As I think about the theme, “Come and see,” used for Siloam’s Community Health Immersion program, I am struck by what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It is a journey more than a destination. The Siloam Institute’s work with students and residents is largely to teach them to embrace the journey as they become practitioners of whole-person care.
Below, I share an insightful reflection on John 1: (29-34) 35-42 by Reverend Chris Adams.
Many years ago a friend taught me an interesting statistic about two words in our Bible. Many of us call ourselves Christians to describe our faith. We use this term with those we share faith with and also we use this term with others who do not. The word Christian in Greek, Χριστιανός, only occurs in all the New Testament three (3) times. That’s it. Just three.
However, the word we see for the first time in John’s gospel today, in Greek μαθητής, occurs two hundred sixty three (263) times in the New Testament. That’s a lot more than three. For my friend, this had great significance. “It has to mean something… Right?” he would say.
The word disciple means to follow, as in a pupil with a teacher. It’s an action word. In the ancient near east, often a disciple would literally walk so closely behind their teacher that the dust from the teacher’s sandals would get on the disciple. Hence the reference to that by Jesus. A Christian is simple a descriptor, a designation that one follows the faith so named. The words are clearly related, but there is not the same sense of action.
In today’s lesson there is the urging of Jesus to “Come and See…” If the disciples want to see what Jesus is doing and what he teaches, they must come and see. There is no sense, at least in this story, that they will ever arrive at a destination or achieve a certain position of status. They will simply be disciples, those that walk closely behind Jesus and follow wherever He goes. They will become known as Christians to the world.
We too are known in that way. However, I wonder if calling ourselves disciples instead of Christians sometimes would be more helpful to describe our way of life? Ours is a journey, not a destination. Our way is to follow our teacher, to seek out what the teacher is doing pointing others to Him. Our way is not to be the teacher. Our place is behind Jesus and not in front of Him.
It’s just two words that mean similar things to most people. However perhaps the difference has great significance. “It has to mean something… Right?”
More on Reverend Chris Adams can be found at: www.pastorchrisadams.com