If your house and car have been dimpled by hail, you want to find a roofer and a body shop (accompanied by your insurance agent) to assess the damage. But who do you trust?
If you’re single and looking for someone to share your life with, you probably explore the dating sites, knowing full well the risks involved in the search. Who will they give you?
If the symptoms are getting worse and your regular doctor can’t find the cause, you need a specialist. She gives you a referral, with no promises of a cure. Who has the answer?
We run into those obstacles on our journey, when the bridge is out and we need someone to fill the gap, but the drive-thru is a ways back and the Google search works lightning fast to find 5.8 million results in .64 seconds – and none of them are the right one.
Or we need someone to blame – someone to take the fall, the heat, the consequences, and the guilt that comes with them. History is littered with the bodies of those who were accused, convicted and sentenced merely for the crime of being who they were. Scapegoats comes in all sizes and colors.
Twice in a matter of days (three times, really), Jesus asked the same question, in two vastly different environments, to two profoundly opposite audiences. He knows the answer. The recipients of His question actually know it, too. They just don’t realize the significance of it in the moment.
“Who are you looking for?” In more proper English, as stated in the ESV, “Whom do you seek?”
The first instance is on Thursday night in Holy Week, when the traitor Judas led the arresting party to the Garden of Gethsemane. As Luke 22:3 puts it, that day “Satan entered into Judas.” He conspired with the chief priests and officials to betray Jesus to them, but away from the hyped-up crowds.
So Judas leads a band of Roman soldiers, along with some officers from the religious leaders, armed with torches and weapons (John 18:3). In that moment, there were four rather disparate parties drawn together in an unlikely and unholy alliance. The Romans could not tolerate rebels. The chief priests and Pharisees were jealous of anyone else’s popularity and zealous for their own power and prestige. Judas just wanted the money. And Satan wanted Jesus dead.
“Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’” (John 18:4). Who are you looking for?
Some people can’t stand Jesus, and some want nothing to do with Him. They’re looking for someone who fits their preferences and definitions, who agrees with them in style and status, who won’t hurt their feelings or change their lives. They want Jesus to be someone He’s not.
They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” (John 18:5). Just a guy from a place Up North. A nobody from the wrong side of town who is causing us problems and making things difficult. They don’t want to hear what He has to say, and they certainly don’t want to follow Him. They’re looking for someone to blame.
They found Him. He wasn’t hard to find, really. He wasn’t hiding out, and He could quite often be found in that exact spot. Jesus isn’t tough to find, especially since He puts Himself right where people can “find” Him. Notice that He came forward to those who sought to oppose Him. He doesn’t run. He doesn’t hide. And He doesn’t lash out in anger.
Jesus said to them, “I am He.” I’m the One you’re looking for, even if it’s for the wrong reasons. To make sure that they are looking for Him, and only Him, Jesus asks them again, “Who are you looking for?” Same answer. Same answer back. (In fact, John repeats the phrase “I am He” three times in these verses: driving home the point of his entire Gospel: Jesus is the Christ, the Great I-AM, Yahweh in the flesh).
Fast forward to Sunday morning, and we find someone else looking for Jesus. This time it’s Mary Magdalene, only she’s not looking for a guy. Well, she is, but she’s really looking for a dead guy: the body of Jesus of Nazareth, whom the unholy alliance had killed. His body was supposed to be in that tomb. He was supposed to be dead. But His body wasn’t, and He wasn’t. She just doesn’t know it. Yet.
She is still in shock and mourning. When someone close to you dies unexpectedly and tragically, it will take more than a couple days for the fog to clear and the pain to pass. She thought she would find a dead body, that she would lovingly prepare formally for His forever burial.
Jesus Incognito said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” (John 20:15). “Who are you looking for?”
The phrase in Greek is the same each time: tinna zeiteis. Whom do you seek? A rebel, a troublemaker, a guy? Or is it a dead hero, a historic figure confined to memories?
Or are you looking for a Savior? A Difference-maker? A here-to-stay Repairman, Healer and Friend?
When Jesus calls her by name, Mary is overjoyed, and wants to hold on to Him forever. As she should. As we should.
The arresting party had the right guy, but they were looking for the wrong one. Mary looked for the living among the dead. But now Jesus has come forward, to find and be found by those who are looking for something, for someone, to fill in the gaps, to make them complete. He will not be what you expect. He may not even be what you want. But He is most definitely who you need. Who are you looking for?
The irony is that the same verb, zeiteo, is used to describe who Jesus looks for: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10). This is the God who came into His once-perfect garden looking for His once-perfect but now hiding-in-shame creatures of His own image. He calls to them, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9), knowing full well where they are, but asking more so if THEY know where they are. They know who they are and who He is, and they are deathly afraid of the consequences of facing both of those fundamental truths. But He finds them, and He loves them anyway. He saves them anyway.
And from those He finds and saves, He looks for something more, something different than what the Judases have to offer. He’s looking for fruit from the tree He has planted (Luke 13:6). He’s looking for servant-messengers to send into a lost world (Isaiah 6:8). He’s looking for faith.
So there’s a question for us to ask Jesus: Who are YOU looking for? The answer may scare you. It may surprise you. It will certainly save you a lot of time looking.
Pastor Steve Kline was installed as Senior Pastor at SHLC on May 25, 2014, after serving 12 years as Senior Pastor at Zion in Wayside, WI. He was ordained in 1992 and previously served congregations in Pulaski and Hales Corners.