Jan 14, 2018

“Come And See” - John 1:43-51

“Come And See” - John 1:43-51

            Have you ever tried a product or purchased an item because someone you know recommended it?  Have you ever eaten at a restaurant because a friend suggested it?  Have you ever watched a movie because someone you like told you how much she enjoyed it?

            So, are we more likely to try something recommended by someone we know, or by a total stranger?  By someone we know, or by a salesperson?  As a rule, we’re more likely to follow recommendations from people we know and trust.  Right?  After all, they know us and usually have our best interests at heart.  Right?  I mean, really, when it comes right down to it, most of us have a hard time trusting salespeople and telemarketers that we don’t know from Adam or Eve.

            Let us pray.  Dear God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

            This morning, we meet a guy named Philip.  Philip is a Greek name.  And John tells us that he is from Bethsaida.  That’s a town with a large Gentile population located on the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee.  We find this Philip out walking around.  He’s taking a nice little stroll.  All of a sudden, he bumps into a Jewish man named Jesus.  Actually, this man named Jesus is the one who bumps into him.

            Philip and Jesus strike up a conversation.  And they really seem to hit it off.  Because right away Philip senses there’s something special about this Jesus.  It sets his mind to spinning.  Could this be the one whom Moses wrote about in the law?  Could this be the one the prophets spoke of?  Could this be the one for whom Israel has longed?  The one for whom Israel has prayed?  The one for whom Israel has hoped?  For some mysterious reason, Philip thinks it very well could be.

            Jesus then says something that knocks Philip for a loop.  No wonder.  So far there have been no miracles.  No signs.  No teachings from this man.  Yet he has the nerve to extend an invitation.  “Follow me, Philip.  I surely could use your help.  I want you to be a part of what I’m sent to do.  I want you to join my ministry team.  What do you say?”

            Surprisingly, and without hesitation, Philip says, “Yes.”  Then, the conversation between the two of them comes to an end, and we find Philip all by himself once again.  But now, this Philip is a changed man.  He’s experiencing a joy that’s simply overwhelming.  It’s a feeling that’s just too big to contain.  He’s just got to share this news with someone.

            And there in the distance, he spots one of his best friends.  His name is Nathanael.  He’s sitting under a fig tree, and he looks as if he’s deep in prayer.  Philip runs up to him and breaks the news.  “Sorry to interrupt your meditation.  But my friend, have I got some good news for you.  Brace yourself.  I’ve found him.  Well, actually he found me.  The very one about whom Moses and all the prophets spoke.  His name is Jesus.  He’s Joseph’s son.  He comes from Nazareth.”

            You would think Nathanael would be excited.  That he’d be happy to hear this great news.  That he’d join Philip in jumping for joy.  But John, the teller of this story, lets us know this isn’t what happens. 

            Because, you see, when Nathanael hears where Jesus is from, he’s skeptical.  He even becomes critical.  That’s because nobody from his hometown would have one single positive thing to say about Nazareth.  These are country folk, and there’s great competition between towns.  There’s rivalry and jealousy.  Things become down right heated every time they come together for a sporting event.  It gets intense no matter whether it’s baseball, basketball, football, soccer, or figure skating.

            So, Nathanael is filled to overflowing with skepticism.  “Wait just a minute.  You say this Jesus is from Nazareth?  You say he’s the simple son of a simple carpenter?  You’ve got to be kidding.  How can anything good come out of Nazareth?  Why, it’s just a measly, one horse town.” 

            Philip doesn’t argue.  He doesn’t plead.  He doesn’t try to twist Nathanael’s arm.  He knows it won’t do any good.  He simply extends an invitation.  And the invitation boils down to three simple words.  Come and see.  “Okay, it’s fine if you don’t believe me.  All I ask is that you come and see.  Just come and see this Jesus with your own two eyes.”

            With that, Philip heads back to Jesus.  And Nathanael follows.  Jesus sees them coming.  He smiles and says this to Nathanael.  “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”  Jesus seems to know all about him, yet they’ve never met.  And Jesus is paying him quite a compliment.  It’s a tribute any devout Israelite would recognize.  That’s because it’s in the book of Psalms.  “Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

            Naturally, Nathanael is shocked.  For once, he’s at a loss for words.  How can this Jesus say something like this?  After all, they’re meeting for the very first time.  How could Jesus know?  Did he Google him?  Did he look him up on Facebook?  Why, it’s as if he can read his mind.

            Then Jesus continues.  And what he says next astounds Nathanael even more.  “Relax, Nathanael.  Take it easy.  Why, I could see you sitting under that fig tree even before Philip did.”  And with those words, Nathanael moves from being astounded to being dumb founded.

            And just like that, Nathanael believes.  He believes what Philip has told him.  Yes, without seeing a single miracle or hearing a single sermon, he finds himself believing in this Jesus.  And he finds himself making one of the greatest professions of faith that has ever been uttered by a human being.  “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!  You are the one we’ve hoped for and prayed for!”

            Jesus smiles and then responds.  “You ain’t seen nothing yet!  Do you believe just because I told you that I saw you sitting under some fig tree?  Believe you me, you’ll see far, far greater things than that.  Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.  Nathanael, I can do far more than read what is in your heart.  I can be for you and for everyone the way and the truth.  I am the ladder that connects heaven and earth.”

            Yes, on that day long ago, the very doors of heaven were opened, and Jesus shows us who he is and why he’s come.  He’s the very bridge between heaven and earth.  And he’s the one who’s come to connect us more closely with God.  Just think about it, all of this amazing and wonderful stuff takes place for Nathanael because his friend makes a recommendation.  His friend extends an invitation.  His friend simply points to Jesus and says, “Come and see.  Come and see for yourself.”

            In his autobiography, President Jimmy Carter shares an incident that made him aware of how little inviting he had done.  It seems that each year the Plains Baptist Church holds a one-week revival service.  In preparation for the week, the leaders of the congregation go out into the community to invite the unchurched.  As a deacon, he always participated.  He would visit a few homes, read some Scripture, have a prayer, and share his religious beliefs.  Then he would make some small talk about the crops and the weather and then depart.  Carter wrote this about the experience.  "I was always proud enough of this effort to retain a clear conscience throughout the remainder of the year."

One day Carter was asked to speak at a neighboring church on the topic of Christian witnessing.  He decided he’d make a great impression on his audience by sharing with them how many home visits he had made for God.  He figured that in the fourteen years since returning from the Navy he had conducted 140 visits.  He proudly wrote that number down. 

But then he began to reflect on something.  When he ran for governor he had spent as many as sixteen to eighteen hours a day trying to reach as many voters as possible.  At the conclusion of the campaign, he calculated he had met more than 300,000 Georgians.

            Sitting there in his study, the truth hit him like a ton of bricks.  It caused him to write this in his autobiography.  Here are his exact words.  "The comparison struck me.  300,000 visits for myself in three months, and only 140 visits for God in fourteen years!"  That’s a big difference.

            Our story for today boils down to this.  Like Philip and like Jimmy Carter we are given good news to share.  We don’t have to twist arms.  We don’t have to give lectures.  We don’t have to hand out literature.  All we have to do is to point.  To point to this one called Jesus.  And all we have to do with our lives and our words is to invite.  Come and see.  Come and see him.  He is here.  His love is here.  His peace is here.  His hope is here.  His forgiveness is here.  And his joy is here.

            Yes, his good news is here.  It was right there in the little town of Nazareth, and it’s still right here at Hickman Mills Community Christian Church.  It’s his promise.  Where two or more are gathered in his name, he’s there.  So as we gather here this very morning, he is here.  And right in the midst of our troubled world, he is here.  All we have to do is to come and see.  Thanks be to God that he is sent.  And thanks be to God for eyes to see him.  Yes, thanks be to God.  Amen.