Summary: A sermon for the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Audubon 1/18/09. It plays off Nathaniel’s question in the text "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” That’s quite a question for Nathaniel to be asking this morning, isn’t it? If you were from Nazareth, you might hear that as quite an insult. Just imagine someone you just met asking where you were from, and you say you’re from Audubon, Iowa, and they respond by saying “Can anything good come out of Audubon?” You’d probably be pretty offended by that comment, wouldn’t you?
Well, let me ask that question a little bit differently. Can anything good come out of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church? People might not ask you that question directly, but sometimes, when you invite someone to come to church with you, do you ever get the feeling that is what they are thinking? Perhaps we even have people whose names appear on our membership list, but never worship here, who are sitting at home this morning, wondering “can anything good come out of me being at church?’ This morning, through the Gospel reading, we’re going to hear the answer to Nathaniel’s question, and how the answer to that very question affects the way we do evangelism in this place, and how we can respond:
Can anything good come out of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church? Oh yes, there is!
As our reading starts out, it’s pretty early in Jesus’ public ministry. Fresh off his baptism in the Jordan and his temptation in the wilderness, Jesus is now starting to call disciples. In the verses that precede this chapter, Jesus has already called two of John the Baptist’s former disciples to come follow him, and now he is continuing in our reading for today by calling Phillip and Nathaniel. Jesus is on his way to Galilee, and he comes across Phillip. Two of the disciples Jesus has already called to follow him, Andrew and Peter, were from the same city as Phillip, Bethsadia. Jesus simply says to Phillip “follow me”.
Notice this: Phillip wasn’t out looking for Jesus, Jesus found him. It’s the same way that Jesus comes to us. I often hear people who are brought to faith in Christ at a later age sometimes say “I found Jesus!” but this chapter tells us that it’s actually the other way around, that Jesus finds us. So the question is, if we’re not out looking for Jesus, then where are we that He needs to come and find us? Well, think for a minute where we would be without Jesus. We would be lost. Often in the Scriptures, those without faith in Christ are described as “Lost.” Without the forgiveness, life, and salvation that only come through Christ, we would be lost in our sins. We would be eternally separated from God, with the prospect of facing an eternity in hell because of our sinfulness. But Jesus comes into the darkness of sin, and brings the light of His Word to us, he finds us in the darkness of our sins, calling us to follow him and His light, which is His Gospel, the good news that He has suffered and died to take the punishment our sins rightly deserved. That’s what He did for Phillip, and that’s what He does for us yet today. Right now, through the responses we’ve read and sung throughout the liturgy, through the Scripture readings of the day, and now, through the preaching of the Word in this sermon, Jesus is calling you to follow him, listen to what He has to say to you today through His Word. Just as Andrew did, and just as Phillip did, you are here this morning to be in the presence of Christ to listen to your Savior’s call to follow him and listen to him. He has found you and brings His saving Gospel to you today.
So, Phillip is found by Jesus, Jesus calls Phillip to follow him, and what’s the first thing that Phillip does after Jesus issues the call to follow? Does Phillip throw a big party for himself, because he’s finally found the way, truth, and life? Does he keep it to himself? No, the first thing Phillip does once He has been found by Jesus, is he went and found someone he could share his joy with.. In the verses that precede our text, we see this same scenario play out with Andrew. Andrew is found by Jesus, Jesus calls Andrew to follow him, Andrew spends the day listening to Jesus’ word, and then Andrew goes and tells his brother, Peter, about Jesus, and brings Peter to where Jesus is so that he, too, can hear about Jesus. Phillip does the same, he goes and finds Nathaniel, and tells Nathaniel about Jesus. He tells Nathaniel “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and also whom the prophets also wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (v. 45) Unless you are talking to an orthodox Jew, you probably wouldn’t use that line if you were to invite someone to come and see Jesus with you here at church on Sunday. Instead, you would probably use words like: Savior. Light of the World. The Way, the Truth, and the Life. Like Phillip, you will refer to Jesus by name. Whatever words you choose, just like Phillip, you’d want to tell that person who they will see if they come with you, and the wonderful things He has to offer.