Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Come and See. Invitation. It’s always good to be invited to something isn’t it? We want to feel included. It can also be a bit scary to accept an invitation or to come and see? Yet, when we do, even thought we may not know what to expect, new things can bring growth.
I know many of you can relate to trying new things. Probably some of you even this morning are sitting here thinking, “what is this year going to be like? Will it get better than 2020?”or “what is this sermon going to be like? And how long will it be? What is going to emerge at Fleming Road UCC this year? What things can we depend on? Where are we going as a community? As a church? What am I being asked to be a part of?”
Well, trying something new or “experiencing” something different can be scary…it cal also be the best thing to ever happen.
When I was in high school, there was this older guy that kept on coming on our campus. Which, looking back on it, in these times, would be kind of weird. But, his name was Ken Goss. He met me one day and we talked about a lot of things. He seemed genuinely interested in me. But, in the back of my mind, I was wondering “what’s the catch?” He told me that he was a part of a thing called Campus Life and they were starting it at my school. He invited me to come to it. It sounded great. Sure enough, a few weeks later they had their first Campus Life club at our school. It was at my best friend’s house, Jeff Hume. When I went, I thought it was crazy and there was no way that this could be a “Christian” deal! It was too much fun, it was off the wall…plus, there were people there who I thought would never even show up at a Christian deal, but here they were, having a great time.
Ken also invited me to go on a ski trip that year with Campus Life, so I signed up. At first I was a bit scared as I was the only kid from my school going. Yet, I went. From the very beginning, it was fun and my Campus Life leaders were simply great. I went skiing for the first time (and, while trying to look cool and impress the ladies, I did fall off of the ski lift…and couldn’t get on it….they actually had to stop it for me!). I went snowmobiling on this huge frozen lake, and stayed up really late talking to new friends. They also had these crazy meetings with great music, games, and this guy who was about 70 years old at the time spoke. Honestly, at first I thought he would be really boring (just like some of you may be thinking about me!)…but, as he spoke, I began to think he was talking directly at me.
In short, I didn’t know what I was getting into…but I really enjoyed it and kept going to Campus Life every week. I had many more adventures and by the end of my senior year, I knew that my life was somehow dramatically changing! It actually changed the trajectory of my life…I went into youth ministry the very next year while at UK and went on to seminary eventually and becoming a pastor.
I don’t know if you can relate to this story, my hunch is that as you sit wherever you are today, that you can relate to it. Being invited to something, being curious, starting a friendship, and seeing, over time, your world change and grow.
It reminds me of a story in the Bible about Jesus and some folks that he called out and invited to come along with him that we read earlier.
In this story, Jesus goes out and personally invites Phillip to hang out with him, to follow him. That’s the only time that happens in the New Testament where Jesus personally invites someone. Pretty wild. This guy Phillip was kind of a reluctant guy, maybe kind of slow, always trying to figure things out (I can relate). Yet Jesus sought him out. He was from an area called Bethsaida, not a local boy to Jesus, yet Jesus crossed over this boundary.
Well, Phillip starts following this Jesus guy and starts to get his friends to come along. Kind of like what many of you do, when you see something good…you may not completely understand it, yet you know you want your friends involved. One friend in particular was Nathaniel. Phillip goes after Nathaniel and brings him to meet Jesus. At first Nathaniel wonders if anything good can come out of Nazareth where Jesus was from. Now this isn’t a put down on Nazareth, it’s probably more like a community rivalry thing. Kind of like Finneytown, or Springfield Township…or name a neighborhood in Cincy…sometimes there is a bit of division, but we can all come together when there is something curious that we know that we need to check out. Yet Phillip persists and simply says “come and see”. In this story, these words are what we call “imperatives” in the Greek translation, a command or invitation. In this case, it is simply an invitation. You see, Jesus never forces himself on anyone, he simply invites people to check out what he’s saying, what he’s about.
So, Nathaniel does. Nathaniel was a good guy and Jesus comments on that…but, here’s the kicker, Jesus and Nathaniel had never met. When Nathaniel asks Jesus how he knows him, Jesus responds that he saw Nathaniel under a fig tree. Now, Jesus is not some kind of stalker, Jesus wasn’t at that tree. Yet, he simply noticed Nathaniel from a distance and knew things about him.
This was a BIG indication to Nathaniel that there was something more about this Jesus guy. It drew Nathaniel in…he didn’t understand it all, but he knew that Jesus was something special. After Nathaniel’s statement of belief, Jesus says something else, in effect, you haven’t seen anything yet!
Friends, we are a lot like Nathaniel this am. We may not know a lot about this Jesus guy, but we know that there is something more to him that makes us curious and draws us towards him. You may be asking this morning, “what good can come out of Cincy? Or, our country at this moment? Or Fleming Road UCC? Or even my own life?” Well, the best “good” you could ever imagine. And, to know that Jesus notices us! Jesus sees us…not just some sense of seeing us from a distance, like when we see a neighbor walking our way…but, really notices us, sees the deeper parts of us…and is drawn to us just as we are drawn to something deeper in Christ.
You see, what Jesus was inviting Nathaniel, and all of us throughout history, is to follow him into a deeper understanding of how the world could be…an alternative community in the middle of the world’s systems. To be in friendship with God and extend that friendship to one’s self and to others. To know that we are all connected, all made in God’s image, all loved by God and called to live in God’s presence, God’s reign or Kingdom if you will, even as we live within a world dominated by narratives that are more about power, control, or even violence. My hope is that we will “come and see” this year together what Jesus is doing in our lives and in our community, with our neighbors. He has already noticed you. And, guess what, he wants be with you in the struggle of life…and to “abide” with you in more experiences than you could ever imagine, no matter what age we are… Friends, I know that this church has taken lots of risks over the past years. Well, I’m asking us to take some more risks, to be curious, and to “come and see” what Jesus has in store for us. Even in our weariness of this past year, and the current events that we find ourselves, let’s take a risk of deepening our relationships with one another, and with a God who is with us and won’t give up on us and is inviting us into journeying together.