In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, we are introduced to the testimony of John the Baptist, a man sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus (John 1:6, 7, 30-34; 3:28). Throughout his entire ministry, John was given to pointing people to the Savior. His entire message consisted of calling people to repentance and urging them to look for the coming Messiah. His attitude is seen succinctly in John 3:30, when he says plainly, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
It was this bold testimony of John that first attracted Andrew and another disciple to Jesus. Formerly, they had been disciples of John, but when they heard him cry out, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” they began following Jesus (John 1:35-37). They were not sure who this “Lamb” exactly was. Maybe He was just another teacher, but perhaps He truly was the One they awaited. Either way, they determined to find out more, and so they began to fall in step behind Jesus.
At some point, Jesus happened to look back and saw these two fishermen following him (John 1:38). Though we might expect Jesus to give them an invitation to follow Him in ministry, He doesn’t. At least, not directly. Rather, He asks them a simple question: “what do you seek?” (John 1:38).
In response, they explain that they had heard about Him and wanted to know Him more. They didn’t want to ask Him a bunch of questions right there in the street, and not wanting to interrupt His day, they inquire, “Rabbi, where are You staying?” (John 1:38). It was a respectful question, an appropriate one. They were hoping that Jesus would tell them, and then they could join Him later at the house for an evening meal and a time of relaxed conversation.
Once more, Jesus doesn’t give a straight response. I can just imagine an almost amused smile appearing on His face as He motions them on, saying, “come, and you will see” (John 1:38). Andrew and the other disciple (whom many believe to be the apostle John) obeyed and followed Him the rest of the day, then ended up spending the night with Him once they eventually got to the house (verse 39). They got what they had asked, but not in the way they had expected.
Now, we may wonder why Jesus didn’t come right out and give them the address. His home was in Galilee, so He had to be staying either with a friend who lived in the area or perhaps an inn, but He could have simply told them the street name and who to ask for at the door. The reason for this was simple: Jesus wanted to do much more than simply spend a relaxed evening with them. He wanted to teach them who He was.
His call was for them to walk with Him, to follow Him on the journey and He would indeed lead them to their destination, but He had a greater purpose in it. With Jesus, the journey is just as important—if not even more important—than the destination itself. This is something we so often forget to remember, but it is a truth about how God works in our lives. Let me illustrate this from the text.
By walking with Jesus instead of just meeting Him at the house, Andrew became convinced about who Jesus was and was already telling people about Him. Although John 1:39 says that “they stayed with Him that day,” verse 41 says “he found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah,’” which, John explains “means Christ.” Andrew thought it might take several visits with Jesus at the house to determine who He truly was and if He was worthy to be followed. Yet by walking with Jesus on the journey, Andrew found the answer to his question. At first, he may have been confused, whispering to John, “why doesn’t He just tell us where He stays at?” He may have wondered why Jesus was taking such a long time actually getting to the house, but as they walked on together and Jesus talked with them, expounding truth to them about the Kingdom, he realized he had found far more than he imagined he might. We do not know exactly what Jesus said to him—that part is left out—but we can be sure of this—it was more than enough to convince Andrew that Jesus truly was the One sent by God to save Israel from their sins.
By having Andrew walk with Him, Jesus was able to bring Peter to that meeting Andrew and John had first requested. So instead of just two future apostles, there were three. Jesus knew what He was doing, and though it might have seemed strange in the moment, it was all a part of a greater plan.
And so with us, we have a destination we are trying to get to: heaven. We have heard the truth about Jesus, and for those of us who have believed in Him, He has promised a home with Him for eternity (John 14:1-3). Yet sometimes we wonder, why doesn’t He just take us home to be with Him at the moment we believe? This arises especially when it seems that Jesus is taking us the long way home. That is, we go through unexplainable hardships, persecution for our faith, times of weariness. If God’s promise is so secure, why does He make us wait?
The answer is the same for us as it was for Andrew: He wants us to bring more people along. If God simply raptured us at the moment of conversion, who would there be left to fulfill the Great Commission (Acts 1:8)? Who would there be to spread the Gospel into every part of the world? We don’t know if there would be anyone, but this is clear, that God has called the Church to take the message of His salvation to every corner of the earth, beginning at the next street corner in our neighborhood.
This is the attitude the apostle Paul had as well. In his letter to the beloved Philippians (I love that book of the Bible), Paul expresses his dilemma of wanting to be at home with Christ and of feeling the need to stay on earth. After stating, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” he reveals, “but if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me” (Philippians 1:21, 22). For Paul, there was no choice of being alive and not serving Christ in spreading the Gospel. He had already told the Corinthians, “I do all things for the sake of the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:23). Can I say the same for myself?
But this is exactly what God is calling us to. Though we may not know why He doesn’t directly answer our questions, why He doesn’t just bring us home to be with Him now, we are to trust that He does indeed have a greater purpose in His choice of calling us to walk with Him. He has so much to teach us, so many more He wants us to bring along. Let us not miss those purposes as we follow Him one step at a time.