It can be a loaded question. Depending on the day and the questioner, we can answer it in a number of ways.
On an average day, my answer would be something like, a fireplace, lasik surgery, and a trip to the Galápagos Islands. Minimal needs, really.
What about you?
“What do you want?” happens to be the first question Jesus asks. What would you say if Jesus asked you that question?
“The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples.As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, ‘Look! There is the Lamb of God!’When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. Jesus looked around and saw them following. ‘What do you want?’ he asked them.
They replied, ‘Rabbi’ (which means “Teacher”), ‘where are you staying?’ ‘Come and see,’ he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.” (John 1.36-39)
What do you want? It’s such a wide open question for these guys. Literally, he asks, “What are you seeking?” He has good reason to ask. People sought out Jesus for a lot of reasons. Some reasons were better than others. If these two were going to present themselves as disciples (which was essentially what their actions said to Jesus), he wants to know from the outset what motivates them.
Imagine if he asked all of us that before we could follow him.
The rich young man’s reasons were all about how he could manipulate the system to be accepted. Jesus tried to get him to reconsider.
Simon wanted Israel’s kingdom to come by force. Jesus confronts that interest as limited at best.
Nicodemus comes in fear and fascination. Jesus prods him to consider carefully exactly why he’s there.
Zaccheus needed salvation-and he got it.
Many longed for healing-and they got it, too.
Others craved signs and wonders, miracles, and circuses. He told them to go look for someone else. He didn’t come to be their sideshow.
All the time his question lingers in the air for all of them-what do you want?
What do we want?
If we’re honest, sometimes our motivations for following Jesus are more about us than about him. What would you say if he turned around to you and asked-What do you want? What are you looking for?
Andrew and, we guess John, answered with another question. (They caught on quickly.)
“Where are you staying?”
The question was their way of saying, “Where you are, we want to be there also.”
Good answer, gentlemen.
Jesus gives us all the verbs we need when confronted with his question-what do you want?
We want to come, see, and follow.
“Come” is an invitation to his life. Join me. Walk beside me. Journey with me through this thing called the kingdom of God. Let’s be companions and ultimately friends and brothers and sisters on this trip. Come.
When I was eight, the school told my parents I needed glasses. I didn’t think so. I could see just fine. Until the doctor put that first pair of blue cat eye glasses on my face. Then, I could SEE. There were so many beautiful things that had been so hazy for so long I didn’t even realize it.
Come and SEE, for the first time. Look around you and find out what it’s like to have a ringside seat to God’s victory over sin and remaking of the world. It’s way better than the miracle sideshows you want to be content with.
CS Lewis said, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory)
Jesus’ invitation is to see what he’s up to-and come along with.
I love that just before this in John 1 we hear that Jesus is the word of God in human form. We can study God’s word in his book. And we should. But not to exclusion of studying the Word of God. To follow Jesus is to study God’s word in the flesh.
What are you looking for? Sometimes, honestly, we’re more often looking for rules to follow and laws to memorize than the living Word. We want the newest version of how to live and be good, Phariseeism 2.0, rather than to face the persistent questions of a visible God.
Jesus says, “I’m not your guy for that. I am The Word. Study me.”
Dig in deep. Get your hands dirty. Live with me and live like me. Gospel with me. You’ll see that it’s a verb the more you do it. Jesus didn’t spread good news, he was good news. Following him means we are, too.
Nichole Nordeman sings (in a song that could be my autobiography):
“And you cannot imagine all the places you’ll see Jesus–You’ll find Him everywhere you thought He wasn’t supposed to go. So go!” (Dear Me)
Go. Be the follower of the wild, untamed, unreligious, homeless, challenging, demanding, healing, reconciling capital “W”-word of God.
Jill Richardson is the pastor of Real Hope Community Church near Chicago. She is the author of six books and a national speaker, as well as a contributor to books from Dayspring, Lillenas, and Christianity Today. Jill’s doctorate in "Church Leadership in a Changing Context" is helping her with her passion—passing on a healthy, creative church and doing it with the next generation. She is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul), and Washington University. Her focus is on church leadership, creative preaching, immigration and refugees, women’s issues, and intergenerational leadership. She has an unnatural love for Middle-earth, chocolate marzipan, old musicals, fish tacos, oceans, cats, and Earl Grey. She believes in Jesus, grace, restoration, kindness, justice, and the Cubs. You can find her work at jillmrichardson.com.