Epiphany 2: Come and See


In recent weeks I have been in fierce, fervent, and sometimes fearful prayer for someone who probably doesn’t know how much he needs it. Enmeshed in dynamics and beset by forces he is not yet able to understand, he hasn’t honed the skills to sort through what’s going on. I’ve been praying that he will perceive the currents that are shaping him. I want God to give him wise eyes.

And pretty darn soon.

Bear in mind that I’ve gotten pretty good at taking the long view of things. Being an oblate of a monastery that draws on the Benedictine tradition, which has been around for more than 1500 years, helps in that regard. So this isn’t a post about my need to cultivate patience until this person sees what he needs to see. And I don’t want to make this a “Wow, I can perceive so clearly what someone else needs, and here I am, missing the log in my own eye, golly!” sort of reflection. I generally take it as a given that there’s always a log in my eye that God is inviting me to work on. (I don’t know that I’ll ever get rid of it; I think perhaps the most I can hope for is to carve it into something artful.)

I will say, however, that reflecting on this week’s Gospel lection has given me pause in the midst of my fierce prayers for this person’s vision. This passage, John 1.29-42, is something of a primer in the art of seeing. From the first sentence, in which John the Baptist sees Jesus, to the last, in which Jesus looks at Simon (and, as a result of his looking, renames him Cephas, or Peter), this lection contains twelve references to seeing or looking. The Greek words that John uses for sight-related verbs carry different shades of meaning; there are different kinds of vision taking place in this passage.

Here’s the sort of seeing that especially intrigues me in this story.

The passage tells us that John the Baptist is standing around with two of his disciples one day. Watching Jesus walk by, he exclaims, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” His disciples turn and follow Jesus. Perceiving them behind him, Jesus says to them, “What are you looking for?” They don’t say what they’re looking for; I think perhaps they don’t quite know. Instead, they ask him where he is staying.

The disciples aren’t on a Tour of Homes; they’re not interested in simply taking a gander at Jesus’ house. The word they use for staying comes from the Greek word meno, which can also be translated as remain, abide, endure. It’s the same word that John the Baptist just used a few verses ago, when he says that he saw the Spirit descend from heaven and remain on Jesus. Jesus uses the same word in John’s account of the Last Supper when he beckons his disciples to abide in him as he abides in them.

“Where are you staying?” There’s a deeper question beneath their question. I think it translates roughly as, “Who the hell are you?”

Jesus hears this. Answering them in kind, Jesus tells them, “Come and see.”

Come and see.

The word that’s translated here as see comes from the Greek horao. It can be translated as perceive, understand, recognize, experience. It’s a word that connotes more than casual looking. This a kind of seeing that invites us to look closely, to enter fully. It’s the kind of seeing that can transform us.

This kind of seeing rarely happens quickly. We know from the stories of Jesus’ disciples that, though passionate about following him—remaining with him—they weren’t always terribly quick on the uptake. They didn’t always perceive or understand. But, for the most part, they remained with him. And in their remaining, in their abiding with him, they began to see more deeply.

John’s gospel has provided a good tutorial for me as I continue to learn how to pray for this person who desperately needs to learn to see. John’s sight-crammed story, in which the disciples’ seeing is intertwined with movement, with setting out, reminds me that seeing is a process. I’m more mindful these days that if the person for whom I’ve been praying were suddenly able to recognize the forces that are working on him, he wouldn’t have the internal structures to be able to handle it. Not yet. So now, when I’m asking God to help him see, it’s the horao kind of seeing I’m praying for: seeing that is intertwined with the experience and perception and understanding that he needs to gain so that he can sort through what he sees and not have his head explode.

For my part, I’m also chewing on that Greek word meno as I pray. Though I may carry all kinds of clarity about this other person and what I think he needs to see, there is, in the midst of this, an invitation to me to see more deeply, to dig beneath my own stunning clarity. (Does my sarcasm come through here?) I sense that God is beckoning me to ask the same question that John’s disciples asked: Where are you staying? Where are you remaining and enduring?

If I can see that: if I can learn to move more fully into Christ’s invitation to come and see where he is abiding, where he is showing up; if I can learn to see in a horao kind of way that deepens my own experience and understanding, then everything else will fall into place. Eventually.

Come and see.

2 Responses to “Epiphany 2: Come and See”

  1. revdrkate Says:

    Thank you for this. I saw the link on RevGals on Saturday in the midst of some very hard sermon labor, and after reading this post had just the spark (and bit of Greek inspiration) I needed to get going on the sermon that said what needed to be said to those it needed to be said to. Your blog is wonderful!

  2. Thom Says:

    Jan, the artwork is simply stunning. Thanks for this and welcome to the CCblogs network!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *