Abide with Me
Last Sunday I had the gift of teaching the high school youth. In the corner of a coffee shop, we sipped caffeine and hot chocolate while thumbing through our Bibles to find the Gospel of John…
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” —John 1:38-39
We talked about that exchange of questions between Jesus and two guys who would become his disciples. Jesus’ question, “what are you looking for,” is more accurately translated from the original Greek to mean “what are you seeking.” It’s a question probing their innermost being to find out what they really need, or, as the psalmist writes, what are the desires of their heart (Psalm 137:4).
They respond by asking Jesus where he is staying. At first glance it seems like a kiddie pool response to an ocean’s depth query: “Well, where are you hanging out, man?” But, again, peeling away the layers of language draw us into the deep end. ‘Staying’ comes from the Greek word meno, which means “abide.” Asking Jesus “where are you abiding” changes everything.
Audrey West, a professor of New Testament at Chicago’s Lutheran School of Theology, writes: “The disciples are not asking Jesus for the location of his tent, or the address of the guest house at which he is visiting; they want to know about the enduring, permanent, eternal, undying dwelling place of this Lamb of God. Where are you staying? Where can we find you? Where shall we go to be with you, to receive what you have to offer? Where can we be in the very presence of God?” And, finally, Jesus responds saying, “I can’t tell you. You’ll have to follow me. If you want to know where I abide, you’ll have to come and see.”
The high schoolers shared with each other the things that motivate and fulfill them; the desires of their heart. All of their examples had to do with creative expressions of theirselves: writing stories, making music, being in relationship with animals and non-human creatures to reach new understandings that explain the whole of creation. We connected our heart’s desires—what we are seeking—with Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” where he abides. What we deciphered was that to follow Jesus and see where he abides always brings the desires of our heart out of our innermost self and into deep, deep community, where everyone flourishes from what we have to share with one another.
When we put ourselves in those disciples’ shoes and ask Jesus, “Where are you abiding,” and the Teacher replies with an invitation to “come and see” by following him, we discover the deeper invitation of Jesus saying, “Abide with me.” And what we learn along the journey is that there is no “Me" apart from God and neighbor. There is no Jesus apart from relationship. There is no salvation without community.
So, taking a page from a Sunday school class of teenagers sharing their heart’s desires with one another, how will you abide deeply with Jesus this week? How will you connect the things your innermost self needs with the community that needs you to survive?