Discipleship…is a state of being. Discipleship is about how we live; not just the decisions we make, not just the things we believe, but a state of being. (Rowan Williams, Being Disciples)
Today we have the story of two men coming to Jesus for the first time; one is Andrew, the other unnamed. It could be you, it could be me.
It’s the story of their becoming disciples.
In this chapter, John’s Gospel uses what may seem to be an unexpected word to describe being a disciple. That word is ‘remains’.
It’s one of John’s favourite words. He uses it all over the place. It’s only one Greek word—meno, for the Greek geeks—but in our English Bibles it might be remain, stay, or abide.
This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14.17)
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. (John 15.4)
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. (John 15.9)
Let’s look at where it comes in this chapter. Jesus realises he is being followed, and says:
‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi,…where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.
The English language mucks this up a bit, but let’s persist. Where we have two words, the Greek text has only one.
Rabbi, where are you staying?
They came and saw where he was staying,
and they remained with him that day.
Remember: staying, remaining, sometimes abiding or dwelling, it’s the same Greek word. (μένω, ménō) And it’s used a lot in John’s Gospel.
It describes what being a disciple is to a tee.
A disciple is a student who remains with Jesus. And in remaining with Jesus, the disciple is changed, even transformed.
These days, a student is someone who goes to uni when her scheduled classes are on, and perhaps at other times to work in the library. They may only see their lecturers when they’re in class.
It was different in Jesus’ day. If you were a student—a disciple—2000 years ago, you would expect to
hang on your teacher’s every word, to follow in his or her steps, to sleep outside their door in order not to miss any pearls of wisdom falling from their lips, to watch how they conduct themselves at the table, how they conduct themselves in the street…
(Rowan Williams, Being a Disciple)
Not many people these days would make that kind of commitment just to get a BA!
But it’s the kind of commitment required of a disciple of Jesus.