from the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus was punished by Zeus. Not only did he end up in Hades (where all dead mortals were sent). He was in Tartarus—that is the Greek place for eternal punishment.
Sisyphus was forever tasked with pushing, lugging—however he could do it—a huge boulder up a mountain. He was told that if he could get that boulder up to the top of the mountain and over the top…he’d be free of Tartarus. Trouble is, that boulder was too big and too heavy to ever make the summit. So, Sisyphus is eternally pushing, lugging—however he can do it—that boulder up the mountain only to slip in his footing or miss his grip or being rolled over by the stone.
In life, I can somehow relate to this guy pushing a stone up a hill—trying to accomplish something in life—only to see it roll down the hill. Sometimes it’s a financial rock; sometimes it’s a family rock; sometimes it’s a work rock; sometimes it’s a spiritual rock; and sometimes it’s the whole stinking world rock.
The better image (for me) is someone trying to push about five rocks up the mountain. Ever had a week/month/year where you feel that an avalanche has happened? Life…what are you gonna’ do?
The Holy Spirit really used this week’s reading to capture my attention on the contrast between the rocks I’m pushing up the mountain and the spoken words found in the text. Let me explain:
John the Baptizer points to Jesus as Messiah: “Look, the Lamb of God.” Being presented with this truth, two of John’s followers (Andrew and John) begin to tag along with Jesus. Jesus looks over his shoulder a couple of times, then he stops and asks them: “What do you want?”
Friends, stop right here. That is the question Jesus has asked or is asking you, “What is it that you really want in life? If your life’s desire was reduced to one sentence, what would it say? What Chad wanted most in life was….”
What is your answer? I want you to think of the rocks and mountain again…those rocks are ‘wants’ we are striving to get to the top. Presumably, if we are followers of Jesus, we have (at some point in our lives) answered as Andrew and John did, “Teacher, where are you staying?”
The word for staying has the connotation of abiding or remaining. These men are wanting to abide and remain with Jesus wherever he is going. All the rocks these two disciples were pushing up the mountain have been left at the foot of the mountain. They only have one rock now. The rock of Christ.
“Come and you will see,” says the Lord. If you believe who I am and the testimony concerning me…if you believe you will see. And so it begins (pursuing the come and see). And so it should continue.
Richard Foster’s words have sat with me over a number of years. Paraphrasing: Concerning the Church, what I want most is a people where my grandchildren can hear the Gospel proclaimed. Over the years, there have many things I have wanted for my children: a good education; to make the better choices in friendship and love; and so on. But as the years go on, there is really only one thing that I want for them: that they are abiding and remaining with Jesus. What you want for those you love the most, in fact, reveals what you value the most.
This leads us to the actions of Andrew and Phillip. Both of them, after encountering Jesus, went to someone they were close with (here, their brothers), and shared what they loved more than anything else: Jesus. “We have found the one” that all of Scripture has pointed to…the Messiah.
Does our life—our actions and words, like Andrew and Phillip, share with others the treasure of being in relationship with Jesus? Do we like these two disciples “bring them to Jesus”? There is a closeness here and an intentionality here.
Four phrases: 1) “What do you want?” 2) “Teacher, where are you abiding?” 3) “Come, and see.” 4) “We have found the one…come.”
Over the next months, we will be reading from the book of John. We will be looking at John’s message for those that would believe…we will see these greater things that Jesus told Nathanial would see.
Back to the image of a person pushing, lugging a boulder up a mountain. The image works not because of some Greek myth, but because we can relate with the effort of living life. The image works because it calls us to let the stones we having been struggling with fall away and to take up the one stone of Christ. And in one sense it is difficult to live the Christian life—Jesus suffered the Cross and called on us to carry a cross. But in another, very real sense, we also follow the God who “rolled the stone away.”
Whichever you are needing today, a reminder that there is only one stone to push up the mountain or the liberation to follow the one who rolled the stone away, learn from the image. Amen.