This is a really important passage for our understanding of what evangelism is, as well as an encouragement to practise it.
In our post-modern, post-Christian era, a significant shift in our thinking is the movement away from seeing truth as objective to seeing truth as personal. Existential norms and core realities are increasingly seen in terms of personal viewpoints to be expressed rather than eternal truths to be discovered. Thus faith in God is increasingly seen as an attribute of a person (“I wish I had your faith”) rather than as a response to an actual external reality.
In this passage from John’s Gospel, we are reminded to think of evangelism as introducing somebody not to an idea but to a real person. Conversion to Christian faith is not complete without an actual personal encounter with the living Christ. Without directly meeting him, without personally knowing him, all we have is the random pieces of a religious jigsaw puzzle.
This passage makes that very clear. Jesus challenges the seekers first with the question, “What do you want?” (sometimes translated as “What are you looking for?”).
We are to understand that this is a question to the wider church (i.e. us too) as well as a story of the call of the first disciples. When they ask him where they can find him, Jesus answers them, “Come and see.” See for yourself, make the journey, settle for nothing less than personal experience.
Then Andrew (who also sets off the feeding of the five thousand by bringing the little boy with the bread and fish to Jesus) goes to find Simon Peter, and does not content himself with describing or discussing Jesus, but brings him to meet Jesus. How we go about this will vary according to personal style and circumstances, but what remains constant is that, for conversion to take place, we must have a direct personal encounter with Jesus, and for evangelism to be effective we must find a way of introducing those who seek him to the living Lord.
Living Lord Jesus, I open my heart’s door to you. My heart is open to you. Please come in. Please make yourself known to me, as directly and personally as Andrew knew you, as Simon Peter knew you. Please forgive the sins and attitudes that block your entrance to my heart. I cannot shift them on my own, but please will you clear them away, and allow me to make a new start. There is so much to forgive, and so much that I need to learn, but please may I do that? Lord Jesus, please make yourself known to me. Please come into my heart. I need you; I cannot be whole without you. Amen.