Summary: This sermon is about the importance of considering Jesus’ invitation to "come and see" how it is that it is he, the Word made flesh, who reveals and makes known God the Father in heaven.
“Come and See”
John 1: 35 – 51
Have you ever tried a product or purchased an item because someone has recommended it to you? Have you ever gone to a restaurant recommended by a friend? Have you ever rented a movie because someone else said they thought you’d enjoy it or because they said it was fantastic?
Are you more likely to try something recommended by someone you know or by a stranger (or worse, a salesperson!)? Normally we are more likely to follow the recommendation from someone we know and trust, right? I mean, really, when it comes down to it, do you trust salespeople and telemarketers?
At the beginning of our story today, we once again see John. He’s not in the story very long, however. As the story opens he’s with two of his disciples. While standing there he sees Jesus walking by. The first thing John does is what he’s been doing all along – drawing our attention to who Jesus is. Once again he proclaims in a loud voice, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
So what do these disciples of John do? They leave John and go after Jesus! What follows is the Gospel of John’s account of Jesus and his first disciples. And there are three things in particular this passage teaches us about discipleship and following Jesus.
John’s disciples don’t start following Jesus blindly – they’ve heard John’s testimony. When they leave John to follow Jesus, they do so because of what John has said. John has led them to consider Jesus. They had probably been with John and heard his teaching for awhile, and now they were following up on his teaching by turning to follow Jesus. So think about this. The two men who went after Jesus at the beginning of our story did so because someone they knew and trusted recommended Jesus
This is true of other people in our story too. One of John’s two disciples to follow Jesus was Andrew and our passage deliberately points out that the first thing he did was find Simon, his brother. The first person he went tell about Jesus was his brother. Simon would become Peter, a major leader of the early church! Would Simon have been as willing to consider getting to know Jesus without the witness of his brother Andrew?
And there is yet a third example. After meeting Jesus and turning to follow him, Philip goes and gets Nathanael. Our story doesn’t tell us that they were brothers or what relationship they had, but we can probably be fairly sure that they were at least friends – the narrative indicates that Philip sought Nathanael out to introduce him to Jesus. Nathanael is initially hesitant, even scornful of Jesus because of where he is from. But eventually he does accept Philip’s invitation. Does he accept because Jesus is from Nazareth or because his friend Philip, whom he trusts, has invited him?
Of course, out of all the people in our story, Jesus is the one who is ultimately passing out the invitations. Jesus is the one who invites us to consider who he is (and therefore who God is). For this is why the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us” – to make God known! Now when John’s two disciples turn to follow Jesus, Jesus intentionally turns to address them. He asks, “What are you looking for?” Let’s face it, Jesus knows the answer already. He just wants the two men to say it. Their answer comes – just like in game show “Jeopardy” – in the form of a question: “Where are you staying?”
I love Jesus’ answer here. “Come and see.” It’s like he’s saying, “Come with me and see for yourself. Learn about who I am and what I am like by being with me.” The two disciples “remained with him that day.” This is something everyone is invited to do: remain with Jesus. It reminds me of the image of the vine and the branches, when Jesus tells us to abide in him. This “come and see” invitation is echoed when Philip goes and gets Nathanael. He says “come and see” to Nathanael when he expresses his doubts about where Jesus comes from. Just like Jesus said to Andrew and the other disciple, Philip says to Nathanael, “Come and see for yourself. Meet him yourself and decide.”
One key thing the story draws our attention to, therefore, is this: the importance of considering Jesus. This means being willing to investigate, to ask, and consider who Jesus is. Each of us is asked to consider Jesus personally. While the invitation to consider Jesus comes from others, it is our decision to follow him. The Gospel of John invites us to ask: What is Jesus about? Why would I want to follow him? Why should I?