Reflection Jan. 15, 2023
Isaiah 49:1-7/ Psalm 40:1-11/ John 1:29-42
Come and See the Mystery
Have you ever eagerly waited for something? A lot of us have. For example, I wait for Christmas and the performing arts festival all year round. Sometimes, I wait for a new season of my favorite TV shows to come out. Waiting can be frustrating. But it is important to check our values when we eagerly wait for something. Is it worth it? Worthy according to which values and standards?
Last week, I listened to a Korean folk tale in which two middle level government officers eagerly wait for a higher officer to flatter so they can advance in their careers. They do so while wasting their resources on preparing drinks and other things to welcome him when he arrives. They do so while neglecting their duties of caring for their residents. While they coldly turn away peasants passing by because “We are waiting for an important person,” when he finally passes by, they don’t recognize him, for, as a humble man, he dresses down and not uses government’s resources to travel for personal reasons. They end up making a fool of themselves by mistaking him for a peasant and treating him badly.
Some objects of eager waiting are worthier than others. Waiting for a boss to flatter for the advancement of one’s career is one of the bad ones. Meanwhile, the people of Israel waiting for their Messiah was a huge one of great spiritual importance. It was an exhausting one that took several hundred years. And except for those who followed Jesus and ended up becoming Christians, they are still waiting even today.
During Jesus’ time, I think his people were at the height of their waiting. There were many who seemed likely to be The One. People listened to a lot of such people’s preaching and saw acts of miracles. John the Baptist must have been one of the most influential ones, and very likely, Jesus was one of John’s disciples.
Come and See
In today’s gospel text, John calls Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He testifies that Jesus is The One, and two of his disciples come to Jesus to find out the truth. “What are you looking for,” Jesus asks. “Where are you staying,” asks the two. Jesus says, “Come and See.”
That is all he says: “Come and See.” After spending time with Jesus, they were convinced that he was the Messiah. Andrew was one of those two, who went to his brother Simon to tell him that he had met the Messiah. Simon’s name in his native tongue Aramaic is Cephas, which means a rock. His name in Greek, which was the common language of his time, was Petra, “Peter” in English. This is the famous Peter that we know.
Kingdom of Mystery
The kingdom of God that Jesus represented is a mystery. Throughout all the gospels, we learn about it as a mysterious treasure that one finds. Jesus could not describe it. It is something that one has to experience firsthand. That is why he simply says, “Come and see.” The mystery of God’s kingdom has to be lived. For the followers of Jesus, it is definitely worth waiting for and experiencing because it teaches God’s love that does not discriminate. It is empowering to the marginalized. How can you not follow this teaching when you hear that God says you are valuable and loved, while the society says you are nothing.
Listen to what the psalmist sang about experiencing God after waiting patiently. “You lifted me out of the horrible pit and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. You put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise. Blessed are those whose trust is in God. I delight to do your will, O my God.” Those who meet God and experience God’s kingdom find profound joy and faith like a rock.
Being God’s Light
Isaiah speaks of Israel’s relationship with God as light. God chose them before birth as God’s servants in whom God will be glorified. God chose them to be light to the nations. As we learned last Sunday, light makes things visible. The function of Israel as light is to reveal God’s work so that the nations will know and glorify God.
This is an analogy for us as today’s people of God to be God’s light in the world. As God’s light, we must show the world what God’s love look like, following the examples of Jesus. God’s kingdom is a community of God’s people who live according to the teachings of Jesus about God’s love that does not discriminate.
Listen to verse 7 and you will know that being light means working for the marginalized: “Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you (“you” meaning “the despised, abhorred by the nations, the salve of rulers”).””
Being God’s light in the world cannot be like in the old days when evangelists preached, “Believe in Jesus Christ or go to hell.” Jesus said, “Come and see,” and we experienced God’s love for us. Now it is our turn to go out and be God’s light to others. We invite people to the community of God’s people called the kingdom of God, not by preaching the Gospel of Jesus with words, but with the way we live. We should show the world how we love one another, rejoice with one another, delight in serving and helping others, and fight injustice. And when others see us and become curious about our love and passion for justice, we can say to them, “Come and see. Come and experience the mystery of living in God’s love that humbles the powerful and empowers the marginalized.” Praise be to God. Amen.