Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. – John 1:38-39
I was looking at pictures the other day. Not pictures of myself, but of others. All of the people were smiling and looking like they were as happy as could be. As I was studying the photos I thought of how much I hate to get my picture taken. There are several reasons why I hate having my picture taken. First, it seems unnatural. If it is a family picture I have to dress up, look like I have my life together, and act happy. If it was a school picture I had to dress up, put on a fake smile, and present myself as a perfect student. Second, getting my picture taken takes effort on my part to look presentable. Even for “selfies” with my wife I make sure my smile looks authentic, my hair is in place, and double check to see that I don’t have a ketchup stain on my shirt. After several retakes, I can finally be myself without putting on a face. And third, getting my picture taken is uncomfortable. I have to make sure my posture is perfect. I must make sure that the camera is getting my “good side” and that I don’t blink. There are more reasons I am sure, but for this morning these examples are sufficient.
After looking at those pictures and thinking about my distaste for getting my photograph taken, I began to realize that my life is often presented like a photograph to others. What I mean by that is I feel out of my element when I am in front of others, it takes a tremendous effort on my part to play the perfect man, and it is very uncomfortable.
I dress myself up to cover my faults, whether those be sin or something else. I make my life look like it is together instead of in ruins. I have to look like I am having a good time when in reality I’d rather be by myself doing God knows what. I have to put on a fake smile that might look like the real deal to other people, but I know it isn’t real. I make myself to look like the perfect God-fearing man, but really I am more sinful than the person standing next to me. This all takes effort. Effort that weighs me down and wears me out over time. Sure, I might not feel the effects immediately, but eventually, it all catches up. This is all uncomfortable as well because I would rather be doing what pleases me in the comfort of my own privacy than presenting myself as put together for the sake of my reputation.
In short, I feel like an actor. An actor who has two lives. One on stage and the other at home. I assume the character that fits the part, but when the role is over and I am alone the makeup is removed, the smile is wiped away, and the fancy clothes are replaced with my normal garb.
What does this have to do with John 1:38-39? Jesus is calling his disciples in this passage. He is selecting the men who he will spend several intense years of ministry with. He asks them a question that spurs a question from the men. “What are you seeking?” “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus asks what they want. They reply that they wish to be around him. Jesus says, “Come and you will see.” They happily follow.
Oswald Chambers has some helpful insight on this passage from his devotional this morning.
“They abode with Him that day.” That is about all some of us ever do, then we wake up to actualities, self-interest arises and the abiding is passed. There is no condition of life in which we cannot abide in Jesus.
“Thou art Simon, thou shalt be called Cephas.” God writes the new name on those places only in our lives where He has erased the pride and self-sufficiency and self-interest. Some of us have the new name in spots only, like spiritual measles. In sections we look all right. When we have our best spiritual mood on, you would think we were very high-toned saints; but don’t look at us when we are not in that mood. The disciple is one who has the new name written all over him; self-interest and pride and self-sufficiency have been completely erased.
Pride is the deification of self, and this to-day in some of us is not of the order of the Pharisee, but of the publican. To say ‘Oh, I’m no saint,’ is acceptable to human pride, but it is unconscious blasphemy against God. It literally means that you defy God to make you a saint. ‘I am much too weak and hopeless, I am outside the reach of the Atonement.’ Humility before men may be unconscious blasphemy before God. Why are you not a saint? It is either that you do not want to be a saint, or that you do not believe God can make you one. It would be all right, you say, if God saved you and took you straight to heaven. That is just what He will do! “We will come unto Him, and make our abode with Him.” Make no conditions, let Jesus be everything, and He will take you home with Him not only for a day, but for ever.
Chambers, O. (1986). My utmost for his highest: Selections for the year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering.
Am I going to continue to be the one who hates having his picture taken because it means I must get into character? Or will I actually set my pride down and become the character that God wishes me to be? No more acting. No more pretending. It must be real.
What is required of me if this is to happen? It means that “after the picture is taken” I cannot return to my sinful ways once away from everyone else. It means that my clothing should always be that which befits a child of righteousness. My smile must truly be that of a joy in Christ. My thoughts, actions, and words must be set on heavenly things and on Christ alone. No more false appearances. No more acting. If someone were to take a picture of me in my every day life without giving me warning to play the part it must fit the role of a Christ follower. It cannot be that of one who only spends the day with Christ, but in the morning goes his merry way. I must “make no conditions, let Jesus be everything, and He will take me home with Him not only for a day, but for ever.”