2nd Sunday after Epiphany: What Are We Looking For?
By: The Rev. Cn. Manoj Mathew Zacharia
As a church nerd, I am tempted to reflect on “the Lamb of God” and correlate this with a variety of substantive theological work on atonement theories. Yet, I will not succumb to this temptation. Rather, I am intrigued by Jesus’ response to the two disciples who took it upon themselves to follow Jesus when they heard John say “Look, here is the Lamb of God.” (Jn. 1:36) Jesus turned to them and asked “What are you looking for?” (Jn. 1:37)
The question raised by Jesus sets off an interesting turn of events wherein the two disciples go and spend time with Jesus at his dwelling. Andrew, one of the followers, evangelizes to his brother Peter and says “We have found the Messiah.” (Jn. 1:41)
What prompted Andrew and, presumably, the beloved disciple to follow Jesus?
Did they follow in the words of Archbishop William Temple, “as do most of us, because of what they have heard another say. We are Christians because we have been taught; and those who taught us were taught themselves.” My sense is that they followed because of a deep thirst to drink from the fountain of life (Jn. 4:13) Andrew and the beloved disciple are open enough to hear the words of John the Baptist because they long for something deeper. While following John the Baptist was a stop on their pilgrimage, they recognized that John’s teaching was not their final destination. Their openness to an experience beyond the mundane is a fundamental existential longing for deeper meaning. The entirety of the Johannine Gospel revolves around the search for deeper meaning. The potency of the Johannine Gospel, as one can infer from St. Clement of Alexandria, is its spiritual nature, where profound meaning must be gleaned from allegory. This spiritual nature is not esoteric. It is rooted in the fundamental fact of the divine logos becoming immanent. The significance of the divine logos becoming flesh is the potential for authentic restoration of the world through the incarnate Word. It is through the incarnate Word that authenticity or the path to ultimate truth is restored. (Jn. 14:6)
Whether the character is John the Baptist, Andrew, the beloved disciple, Nathanael, Nicodemus, or Thomas, the existential longing for meaning can only be quenched when one comes to a profound understanding of truth. The nature of moving from the mundane to the potency of Ultimate Truth is through following Jesus. The vision of the Johannine Gospel is for seekers of the Truth to recognize that the divine self-giving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ is the effective medium through which the world is redeemed. As the first chapter began with Andrew and the beloved disciple following Jesus, the resurrected Lord beckons Peter to “follow.” (Jn. 21) In other words, the mark of recognizing the Ultimate Truth is the unconditional vocation to follow Jesus.
What are we looking for?
The answer to this question depends on our basic orientation towards and understanding of Truth. If our orientation is rooted in self-centeredness and the accumulation of wealth and power for its own sake, then we are looking for truth in the idols that society has given us in the form of individualistic materialism and consumerism. If we are looking for an authentic experience rooted in the vision of a new heaven and earth bridged by the reconciling work of God manifest in the redemptive work of Christ, we are looking for a relationship centered on Jesus, who proclaimed himself to be the way, the truth, and the life. The movement from looking to following is what we, as ministers of the Word and Sacrament, are called to emulate. Once we have witnessed the Ultimate Truth, the call for us becomes to follow. In following, we center ourselves in the discipline of grappling with the worldview set forth by the architect of the Kingdom. Being centered on this world view, our call is to work towards the building of a New Heaven and New Earth where “the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; for he will wipe every tear rom their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” (Rev. 21:3-5)
The Rev. Canon Manoj Mathew Zacharia is Sub-Dean at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati. Canon Zacharia serves as the Ecumenical Officer of the Diocese of Southern Ohio. He is currently ABD from his Ph.D. program (Toronto) in the area Philosophy of Religion.
Temple, William. Readings in St. John’s Gospel. Vol. First and Second, 2 vols. London: MacMillan and Company Limited, 1939.
 William Temple, Readings in St. John’s Gospel, vol. First and Second, 2 vols. (London: MacMillan and Company Limited, 1939).