The Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 14, 2018
Come and See!
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”(NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Can you imagine what it would be like today if you had grown up being best friends with Bill Gates? Let’s say that you grew up on the same street in Seattle, Washington. Bill Gates’ father was a lawyer; your father was also a lawyer. Your mother worked at United Way as did Mary Gates, Bill’s mother. You both attended Lakeside School, a private preparatory school. After school you and Bill could always be seen playing together. You ate at each other’s home, your families spent the holidays together and you even went on vacation together. As the years went by you parted ways when you both went off to college. When you heard that Bill had dropped out of Harvard after his sophomore year and moved to New Mexico where he started a new company with some guy named Paul Allen, it didn’t surprise you in the least. Bill was always doing this differently. He was always looking “outside the box.” When Bill came back to Seattle for a visit he took you out to dinner to try and convince you to invest in his new company. It did not take much to convince you. You have known this man your entire life. You trusted him as your best friend. So, you gathered together as much money as you could— including the inheritance you received from your Grandma and you invested it in this brand new unknown company called: Microsoft.
Now imagine what it would be like to have Bill Gates introduce you to his colleagues by saying, “I’d like you to meet my best friend Art,” or, “I’d like you to meet my best friend Sally.” Imagine what it would be like to introduce your friends to the co-founder of Microsoft by saying, “I’d like to introduce you to my best friend, Bill.”
Our sermon text for today reminds us that we have the privilege of introducing people to someone who is far more important and far more powerful than even the co-founder of Microsoft. That Person is, of course, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! This morning, my friends, we’re going to borrow our theme directly from our text. Our theme for today is very simply Philip’s words to Nathanael: Come and See! Since introducing people to Jesus can be intimidating for some people, let’s use this text as an opportunity to ask ourselves the question, why? Why do we want to introduce people to Jesus? There are two reasons, my friends. The first reason is because we know who Jesus is! The second reason is because we know people who need to know who Jesus is!
Our text for today takes place shortly after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. John the Baptist had made it very clear to the people that he was not the Christ. At the same time John the Baptist had faithfully proclaimed to the people that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Two of John’s disciples— Andrew and John, the human author of this Gospel— had just become “followers” or “disciples” of Jesus. Andrew then became the very first Christian missionary as he went to his brother Simon Peter and said, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41).
That brings us to the opening verse of our text. John writes, “The next day (after Jesus had called Simon to be one of His disciples) Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” With the seemingly simple words, “Follow me,” Jesus was not only calling Philip to faith, but he was calling Philip to “keep on following” Jesus, or we might say to “keep on trusting” in Jesus as the Promised Messiah, as this world’s only Savior from sin. This identification of Jesus is very clearly brought out in verse 45 when we hear Philip confess, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote.”
Once Philip knew who Jesus is, once the Holy Spirit had given him the faith which enabled him to “follow” Jesus, what did Philip do? Immediately Philip went to his friend Nathanael to tell him about Jesus! Why? Because Philip knew that his friend also needed to know who Jesus of Nazareth is! And when Nathanael responded rather skeptically, when Nathanael said, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”— how did Philip respond? Did he shrug his shoulders and say, “Well, at least I tried”? Absolutely not! Philip very simply said to his friend, “Come and see”! Philip knew that on his own he could not convince Nathanael who Jesus of Nazareth is. Philip knew that on his own he did not have the ability to convert Nathanael and bring him to faith in Jesus. At the same time, Philip knew that Jesus could! That’s why Philip very simply said to his skeptical friend, “Come and see”! Once Philip did introduce his friend to Jesus, the Lord did what only the Lord can do! First, Jesus brought Nathanael to faith and enabled him to confess, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Then, Jesus gave Nathanael a glorious promise. He said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that…I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
For the next three years, my friends, Nathanael (together with the other disciples) did indeed have the privilege of seeing “greater things.” Think of all the miracles that Nathanael witnessed— from the changing of water into wine (John 2) to the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Nathanael was there in the Upper Room when the Lamb of God gave the Sacrament of Holy Communion to His Church (John 13). Nathanael was there in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was betrayed by His friend and arrested by His enemies (John 18). Nathanael knew exactly what happened to Jesus after He was condemned by Pontius Pilate and taken to Golgotha by the Roman guards. Nathanael was there when the risen Christ appeared to His disciples in that locked room on Easter morning (John 20). And using words that are reminiscent of Jacob’s dream of a “stairway” to heaven (Genesis 28:10ff), Nathanael would come to see that Jesus is the only “stairway,” the only “bridge” between heaven and earth. Nathanael heard Jesus Himself say to His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). And how did Nathanael come to experience all of these “greater things”? It all started with his friend very simply saying to him, “Come and see!”
“Come and see!” That is the invitation that you and I now have the privilege of extending to others, my friends. Why do we want to extend this invitation to as many people as we can? We go back to those same two reasons we mentioned at the beginning of this sermon. First, we want to extend this invitation because purely by the grace of God we know who Jesus is! In His grace and in His mercy and in His power the God of heaven came to us through the Sacrament of holy Baptism and He not only extended to us the invitation, “Follow me,” but He also gave us the faith which enables us to “follow” Jesus. Through His holy Word God now continues to extend that invitation to us each and every day. Through His holy Sacrament God now continues to strengthen our faith so that we can “keep on following” Jesus as we journey through this world.
Think about it, my friends. The more we read and study God’s holy Word, the more we receive His holy Sacrament the more we come to know that Jesus is “the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote.” The more we read and study God’s holy Word, the more we receive His holy Sacrament the more confidently we are able to confess along with Nathanael, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” And, of course, the more we read and study God’s holy Word, the more we receive His holy Sacrament the more clearly we will be able to understand the “greater things” that Jesus has done for us (pointing to the cross) as the only “stairway” between heaven and earth.
The glorious fact that we know who Jesus is motivates us to invite others to “Come and see” simply because we are so excited to know Him as our Savior. At the same time the glorious fact that we know who Jesus is also motivates us to invite others to “Come and see” because we know people who need to know Jesus as their Savior. Take a moment to think about your circle of family and friends. Take a moment to visualize the faces of the people you see on a regular basis whether at home or at work or at school or about the neighborhood. Take a moment to single out the people who do not know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. They need to hear about Jesus, my friends. Why? Because one day they will stand before Jesus as the Judge who will determine where they spend eternity. Before that day arrives, they need to hear about who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for them on the cross! (Pointing to the cross)
What do you say to them? While we will address that question more deeply in next Sunday’s sermon, I think Philip gives us a couple of clues today. First, you can simply share with them what you know about Jesus on the basis of Holy Scripture. This takes the discussion out of the realm of “opinion” and puts it where it needs to be— in the realm of what God has revealed to us. Then, if they are still skeptical, if they are still uncertain, simply do what Philip did. Philip told his friend Nathanael, “Come and see!” So invite them! Invite them to come to Sunday school or Bible class with you. Invite them to come to church with you. Bring them into contact with the Lord and let the Lord do what only He can do!
Once we truly take to heart why we need to share Jesus with others the next question that people often ask is— when? When is a good time to share Jesus with someone else? Depending on whom you are trying to talk to, when you bring up the subject of religion can indeed make huge difference. Generally speaking, you can either wait for an opportunity to present itself, or you can “set the stage” so to speak.
Opportunities to share Jesus with someone vary widely. Sometimes a person may ask questions or share with you the concerns that they have in their life. See that as an opportunity to share Jesus! Sooner or later everyone encounters difficulties in life such as illness or injury or the death of someone they love. See that as an opportunity to share Jesus! On the flip side of that same coin, people experience very positive events in their life such as weddings or the birth of a child or a grandchild. See that as an opportunity to share Jesus!
Also remember that you can “set the stage” for sharing Jesus with the people around you. What I mean by that is this: People are watching you, my friends. They are watching the way you live your life as a Christian. They are watching to see the priority that you give to your Lord, to His church and to His work. People are also listening to you. They listen to the way that your faith is reflected in the way that you talk and in the way that you treat others. If someone mentions that the way that you live and the way that you talk is somehow “different” from other people— use that as a golden opportunity to share Jesus with them!
While it might be difficult for us to know what it would be like to have Bill Gates as our best friend, it is not difficult for us to know what it is like to have Jesus as our best Friend. By the grace of God we know that He (Pointing to the cross) is the very best Friend we could every possibly have! At the same time, while it might be difficult for us to imagine what it would be like to introduce someone to our best friend who also happens to be the co-founder of Microsoft, it is not difficult at all to introduce someone to our dear Brother Jesus, who is this world’s only Savior from sin!
My prayer this morning, my friends, is that like Philip here in our text you will be so excited to know that Jesus is your Savior that you will reach out to the “Nathanaels” in your life and simply extend to them the invitation: Come and See!
To God be the glory!