I’m spending my time in Quebec City reacquainting with friends and the city, which means I’ll continue sharing excerpts from Robert Barron’s The Strangest Way. Today’s excerpt asks, “Where are you staying?”
The first words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John are addressed to two former disciples of John the Baptist: “What are you looking for” (John 1:38)? They respond, somewhat surprisingly, “Where are you staying?” One might expect that, in the presence of this new rabbi, they would have answered, “the truth” or “enlightenment” or “peace.” Instead, they answer the question elliptically with another question—and this odd non answer is, in fact, the key to the exchange. What they seek, what they want to know, is not so much the teaching or wisdom or perspective of the rabbi; they want to know HIM, more to the point, precisely where and how he lives. In the mystical vocabulary of John’s Gospel, the vern menein (stay or remain) refers to the source of one’s life and meaning. Thus, Jesus says that he remains with the Father, drawing his being from him and he promises that he and the Father will remain with believers, feeding and nurturing them. Therefore, in asking where he “stays,” the disciples are wondering about the form of life that sustains him, the source of his power. Obviously pleased by their response, Jesus says encouragingly, “Come and see” (John 1:39). And then, John tells us, “they came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.” In this simple and understated narrative, we see that the form of Christian discipleship is not primarily listening or learning but rather moving into the “house” of Jesus, discerning his mode of life, being with him at close quarters.
After this visit with the rabbi from Nazareth, one of the disciples—now identified as Andrew—emerges with enthusiasm, running to his brother Simon and exclaiming, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). It seems clear that the body (staying with him) in a significant sense conditions the mind (“he is the Messiah”), the way of life shaping the conviction. Throughout his ministry, Jesus certainly teaches his disciples, but the instruction always takes place in the far more elemental context of following him, as though the learning would never take place uncoupled from the life. In a word, Jesus invites his friends into an apprenticing relationship with him, encouraging them to “catch” his way of being through proximity, imitation, and love. And the processes that we traced in our examples above—practicing, watching patiently, repeating, disciplining the body—are all at work as one is grafted onto Christ.