Come and You will See
In John’s gospel we discover how Jesus assembled his band of disciples and we can get an idea about how discipleship is meant to work (John 1:35-51). The first thing to note is the ongoing and changing nature of the relationship the disciples have with Jesus. Initially the disciples call Jesus “Rabbi” (v. 38). But after only one day they are calling him “Messiah” (v. 41). This progression of ‘knowing’ continues throughout the entire gospel as we later discover that the relationship transforms as Jesus calls the disciples ‘friends’ rather than mere servants (John 15:15). After the resurrection the relationship develops even further as Jesus addresses them as brothers (John 20:17). This is true discipleship and the goal of it is the realisation of our union with Christ and our adoption into the divine family.
The means of this transformation is not book study, careful observation of ethics, devotion to spiritual disciples and the like—although all these things are excellent and ought to accompany discipleship—rather it is generated by abiding with Jesus. In more contemporary language we might say, ‘hanging around’ with Jesus. The discipleship we observe in the gospels is ‘caught’ more than taught. Notice that when the first two disciples approached Jesus they asked where he was staying, to which Jesus answers, “Come and you will see.” (John 1: 39). This is the key to true discipleship—a living encounter with Jesus.
‘Seeing’ and ‘hearing’ are among the most significant subtexts of John’s writings—both here, and in his letters and the Revelation. Blindness and deafness are often contrasted with seeing and hearing as the opposite of true discipleship (Seeing: John 4:23, 9:23-39, 12:40. And hearing: John 5:24, 8:43-47, 10: 27, 18:37). The more we see Jesus the more we become like him. As John has it elsewhere, “But we do know that when Christ returns, we will be like him, because we will see him as he truly is.” (1 John 3:2b). To see him is to know him and to know him is to become more like him. John’s gospel is full of examples of people who did exactly that.
Like the first disciples Jesus says to us, “Come and you will see.”