It’s the first serious dialogue in the Gospel of John. The baptist sees Jesus walking about and tells his disciples “look, look! There he is!” Some of them start to follow Jesus (becoming thereby some of the first Christ Followers). Jesus notices them and asks a very Advent-y question ti sdeteite “what do you seek?” In all the things of the world, all the desires that drive our hearts, what is it that you seek? (Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it in a minute).
They answer pou meneis? “where do you dwell/remain?” The NRSV uses the inadequate “where are you staying?” as if they are inquiring which hotel Jesus has chosen during his visit to their town. The word is used for that famous saying about “in my father’s house there are many dwelling places” it is also used to describe what the branches do in the vine. This is vastly more than a question about hotel rooms. They ask “where do you dwell, what is your abiding place, in what is your life centered?” And Jesus takes them seriously.
He answers their question with erchesthe kai opsesthe “come and see.” While this may sound kind of flip at first, he is actually giving them something deeply important. He offers himself instead of an explanation. This is actually key to our understanding of Jesus and we see this most clearly in the bible verse we all know from John. We’ve been told that the “so” in “God so loved” is “God loved sooooooo much” but the Greek word translated “so” also means “thus” and “in this way.” So it is correct to read it “for thus God loved the world” It is also correct to say “For in this way God loved the world.” God loves the world (cosmos in Greek) through Jesus.
Jesus offers himself; a living, three dimensional being, not a book or a lecture. He answers their seeking with an invitation to come, see and be seen, know and be known. He deals with three dimensional, spiritually purblind humans in a concrete, unignorable way. And he’s not very polite about it either.
He gives an order (the imperative “come!”) and makes a promise (“and you will see” it’s a future tense indicative, it points to what will happen in the future). This isn’t a business card or one of those timid “I know you hate church-y stuff, but I like it and would like you to come too (even though I’m sure you’ll hate it)” invitations we hate to give. Jesus flat out says “yes, your life is very interesting and fun and stuff but get off your sit bones, stop dreaming, and get over here.”
The command to “get over here” can be a very different thing tepending on our tone of voice. When it is hollered with the tone of voice that promises “there will be tears” we wonder if there isn’t some totally important errand we needed to have gone on a week ago. But if it is murmured in that soft, warm tone that says “come over here and… kiss me” we tend to go to warp speed in a happier direction.
So while the statement “come” is an imperative, it is also an invitation to a serious, life altering way of being. It is God’s sly “kiss me you fool” delivered in an unexpected way. Finally it is an invitation to “leave the gloomy haunts of sadness” and “come into the daylight’s splendor.” And what happens when we are in the light? We can see.
Which brings us at last to the final part of Jesus’ invitation. “Come” he says “and you will see.” We transltate it “come and see” for the purposes of flow, but the word for “see” is a future tense indicative, it points to what will happen as a result of our coming after Jesus. Come and you will see, you will see Jesus, you will see who he is and how he lives. You will see God through him and in him and finally, you will see yourself, beautiful, bruised, and beloved. You will see him as he is, knowing and being known by him. Truly. Madly. Deeply.