BYU Education Week: ‘What seek ye?’ Answering the questions of Jesus

PROVO, Utah — There’s a question Jesus Christ asks when He sees two of John the Baptist’s disciples following Him and is recorded in John 1:38: “What seek ye?”

When they indicate they want to follow Him, Jesus says, “Come and see.”

“I know how you are trying to answer that first question,” S. Michael Wilcox, a former Seminaries and Institute instructor and author, said during BYU Education Week on Tuesday, Aug. 17, in a series titled “The Questions of Jesus: God’s Pathway Back to Him. “I know that you seek Jesus.”

Seeking Jesus 

The Book of Mormon prophet Moroni urged readers to “seek this Jesus” in Ether 12:41.

“When we seek Him, we come and we see and sooner or later a witness comes to us that He is everything that He said He is and I can trust myself to Him and I can make Him my model,” Wilcox said. 

And Jesus shares how to seek Him in the Doctrine and Covenants 88: 63: “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Wilcox noted another way to look at this question is to look at what Jesus sought to do. 

“I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (see John 5:30). 

People walk to different classes while at BYU Education Week in Provo on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.
People walk to different classes while at BYU Education Week in Provo on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

2 questions

At one point in His ministry Jesus is trying to prepare His disciples for what will happen in His life. Jesus asks His disciples: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (see Matthew 16:13). And the disciples answer that they’ve heard that He is John the Baptist, Elias or another prophet. 

“Why would Jesus ask this first question?” Wilcox said. “We like to think we’re very independent people, but there is an extremely strong herd instinct in all of us. We want to follow the pack.”

And then Jesus also asks: “But whom say ye that I am?” (see Matthew 16:15).

“Peter and the others don’t kind of look around and see if they can figure out what everybody else is saying and try to align their opinion based on what everybody else is saying,” Wilcox said. “Who do you say I am? And where did you get that knowledge? From men? Or from observing me and coming and seeing?”

Peter answers: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Wilcox asked the group in the Marriott Center: “Where am I getting my opinion, my values, my fashions, my ethics, my politics, my morality, my attitudes?”

While he would like to think he’s influenced by what God says, with some introspection and some honesty, Wilcox says, he can find those things in his life that are influenced by culture or society. 

To not be influenced by what “men say, but by what God says. And what they’ve learned by coming and seeing and observing the Savior” is what the rock of the Church is built on, Wilcox said. 

3 questions 

During His ministry, Jesus tried to help people see things that were spiritual, not just physical, but it was difficult to understand, Wilcox said. At one point, in John 6, Jesus was teaching the people about how He was the bread of life. He had fed the 5,000 the previous day and many likely wanted lunch, Wilcox said.

Some called it “an hard saying” and found it difficult to continue to follow Him (John 6:60). 

Jesus’ questions in return were when He asked his followers: “Doth this offend you?” (John 6:61).

“We all have hard things in our lives,” Wilcox said. What may be hard for one person, may not be hard for others. And it can be one commandment or one aspect of the gospel that may be hard. 

“God wants us to be honest with Him” in what is hard. Wilcox said. Many of his disciples decided to no longer follow Him. “It’s the next question that’s the critical one. “

And he asked his 12 disciples: “Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67

Peter answers with a third question: “but Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

In our own lives, if there is a situation where it’s hard, and the first question — “doth this offend you” — applies and the answer is yes, then what’s your answer to other next question — “Will ye also go away?”

“And sometimes we have to say, I don’t know why I’m doing this,” Wilcox said. “I may not have even agreed to do it, but I’ve been asked to do it and so I will do it.”

S. Michael Wilcox presents during BYU Education Week on BYU campus in Provo, Utah, on Aug. 16, 2021.
S. Michael Wilcox presents during BYU Education Week on BYU campus in Provo, Utah, on Aug. 16, 2021. Credit: Joey Garrison, BYU Photo

A question 3 times 

In the last chapter of John, there is a question the resurrected Jesus asks Peter three times — if Peter loved him. And Peter answers that he does. 

“It is the most beautiful question, I think, of all the questions of Jesus and is such a wonderful thing to answer it,” Wilcox said. “When He says, ‘Michael, do you love me?’ And I can say: ‘Yes, Lord, You know that I love You. And I don’t mind if You ask me that three times.’”

And that answer can help with the other questions:

“I came, I saw, I got the witness. I’m not worried about what men say — I’m committed. I’ll get through the hard sayings — because I love You,” Wilcox said.