Where would Jesus choose to stay – then and now?

[] Famous first words

Simon Peter was actively looking for the arrival of the long-promised Messiah – the new Moses who would deliver God’s chosen nation from slavery under the oppressive Romans. He and his pals sensed that he would soon appear. As close followers of John the Baptist, their hearts were aflame at the success of his message: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’, as hundreds of Jews were baptised by him, confessing their sins. So, when they saw John point to Jesus one day as he walked by, and say: ‘Look, it’s the Lamb of God’, they immediately set off in his footsteps. When he turned round and asked them, ‘What are you looking for?’ the answer tripped readily off their tongues in unison . . .

Now, we might have expected them to reply: ‘Rabbi, what’s your strategy for our nation’s deliverance?’ or ‘When will you start to recruit men for training?’ Instead, they simply asked a seemingly tame and inadequate question: ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’ Yet, on reflection, we soon realise that they were voicing a truly important request. They were saying in effect, ‘We don’t merely wish to attend public debates and sermons; we really long to dwell with you, to watch how you relate to God, and to listen to what you say in conversations at home.’ Jesus fully approved of their response and invited them: ‘Come and you will see’ (John 1:35-39).

[] The ‘where’ is relational, not geographical

Strangely, however, the fourth Gospel offers us no hints as to where that dwelling was (in a desert cave, or a village cottage?), nor how it was furnished. It simply tells us, ‘So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.’ 

John later tells us that they then stayed with Jesus and his family in Capernaum, but only ‘for a few days’ (John 2:12). Some time afterwards, the Samaritans in the town of Sychar ‘asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days’ (John 4:40). And towards the end of his life, on hearing ‘that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two more days longer in the place where he was,’ with his disciples on the other side of Jordan (John 10:40; 11:6). Jesus was regularly on the move and, therefore, stayed in many different locations, the geography was largely irrelevant; it was his constant relationship with them that was ‘home’ for him.

[] Famous last words

This word ‘stay’ or ‘dwell’ or ‘abide’ is used over thirty times in John’s Gospel, especially in Jesus’ farewell teaching to his disciples in the upper room (chapters John 13:0–15:0). About to leave them permanently, he reassured them, ‘In my Father’s house there are lots of places to stay’ (John 14:1-3). And ‘if anyone loves me … my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’ (John 14:23, a delightful translation of this verb to stay). That of course will be through the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:17). So, let’s make him feel at home with us:

  • ‘Abide [stay] in my love’ by keeping my commandments (John 15:9-10)
  • Let ‘my words [my utterances to you] abide in you’ (John 15:7)
  • ‘Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him’ (John 6:56) – re-enacted through partaking of the sacramental bread and wine
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