Summary: Jesus wants us to follow Him to the places where we need to grow. It won’t be easy, but the reward is great.
You Want Me to Follow You Where?
The Reverend Anne Benefield
Geneva Presbyterian Church, January 18, 2009
Introduction: Our scripture lesson today is found in the end of the first chapter of the gospel of John. You may remember that John’s Gospel begins with the glorious statements about Jesus as the light coming into the world. The identity of Jesus will be revealed throughout the gospel. Here is a story where Jesus reveals Himself in very practical ways.
The day after He was baptized, Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 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.”
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, He said to him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked Him, “Where did you get to know me?”
Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Prayer: Gracious God, You speak to us in so many ways. You speak in every day tones and beautiful images. Open our hearts, minds, and souls to Your profound truth. Amen.
The story of Nathanael’s call is a little cryptic. It raises as many questions as it answers, but there are some themes that run through the story and speak to us. First, there is the theme of discovery. “Jesus found Philip…Philip found Nathanael… [telling Nathanael] we have found Him about whom Moses…wrote…” In the same way, Jesus finds us and we find Jesus.
Second, Jesus knows Nathanael just as He knows us. This is what I would call the best news and the worst news. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, which is a little frightening. At the same time, He knows us and still loves us completely, which is at the foundation of our lives in Christ.
Third, He promises new life. But where is that new life going to take us?
Two old friends met one day after many years. One attended college, and now was very successful. The other had not attended college and never had much ambition. The successful one said, “How has everything been going for you?”
“Well, one day I opened the Bible at random, and dropped my finger on a word and it was oil. So, I invested in oil, and boy, did the oil wells gush. Then another day I dropped my finger on a word and it was gold. So, I invested in gold and those mines really produced. Now, I’m as rich as Rockefeller.”
The successful friend was so impressed that he rushed to his hotel, grabbed a Gideon Bible, flipped it open, and dropped his finger on the page. He opened his eyes and his finger rested on the words, “Chapter Eleven.”
Where will Jesus lead us? Our new life in Christ will take us where we need to grow. To figure out where Jesus is leading us, we need to take an inventory of our weaknesses. Where we are weak, God is strong. Jesus wants to turn our weaknesses into strengths to the glory of His name.
This time of year, January, we are often thinking about where we are in life and where we want to be. By now, January 18, you and I have pretty much broken all our resolutions, but it’s not time to give up yet.
U.S. News and World Report came out with a special issue promoting “50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2009.” In describing the cover story, the table of contents reads: “Doing the little things, and a few big things, too, can lead to great strides toward happiness and a better world.” Then the following subtitles are given: Body, Mind, Money, World, and Play. [U.S. News and World Report, Volume 148, Number 14, Special Year-End Issue, 2008]
Something is missing from that list, don’t you think? It’s missing a foundation, a context. The list is superficial—it doesn’t begin with a solid base. The necessary foundation is faith. We can make small incremental or large dramatic changes in our behavior, but if those changes are made without a foundation of faith in the gracious love of God, those changes don’t mean a thing.