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Come & See

Sharing God's Word, Living His Love

John 1:43-51

January 14, 2024

Our lives today seem to be all about connections. Our homes need utilities – water, gas, and electricity; and you may have been reminded last week just how much we rely on those utilities, especially if you lost power in your home as a result of the storms that went through the area. Our phones used to be boxes that hung on the wall, but now we carry them with us wherever we go. Why? Because we want to be connected at all times. Remember the feeling you had when you forgot where you put your phone or accidentally left it behind somewhere? That feeling of concern as you wonder what messages you may be missing if someone is trying to contact you, or that feeling of worry because you have so much information that you keep in your phone. But we also know that our phones have to be connected to a network in order for them to function.

While our world is connected electronically today in many ways, this also means that many people may have access to our personal information. You may remember about 10 years ago when we learned that the National Security Agency was routinely monitoring our phone calls and emails. Many people were very upset by this invasion of privacy as no one likes to have their phone calls, text messages, and emails being monitored by others. We all like our privacy and we expect others to respect it.

However, in our Gospel lesson for today we learn about a happy invasion of privacy. Two men, Philip and Nathanael, were found by Jesus and known by Jesus, and they were invited to follow Him. And Jesus wants to invade your privacy for the same reasons, to have you follow Him. After all, our God does not sit on His throne in heaven and wait for people to come and find Him. He does just the opposite. Go back to the beginning of our world, when Adam and Eve sinned, God did not wait for them to come to Him and confess that what they had done and seek forgiveness. Instead, the book of Genesis says that God went searching for them, not only to punish them, but also to share with them that He had a plan to get them out of the mess they had created by their disobedience.

Likewise, when you look at how Jesus ended up with His 12 Disciples, you will see that it is because He went searching for them and called them to follow. In the verses leading up to our Gospel lesson, Andrew is called by Jesus to follow Him. Andrew then goes and finds his brother, Peter, and tells him, “We have found the Messiah!” The next day, Jesus, in our text, finds Philip and says to him, “Follow me.” And Philip then goes to his friend, Nathanael, and says, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” But Philip had not found Jesus, Jesus had found Philip. And that’s how it works for us, as well. We don’t find Jesus when we come to faith in Him, we come to faith because Jesus first found us. It’s like the hiker in the mountains who falls and breaks his ankle, when the rescuers arrive says, “I’m glad I found you guys.” Everyone knows that because of his condition what he means is, “I’m glad you found me.” And that’s how it is with us. Sin has so damaged us that by nature we don’t even want to reach out to God. That was certainly the case for Adam and Eve. So God has to reach out to us if we are going to be saved from our sins.

But how exactly does Jesus find us these days? He’s not walking the streets as He did 2000 years ago when He found Philip. No, but look at the way Jesus found His next disciple, Nathanael. He did so through Philip. After Philip was brought to faith he did not keep this news to himself, instead he ran off and found his friend, Nathanael, to tell him about Jesus. And this is how Jesus still finds people – through the witness and invitations of people like all of you.

But this begs the question. Do you consider what Jesus has to offer you in this place week after week to be the most important thing in your life? Meaning, do you consider the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life in heaven to be the most important thing in your life? Or is it something you only think about for one hour a week if you happen to have time? Your attitude about what Jesus is giving you in this place will affect the way you tell others about Him. If we don’t view what Jesus has done for us as the most important thing in our life, if we don’t follow the 1st Commandment by putting God in front of everything else in our lives – our work, our spouses, our children, our money, our possessions, our hobbies, everything – will we see a need to share Jesus with others? Philip was so overjoyed that he had found the Savior, that the first thing he did was go and tell someone else about Jesus. The disciple, Andrew, did the same thing.

So what’s stopping us from telling others about Jesus?

Maybe, like Philip, you’ve actually had an unusual response from people when you’ve told them or invited them to our church. Philip tells Nathanael that he has met Jesus, the long promised Savior of the world, but upon hearing the news that the Savior is from Nazareth, Nathanael says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” We don’t know why Nathanael made such a comment. Maybe he was expecting the Savior to come from a large city or a more glamorous place. Plus, there were no Scriptural prophecies linking the Messiah to Nazareth.

As you tell others about our church, you might encounter some unusual questions or comments. My favorite when I tell people about our church is: “Lutheran? Is that Christian?” Obviously the answer is “Yes, the Lutheran Church is a Christian Church,” and this then leads to some additional discussion about the Lutheran Church and other Christian denominations. But actually one of the best answers I could give after telling them that the Lutheran Church is a Christian Church is the same answer that Philip gave Nathanael in verse 46, “Come and see.”

Come and see Jesus at Holy Cross for yourself. Come listen to Him. Come and see Him through the Scripture readings, the music, our families, the sermon, and the sacraments of baptism and communion. Nathanael couldn’t imagine anything good coming from Nazareth, but when Philip said, “just come and see,” and when Nathanael came and encountered Jesus, his life was changed.

We can make a tremendous impact on people we know – family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors through simple invitations to come and see at Holy Cross. After all, have you ever tried a product or purchased an item because someone you know recommended it? Have you ever gone to a restaurant recommended by a friend? Have you ever seen a movie, because someone else said they thought you would enjoy it? My point is: Are you more likely to try something recommended by someone you know or by a stranger or an ad on TV?

Philip did not try to argue with Nathanael, he simply said, “come and see.” And that is a simple invitation we can make to everyone we know. After all formal education and training are no more necessary for being a Christian witness than they are for being a witness in a courtroom. People are not called to the witness stand in a courtroom because they have the training or education necessary to be doctors, professors, or engineers. They are called to the stand because they have seen and experienced something that is important to the case being tried. We have all seen and experienced God’s love in a variety of ways. We all have a story to tell. He has given us a faith to share with others; and the more we share it the stronger it will be. In other words, sharing our faith enriches our faith.

So what do we see in this Jesus? Initially, Nathanael could only see a simple man from a small town. But we should see Jesus as God’s Christmas present to us. We should see Him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world, who loved us so much that He was willing to leave the beauty of heaven to come down to this world and become one of us – to live among us, to die for us, but who rose from the dead for us, so we could live with Him forever. That’s what we should see, a God who wants to live in us, be connected to us, and have a personal relationship with us. This week I pray that God will put someone in your life, so that you can be their Philip, so you can tell them what Jesus does for you in this place, and you can be the person Jesus uses to invite others to follow Him.

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