What Do You Seek
Standard;It's the first Sunday of Advent. The beginning of the liturgical church year. This church year is like a biography of Jesus which annually proclaims that God really did become flesh and walk among us, and that He lives in us now, through the Holy Spirit. It is highlighted by certain important festivals and commemorations along the way.
Christmas, Lent, Palm Sunday, Easter, The Ascension, Pentecost, and back to Advent. Advent means coming. It is the season that we are to prepare to celebrate the most important gift ever given to mankind.....Immanuel, God. It is also a time to reflect on the fact that He will come again, and the next time it will not be to bring grace to the world, but Judgment.
It has become customary in the church to have an Advent wreath with four candles, one being lit for each week of Advent and the fifth candle (The Christ candle) being lit on Christmas Eve. The four candles have names. The first is called the “Prophet's “ candle. It reminds us that the coming of Christ was foretold by the prophets.
The second candle is the “Bethlehem” candle. This reminds us that even His place of Birth was foretold and links Him to the Davidic line of Kings.
The third candle is the shepherds candle. This candle signifies who the Savior comes to....namely the humble and poor in spirit.
The fourth candle is the angels candle. This serve s as a reminder that messengers are to be sent out with this Good News, a Savior born in Bethlehem who is Christ the Lord!
The early disciples and church did not have Advent wreaths with candles. The commemoration of Advent didn't begin until the end of the 4th century, and I'm sure the church fathers would in no way recognize the gaiety and commercialization of the season that we see now.
Advent then was a time of fasting and penance in line with the message of John the Baptist. Repent! Make straight the way of the Lord! (By the way, don't try this at home. Don't think that you can make your soul a fitting place for the Lord to reside by straightening out your life. This is extremely hazardous to your eternal health!
Rather, repent, have sorrow over your sins, realize how far short you fall from the glory of God and trust Jesus for your salvation. THEN the road will be straightened out in a life long process of responding to God's grace and His Word.)
The fast of the early church typically included abstaining from meat, butter, milk and eggs on certain days. It seems we've gone overboard the other way, where we gorge ourselves with Christmas cookies and other things made with eggs, butter, and milk.) Oh my, I just had a terrible thought, someone listening to this is going to say, “Pastor Matz says Christmas cookies are of the devil!”
Well, I'm never going to say that about pecan logs, but you know given the church's reluctancy to fast, even though Jesus made it plain His followers would do so after He ascended into heaven)
Mt 9:15 And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
Would proper fasting during Advent be such a bad idea as we built up to the joy of Christmas morning? Why not give up something for Advent and Lent? I mean what don't we understand about “they will fast?”
Or why not fast according to Isa 58:6 "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?
That fast can be summed up in these words, “Love thy neighbor.” Spend some time this holiday season engaged in purposeful acts of loving your neighbor. There is no shortage of needy people in our world. Ask God to show the need to you, and then respond.
Back to the history of Advent. The Advent season was shortened from 40 days to 4 weeks in the 7th century, and it is always determined by St Andrews Day which falls on November 30th....today!
Advent always begins on the Sunday nearest to St Andrew's Day.
So who is St. Andrew? He was Simon Peter's brother and started out as a follower of John the Baptist. He knew well the message of repentance and he knew well of this coming Messiah that the Baptist preached.
He was a man of great faith, illustrated by his responses to the words of John the Baptist who was a prophet, a living Bible if you will. This was illustrated in his response to the Baptist's words that we find recorded in the first chapter of John.
Joh 1:36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he (John the Baptist) said, "Behold the Lamb of God!"
37 The two disciples (Andrew and John) heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
These disciples have been with John a while. They have heard him tell of One coming after who is mightier than he. They must have been prize students because when John pointed out Jesus, they knew what they must do.....follow Him. It was definitely graduation day for the two.
And without any fanfare John releases his two disciples and they move from Law to grace. Grace turns to them and asks,
38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, "What do you seek?" They said to Him, "Rabbi" (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), "where are You staying?"
Note the first words out of their mouths, “Rabbi.” This is much stronger than our understanding of the term teacher today. In the context of the Jewish culture a Rabbi was not just a teacher, but to his followers he was also their Master. And so this response first and foremost shows where these two have now placed their loyalty.
The Jewish rabbi's were men skilled in the knowledge of the Law and traditions and they had their own schools and disciples. The apostle Paul was originally a disciple of a rabbi named Galiliel.
Ac 22:3 "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law,
These rabbis had their own schools, they would sit on raised chairs with their students at their feet. And by the question asked of Jesus by these two it would seem that they were interested in attending the school of this “Lamb of God.” “Where are You staying?”
Now, let's also note the first words of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John. “What are you seeking.” I think these words are a question that grace asks all of us. What are you seeking? What were John and Andrew seeking? What would cause these two rough and tumble fishermen to spend all their free time listening to a locust eating prophet?
The answer to that question is they were likely seeking truth in a generation that had abandoned it. These were young men who could see through the hypocrisy of what religion had become. They wanted some truth and they got it from John the Baptist. He was a straight shooter and he didn't care whose toes he stepped on.
When the religious leaders came out to check him out, he fearlessly called them a “brood of vipers!” When Herod married a divorcee. (Herodias his own brother's wife) John fearlessly called him on the carpet and said, “it is not lawful for you to have her.” This stand against divorce and remarriage eventually cost John his life, but he never changed his tune.
But truth in the form of the Law, isn't enough. All the truth in the form of Law can produce in a man is unrest in his soul. So I believe when all is said and done, the bottom line is that James and John had been disturbed by the Law, convicted by it, and now they were seeking rest.
They had seen their sin, thanks to John the Baptist and now he points to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and they immediately follow Him.
Jesus invites you and I to this rest as well. “Come and see,” He says, and where Jesus is, there is rest or Sabbath. He has stated that He is the Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord of rest and so He invites all.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.. (Mt 11:28)
Do you have an uneasiness in your soul? Strivings and emptiness that you are trying to fill with things other than Jesus?
Maybe you're looking for peace in material goods. Maybe you think you'll find it in a relationship, maybe you think you will find it in a new environment. Maybe a new career, and all the while peace and rest escape you. You really can't put a finger on it, but for whatever reason your soul is restless instead of restful.
This Advent season Jesus invites you to come and see with John and Andrew. Come and experience the peace that passes all understanding as you sit at the feet of the Master. He is coming to you today. Receive Him, enroll in His school and learn to live by grace as you receive His forgiveness and seek to live according to His Words.
Listen now to this song from Tenth Avenue North, and let it speak to your heart today:
“Why are you striving? Why are you still searching as if He's not enough? “Please don't fight these hands that are holding you .
Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world's sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life
I want to give you life