What are you seeking? Studying John 1:35-38

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give stories of Jesus calling the first apostles. And we see Jesus interacting with some of these same men in this passage. Yet the account in John is different than the accounts in the other gospels. 

The other gospels all talk of Jesus calling upon fisherman to follow him, and how they immediately leave their nets when called upon by Jesus. 

That’s not in John. 

The order in which apostles meet Jesus is different in John. The circumstances are different. 

Why is there this discrepancy? 

My belief is that the events in John are recalling when Jesus first met the apostles and that the event in the other gospels recounts Jesus actually calling those disciples to be followers of Jesus. 

When Jesus meets people like Peter and Andrew in our passage today, he doesn’t call them to be his followers.

If Jesus meets them in John, and then calls them in the other gospels, it makes more sense of why they immediately leave everything to follow him. Because they already know Jesus. 

That’s the first of several theological affirmations about Jesus that we will find in this passage is that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Jesus is the Lamb of God 

John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God. 

The sacrificial system was instituted in the Old Testament to show the price which needed to be paid for sin and that sin needed to be atoned for. Sin required a blood sacrifice. It was a complicated and rigorous system. Sacrifices provided temporary atonement. Certain sins required certain sacrifices. 

Sacrifices also required worthy animals. A person couldn’t just pick out an old goat that was about to die. It had to be a healthy animal without blemish. All of that was meant to point to the greater sacrifice. Jesus is the perfect and spotless lamb who is the true and worthy sacrifice. 

And so John calls Jesus the Lamb of God. He is the one who was sacrificed to atone for the sins of all who believe in him. 

Continuing in our text. John the Baptist hast just made this statement about Jesus and then:

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus (John 1:37).

Pointing to a great teacher

John points to Jesus. With a respected religious leader like John, that would have been unthinkable. No one wants to lose people. A teacher doesn’t want to lose students. A dentist doesn’t want to lose patients. A hair stylist doesn’t want to lose clients. 

But John is happy to point his people to Jesus. He’s happy to lose his followers to Jesus, because that’s his entire purpose. Pointing people to Jesus. The text says that they followed Jesus. Verse 38: Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” 

Quite the question Jesus asks. 

There’s a double meaning. It flows into the story when two men start following Jesus to ask “what are you seeking?” or “what do you want?” 

But it is also a probing question for anyone who seeks to follow Jesus. 

What are you seeking? 

“What are you seeking?”

What do you want from Jesus. There are many reasons why people try to find religion or turn to Jesus. But not all of them are good reasons. If you’re a follower of Jesus, why are you following him? 

Being a follower of Jesus is an end in itself. You follow Jesus because you get…Jesus. 

You get God. That is the greatest promise that the Lord gives to us. Unworthy sinners are invited to know the God of the universe. Sadly that’s not always the real heart behind a person’s desire to know Jesus. 

What are you seeking? 

Some people follow Jesus because they have all sorts of issues and think life will get easier. And for awhile, that might be true. But you’re still you. You’re still a sinful person. You still have various habits and areas of sin that aren’t productive. And life is still hard. 

You get Jesus. What about when the going gets tough? Because the going will get tough. 

And then where does that leave you? For some, they’re left disillusioned with faith because it didn’t give them what they wanted. 

But the mistake was that they were looking for the wrong thing. Some are led to Jesus because they’re sold a false gospel and believe that material blessing and physical health are both always the will of God for a believer. 

It’s often called the prosperity gospel. It’s not Biblical Christianity. It turns our desires to stuff and not to God. There are often blessings which result from the Christian life and living according to Biblical wisdom. But that is not meant to be the basis of being a follower of Christ. 

Because the struggles still come. If our hope is rooted in what we think Jesus will give to us, it leads to a faith that is superficial. Plenty of Christians can see the flaws in prosperity theology. Yet we’re often still drawn to it. Especially in America. 


Because, in our heart of hearts, there’s a temptation to think that we deserve things to be good because we like to think we’re good. We pray, we serve, we give, we try to follow God. 

We do these things and so it can be tempting to be angry with God when things don’t go the way we want them to. 

The Bible does not promise the Christian life will be easy. It promises the opposite. 

You can find verses on suffering in almost every book in the New Testament. Most notably, it was Jesus who was unjustly tortured and executed. He told his disciples in John 15: If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

The Apostle Paul was impoisoned multiple times in his life and later executed for his faith. He said in Romans 5:3 we rejoice in our sufferings.

Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians from jail, and was later executed. John the Baptist who’s in our passage this morning. Executed. The apostles named in our passage this morning: all of them were martyrs. 

The world hates the gospel. 

The Christian life is hard. And life is hard. 

What are you seeking? 

Certainly I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with blessings. Christians often times do enjoy blessings in life, because God is good and gracious. 

Living Godly lives and living according to Biblical wisdom is the best way to live and so that often bears fruit in life. 

But what about when it doesn’t? 

Many faithful people follow the Lord throughout their entire lives and continue to suffer and struggle. What are you seeking? I’m not saying we should desire a life of hardship of drudgery. 

That’s not the life God wants for his people. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. But if Jesus is your everything, you can find joy even in hardship, even in suffering, even in sorrow, even in pain.

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