Vicar David Sivecz
John 1:43-51 “Come and See”
Maybe he had a feeling. Maybe he had a hunch. Maybe there was something there. We don’t know. All we know was that Jesus decided to go to Galilee. But he wasn’t alone. Along with him there were a few disciples that he inherited from John the Baptist. They were Jesus’ first disciples.
Earlier in the Gospel of John, as Jesus was passing by, John the Baptist spotted him. In a loud voice, John proclaimed, “Look here is the Lamb of God!” The first couple of disciples heard John and followed Jesus. Do you ever wonder why and how they left everything to follow him? Was it John proclaiming him as the Lamb of God? Was it Jesus’ charisma? Or was it Jesus’ invitation? When the disciples asked where he was staying all Jesus said was, “Come and see.” Unsure of what to expect they came and saw, and their lives changed forever.
But apparently, it seemed these disciples weren’t enough for Jesus. He wanted more. He desired to change more lives. Upon arriving in Galilee, Jesus found Philip. We don’t know if Jesus was specifically looking for him, or just anyone in general, but he found Philip.
Philip heard about Jesus. He learned the stories that Moses wrote in the law and heard the prophets speak. So Philip knew. He knew Jesus was a remarkable person. It wouldn’t have surprised me if Philip became excited when Jesus appeared. When he saw Jesus, it was good news, and something he was waiting for and expecting. What good news have you heard in the past? What are some positive experiences you’ve encountered or witnessed? What brought you such overwhelming joy? I’m seriously asking. You can shout them out loud. (Congregation answered).
Philip had that same feeling when he found Jesus. Overcome with excitement Philip would’ve been drawn in Jesus’ direction ready to copy his every move. So, we’d figure he’d go when the Rabbi, the Messiah, and the one they call the Lamb of God told him to “Follow me,” he would’ve followed.
But this was not what Philip did; rather was moved to do the unlikeliest thing. He turned and went in the other direction. It does not make much sense to me either. If Philip was waiting all this time for Jesus then why would he go the other way? Why didn’t he just stay in the presence of Jesus? Why didn’t Philip start to learned from him?
Think about what happens when we receive that good news? What do we do when we’ve become overwhelmed with joy? Just look back to what happened a couple of weeks ago when the Buffalo Bills finally made it to the playoffs. I know that seems like eons ago and some of us are just finally getting over the loss.
But do you remember what was it like around here? The local news made it their primary story. It even hit national headlines. For instance, “It’s Finally True. The Bills are Going to the Playoffs.” “Bills End Their Playoff Drought, and Tears Flow.” “Seventeen Years. Drought Over.”
Every time the Bills came up in sporting news, they showed replays of their last playoff game. People were posting it on social media. Everyone expressed their excitement by wearing Bills gear and singing the Bills “Shout Song.” Even after the New Year began, fans went to the airport to show the Bills their appreciation. Many people had been anticipating this for such a long time.
It was such a long time coming that it was as though the Bills won the Super Bowl. I even reminisced when I asked a few high schoolers in Sunday school if they remember what it was like for the Bills to be in the playoffs. When they looked at me with blank stares on their faces I realized they weren’t born then. That’s why so many people were excited. It was that long ago that nothing could hold them back from celebrating. People were so thrilled that they just had to share this good news with others.
When we receive goods news, when we have an incredible experience, when we witness something so special our first act is to share it with others. When we become excited about receiving good news, we have to shout it out. There’s something inside of us that can’t stop us from holding it inside. It’s as though if we don’t tell it to others, we will burst.
Perhaps that’s why Philip immediately left Jesus. Overcome with such excitement he probably felt the need to share this news. But he didn’t just go and tell anyone he went and found Nathanael. They must have been close friends because Philip didn’t look for anyone else. He wanted to share this news with someone he knew.
Once Philip shared his news Nathanael seemed unfazed. Instead, he became a skeptic and tried to dismiss Philip quickly. It didn’t matter to him. It didn’t matter that this was the proclaimed Messiah. It seemed too good to be true. There’s nothing wrong with being skeptical.
Skepticism means we question the validity or authenticity of something that appears to be factual. Sometimes we call these people downers, pessimistic, or cynics. Some of us sitting here are skeptics; whether it’s about life, the economy, our government, or even the church. There’s usually something we’ve seen, learned, or experienced multiple times that has made us this way. As a result, we want some form of proof or evidence to validate any facts. What each of us are searching for is something more. We are challenging the status quo. Being skeptic is alright.
But we aren’t the only skeptics in this world. There are many people outside of the church and the Christian faith who are also skeptics. People don't want someone telling what to believe. Instead what others are looking for are people who will have a conversation. They are looking for people who will listen to them. They are looking for people who will also be challenged and dig more deeply into our faith.
As for Nathanael, what seemed to make him a skeptic was when he heard that Jesus came from Nazareth. Apparently, he didn’t care much for those who came from Nazareth. Nathanael didn’t care about someone that came from that other area. He didn’t care about someone who was from nowhere. How could anyone come from such a city? How could anything good come from such a small town? How often do things happen from the mundane and unknown?
There was nothing wrong with Nathanael being a skeptic because of where Jesus lived. However, Philip didn't just argue with him. Philip just extended an invitation. He didn’t debate, berate, or put down Nathanael. Instead, Philip’s words were so simple, not abrasive, not belittling, yet just casual. All he said was - “come and see.”
“Come and see for yourself, Nathanael.” “Come and see what you don’t believe.” “Come and see what’s miraculous.” “Just come and see why I’ve told you the Messiah is here.” “Come, see and be a part of something special.” “Nathanael, come and see even if you don’t fully understand why I want you to experience that same joy.”
What if we were a “come and see" people? There was something that called to each of us to “come and see” this place known as Zion Lutheran Church. But what was it? What was it about this church that made you “come and see” for yourself? I’m sure each of us can articulate what it was that brought us here, not just today, but from the very beginning. If we remember what it was, then maybe it will be easier to invite others. Possibly we won’t have as much difficulty inviting people to be a part of this community. Again, I’m actually asking. What brought you to Zion? (Congregation answered).
You see, it wasn’t just someone or something saying to you Zion is a great place. It wasn’t only someone telling you about Zion. It wasn’t even someone just explaining why Jesus or church matters. There was someone or something that said “come and see” for yourself. That’s all we are summoned to do.
I will never forget the one time someone invited a bunch of youth just to "come and see" how their lives could change. This person was a friend of mine named Bill. As a youth director, he planned to join together with another church to take two youth groups to Milwaukee, Wisconsin on a mission trip.
Now Bill had a gift for working with youth. It was natural for him. Even though he stands six and a half feet tall, he was a kid in an adult’s body, in a good way, which helped him be a youth director. He knew how to relate to people who were in middle and high school. He knew how to listen. But more importantly, he knew how to care.
He often told me how he would come across many middle and high school youth and invited them to church camps and mission trips. As many of them did, they made excuses or said they were busy. Somehow he got so many to go that about a week before the mission trip to Milwaukee he needed another chaperone. He knew I was waiting to move to Cincinnati and didn’t have much going on, so he asked me.
Well, I was also a little hesitant. Still, Bill just told me to come and see all of the wonderful experiences he had on these trips. Before I knew it, I was spending eight days, non-stop. with over 40 youth, and seven other chaperones. Over the next week not only did I see how gifted these youth were, but how, through someone saying just “come and see” were changed through this mission trip.
Over the course of those days I saw how they were transformed into gifted and passionate church leaders. They were eager to express God’s love in countless ways. They sorted clothes at a clothing distribution center. They helped build a community garden. They painted old houses. And they even took time to play with children. It was amazing to see how many of them came out of their shells to love and serve others. It was amazing to witness how they grew closer to one another. It was amazing to experience the joy on their faces from someone saying just “come and see.”
It’s our role to invite people to “come and see” what Jesus Christ will do through them. That’s how we make disciples. It’s not our role to create perfect people or upstanding citizens. Instead, we are seed planters, and much like Nathanael, people will see greater things.
What people will see are broken relationships mended, families restored, and more fulfilling lives. People will see they aren’t alone in this world, they free to be themselves, and can rely upon others. People will see that there is hope, joy, and happiness that is just around the corner. They will see there is nothing to fear, have anxiety, or worry over.
All it takes on our end is just to ask someone to "come and see.” They don’t have to sign up for anything or make an immediate commitment, but just come and see for themselves. Three simple words. They are words that extend an invitation. It’s not only an invitation to come to church. It’s not just an invitation to become a disciple. It is an invitation to be in an abundant relationship. It’s an invitation to participate in a journey alongside each other. It’s an invitation to be an apostle on a daily basis.
It won’t be easy. It will take time and patience. There will be uncertainty and doubt. But just ask others to "come and see.” Ask them to just "come and see” what God has done. Ask them to just “come and see” what God is doing right now. Ask them to just “come and see” and be moved to experience greater things than they’ve ever known.