John the Baptist had played a pivotal role in God’s plan as he had announced that the promised Messiah was coming soon, and that people needed to prepare themselves by repenting of their sins and being baptized in a symbolic cleansing. Many had done so and, over time, some had become followers or disciples of John the Baptist, his spiritual entourage if you will. We can assume that these followers had been greatly impacted by JB’s message and ministry, and that they were very serious in their anticipation that JB’s teaching was true, that the coming of the Messiah was indeed imminent.
The custom of that day was for disciples to attach themselves to a teacher and literally follow that teach wherever he went, learning through both the words and actions of that teacher. JB, though not a conventional teacher, had drawn such to himself through the authority that God had placed in him rather than by his having gained positional status through normal religious channels. Imagine being one of JB’s disciples and hearing day after day that all that JB was doing was in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Surely these disciples began to look for that day when the Messiah would come. JB longed for it and so did his disciples.
When Jesus appeared and was baptized by JB, his disciples would have been there and would have seen all that JB saw and heard and all that JB said. I’m guessing that evening was electric with lots of conversation about what had happened that day. The Apostle John picks up the story with, “The next day again John (JB) was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’”(John 1:35-36). JB’s disciples would have known exactly what this statement meant. This was the one, this was the Messiah that JB had been anticipating and now this Messiah was there, in the flesh, God with us, Immanuel.
The two disciples who were with JB immediately shifted their focus from JB to Jesus. They had not only heard JB’s message concerning the coming of the Messiah but they must have come to anticipate this coming themselves. Jesus was the fulfillment of what they had heard from JB, and, though I’m sure they had a strong attachment to JB, they shifted from being disciples of JB to being disciples of Jesus in an instant. The text reads, “The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour” (John 1:37-39).
The baton of leadership passed from JB to Jesus, and at least these two disciples of JB became disciples of Jesus. The question that Jesus asked is incredibly significant. He asked them, “What are you seeking?” Make no mistake, Jesus knew what they were seeking, but he wanted them to stop and assess and truly realize what was happening. He wanted them to articulate what was going on in their minds and hearts. As they responded they called him “Rabbi,” a term reserved for the most respected of the religious leaders of the day. In so doing they revealed that they saw Jesus as one with strong spiritual authority. They simply asked, “Where are you staying?” They wanted to know where Jesus was going to be so that they could be there, too.
It was late in the afternoon; the tenth hour was 4:00 pm, and they ended up spending the rest of the day with Jesus, the first day of their discipleship. There would be many more days with Jesus to come. I think Jesus asks us the same question all the time. “What are you seeking?”