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