Archives: 2 Epiphany

Come and See: The Unreturned Invitation

“Come and see.”  I discovered something new as I studied these words in Gospel of John, and it totally changed how I think about them and what I think they mean.

In our gospel passage today, we read, “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.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”

Nathanael is doubtful.

He has the prejudice that probably many of his friends had, that Nazareth was a do-nothing backwater town.

It would be like hearing that someone from the local junior high basketball team had just been drafted by the NBA.

Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

So Philip invites Nathanael to come and see for himself what the big deal is with Jesus.

But the I don’t believe Philip says those particular words or makes that invitation just out of his own inspiration.

Jesus has already said these words of invitation himself, just a few verses earlier: “The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’”

Philip’s “come and see” invitation to Nathanael is born out of Jesus’ “come and see” invitation to him. It all begins with Jesus.

And Jesus is not displaying a resume and a list of qualifications that make him the Lamb of God.

It is an invitation to experience it yourself, with no prerequisites at all.

Just show up, and see what Jesus is doing.

That is an invitation that Jesus is making to us all the time.

But the disciples, in their usual loveable cluelessness, spend the next weeks and months mostly failing to understand what Jesus is trying to do.

They’ve made a start—Jesus asked them to come and see, and they did. And Philip invites Nathanael to come and see—they have learned that they need to extend the invitation to others.

But the problem is that the invitation to “come and see” is all about Jesus in his role as a miracle-worker and potential king and rescuer of Israel.

It’s all about what Jesus can do that is eye-catching and extraordinary, that bends the laws of nature and gathers a crowd.

It’s not about actual relationship with Jesus.

Jesus invites the disciples to come and see, but they think he’s just inviting them to see miracles like walking on water or feeding five thousand people with just a few loaves and fish.

They will come and see, but they’re coming to see the wrong things. Continue reading

John the Baptist, Total Rockstar

The older I get, the more I admire John the Baptist.

He, like Mary and a few other people in the Bible, are all the more remarkable for the fact that they at times achieved Jesus-like moments of spiritual realization, while being fully human themselves.

And yet their moments of humanity, where they clearly can’t keep up with Jesus, make them all the more endearing.

Stop for a moment and consider this incident with John in our gospel today.

This is the culmination of his ministry—proclaiming to the world that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

He went through all the years in the desert, years one assumes were necessary to understand the message he was to deliver.

Then he baptized Jesus—what a pinnacle of joy! He has prepared the way for the Lord, and now announces him to the world.

But then it’s all over in the space of a few seconds.

“The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.”

Just like that, end of story.

John is no longer in the picture.

His disciples have just abandoned him to follow Jesus.

John’s ministry is over in the space of ten seconds, in one conversation.

John is no longer important.

He’s no longer necessary.

He has lost his job, his friends, and his purpose.

And it’s only downhill from there. He’ll be in jail before long.

What kind of reward is that for his faithfulness?

But this is what makes John the Baptist so remarkable, and so worthy of our admiration and emulation.

This is what led Jesus to say, “Among those born of women, not one is greater than John.”

John, somehow, by virtue of some divine experience, was able to let everything go so that Jesus’ mission was accomplished.

John let go everything and everyone he loved, giving them all freely to Jesus, leaving him with nothing.

How did he do it? Continue reading

Seeing God by Letting God See Us

We often think of “Bible times” being so drastically different from our own.

We imagine that people walked around in a world where miracles and wonders happened left, right and center.

You’re walking down the street and boom! There’s the parting of the Red Sea, there’s a coat of many colors, there’s a kid slaying a giant.

But the fact of the matter is, most folks in the ancient near East, and even most of the big heroes of the Bible, lived lives very much like our own.

They had to pay the rent on time, they had to get food on the table, maybe they didn’t like their bosses and they gossiped about their neighbors.

There weren’t miracles and revelations dropping out of the sky at all hours of the day.

Our reading from 1 Samuel today says so: “The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.”

That was true in the literal sense, but oh, what a richer and deeper resonance that can have for us as individuals and us as a church.

Do you feel like the word of the Lord is rare in your life? Continue reading

Have You Ever Been Harrowed?

 

The Son of God, the Son of Man, the Ancient of Days, Emmanuel, the Good Shepherd, the Holy One of Israel, the Light of the World, the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Living Water, the Root of Jesse, the Lion of Judah, the Rock of our Salvation.

These are just a few of the names by which we know Jesus, our Savior. We could spend every week in our sermon time talking about the names of Jesus and stay busy for a year.

But today we’re going to spend some time talking about another particular name of Jesus: the Lamb of God.

This term is one of the very oldest for Jesus.  It comes straight from our gospel lesson today.

In John 1:29, John the Baptist cries out when he first sees Jesus coming up to town, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”

Now consider this for a moment.

John the Baptist is not a gentle person and it seems odd that he would choose such a gentle sounding name to proclaim the Messiah’s arrival.

John eats locusts and tells the people if they do not repent they will be burned with unquenchable fire.

He gets everyone all worked up and excited and then Jesus arrives and John announces, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

I just would have expected something with a little more punch to it. Continue reading

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