Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” [What?!] He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. (John 1:38-39)
Does this strike you as a bit odd? Jesus asks them what they are seeking and of all the things they could ask, they ask where he is staying! Kind of reminds me of contestants on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” who use their lifelines for questions they should really know already. What else is going on here?
Here we begin to see the multi-leveled meanings in some of John’s simple language. Regularly in this Gospel people are talking at the physical level, and Jesus is taking their language and leading them deeper to the spiritual level using the same language. For example:
- Nicodemus is talking about physical birth, and Jesus is talking about spiritual birth (John 3:3–8).
- And the woman at the well is talking about water from the physical well, and Jesus is talking about spiritual water that he will give (John 4:7–14).
- The crowds asked for physical bread, but Jesus meant that he was the living bread (John 6:30–51).
- The Pharisees deal with a man who was given physical sight in John 9, and Jesus speaks of spiritual sight. Verse 39: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
So when Jesus says in John 1:37, “What are you seeking?” he was asking something deeper than they think. There were people who followed Jesus, seeking the wrong thing. In John 6:26, he says, “You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” So he is asking John’s disciples here: What are you seeking? I think he would ask you the same question. What are you seeking?
They do not go to that level. They simply say (in verse 38), “Where are you staying?”—we are seeking your address. As usual, Jesus is patient with this kind of response, and he gives them another chance. Only this time, it’s not a question; it’s a command and a promise. Verse 39: “Come and you will see.” On one level, it could mean simply: You will see where I am staying. But in the mind of Jesus and the mind of John this meant: If you will truly come to me, you will see spiritual reality. You will have spiritual sight.
Seeking Jesus, Finding Christ
Coming to Jesus in John’s Gospel means again and again entrusting yourself to Jesus, and receiving his promises (5:40; 6:35, 37, 44, 7:37). So they come to him, and they stay with him the rest of the day. The next two verses (40–41) show that they have indeed “seen.” “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ).”
Jesus began the relationship by saying, “What are you seeking?” (verse 38). And now we hear Andrew say to his brother, “We have found the Messiah.” At first, they were only seeking where he was staying. Then because they came to him and spent time with him, they saw. The point is that if you come to Jesus, you see. You see spiritual reality. You see the key that unlocks the ultimate meaning of all things.
This is the glory of the Son of God. This is the grace we receive.