When Jesus asks John’s disciples, “What are you looking for?” I’ve always been baffled by their non-sequitur response, “Where are you staying?” But the term “rabbi” is the bridge, connecting the two questions together to show the meaning of the disciples’ unusual answer.
John’s disciples were looking for a teacher, but not just any teacher. The Baptist had taught them to look for the one greater than he, and twice already in this chapter John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God” (verses 29 and 36).
An important theme in John’s Gospel is Jesus’s identity. Here, John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is both Teacher and Lamb of God. This Rabbi will teach not only with words but with actions. He will speak with authority and, like a lamb, will “open not his mouth” as he is led to slaughter. The Word made Flesh will become the flesh of our Passover Lamb whose blood will mark us as God’s own.
Even more telling, however, is Jesus’s response: “Come and see.” Jesus will teach by inviting disciples to actively participate in life with him on the way to the cross. His classroom will be at dining tables and weddings, at wells and graves, and his hands-on lessons will need to be practiced more than memorized. As we call others to discipleship, let us teach as Jesus taught.