Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

2nd Sunday After Denaho (Baptism of Jesus Christ)

Sermon / Homily on John 1:43 - 51

Come and See

by Jerry Goebel, One Family Outreach

John 1:43-51
[Jn 1:43] The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He *found Philip. And Jesus *said to him, "Follow Me." [44] Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. [45] Philip *found Nathanael and *said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." [46] Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip *said to him, "Come and see." [47] Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" [48] Nathanael *said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." [49] Nathanael answered Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel." [50] Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these." [51] And He *said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

(NAS)

John 1:43
[Jn 1:43a] "The next day He purposed to go into Galilee." (NAS)

The purposeful Savior
The more that I understand God’s presence in my life; the more I find myself following my "hunches". I know that sounds odd. You would think with God’s certainty, that the closer I draw to him, the more certain I would be about my direction too. Yet, I find solace in my all-time favorite verse; "Lo, I shall come to you in a dense cloud [Exodus 19:9b] (KJV)." Dare I say that the closer I get to God the foggier my life becomes?

That hardly seems to fit this scripture about purpose and focus. However, my purpose and focus seems to become less and less on who I am and what I do and more and more on who God wants me to be and who he wants me to be with. I have found that "the least of these" rarely set up appointments and so… they wait.

They wait in rest homes, in detention centers and in jails. They wait in fright, depression and loneliness. They wait out of sight, out of mind and off the radar. So, one has to play his hunches and be purposeful about going to them.

Two thousand plus years ago, Jesus (having used Satan to sharpen his vision) left the desert of temptation and strode purposefully to… "Nowhere." At least that is what the religious and political leaders thought of Galilee. He also determinedly marched out from the desert seeking… "Nobodies." At least that is what the religious and political leaders thought about fishermen.

Jesus was very purposeful about going to the nobodies in the middle of nowhere. As his followers, are we?

John 1:43-46
[Jn 1:43] The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He *found Philip. And Jesus *said to him, "Follow Me." [44] Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. [45] Philip *found Nathanael and *said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." [46] Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip *said to him, "Come and see." (NAS)

The God who takes the initiative
"I permitted myself to be sought by those who did not ask {for me;} I permitted myself to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation which did not call on My name [Isaiah 65:1]."

Do you want some great news? Our Lord does not sit in an empty temple waiting for us to come to him! He is "purposed" [GSN2309 thelo] to go looking for his people. The word actually means desiring, compelled or even, "He loves to look for his people." God is hungry to find us and call us into service. Our God does not wait on us to go to him; he initiates the call and seeks us—he came to us.

Yesterday afternoon, I was visiting a young man in the local jail. About two months ago, his wife and he had recently come to the shelter where I volunteer some of my time. There, with the loving support of many people, they came to the Lord and entered the year-long program for personal growth. Unfortunately, there was an outstanding warrant for this young man relative to his past behavior and one afternoon the police came and arrested him.

Despite the most difficult of situations, this young man is doing incredible. Within a few days he had started a bible study with the men in jail and has really focused on deepening his prayer life as he awaits his trial. Still, he faces the doubts that all of us might endure. He told me, during my last visit, that there were times he felt overwhelmed by the thought; "I was doing so well—why did God do this to me?"

I asked him to consider a slightly different perspective. "Think of what would have happened," I suggested, "if you had been arrested five months ago instead of a couple weeks ago. What would it be like before you came to Christ. Where would you be now? Where would your wife be now? God sought you out. He knew what lay ahead and he sought you out."

He picked up the theme and recounted how he would not have the community of believers that now support him if he had been arrested five months ago. He blessed God for the knowledge that his wife was in a situation where she is surrounded by God’s love. The staff and volunteers of the shelter have enveloped this family with love and prayer.

That young man is our Philip. Jesus sought him out. Jesus did not wait; he "purposed" (was driven) to go to the lakeside and find him.

This is not only good news to us; it is also (of course) a challenge to us. For once we take Christ’s name as our mantle; we must take his initiative too. Too often we wear his merchandise but don’t represent his team. We can’t wait in empty grain elevators while the harvest is full. Jesus was God’s initiative. The church is Christ’s initiative.

"Follow Me"
Phillip is one of my role models. I would liken him to an unsung hero of confused followers. Here is what we do know about him:

· He was a disciple of Jesus Christ [Mt 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14];

· He called Nathanael / Bartholomew to come and see Jesus [Jn 1:43-51; Mk 3:18];

· When the thousands came hungry before Jesus, the Lord asked Philip to find them food [Jn 6:5-7]. Some believe this was a test of Philip’s faith and that Philip did not pass it with flying colors. Philip checked his own wallet instead of God’s.

· When some Gentiles came to meet Jesus, Philip was stifled. Instead of bringing them to Jesus; he went to Andrew in confusion [Jn 12:21];

· Philip shows us that even the Apostles—those closest to Jesus—almost missed the identity of their savior.

John 14:7-10
7 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."

8 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."

9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and {yet} you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

10 "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. (NAS)

· He was among the believers who witnessed Christ’s resurrection in the Upper Room [Acts 1:13].

From then on, the details of Philip’s life are sketchy. Although early church accounts mention that he preached the gospel in Samaria, then Phrygia (in modern day Turkey, Paul visited there on his first and second missionary journeys) and he was finally martyred in Heiropolis in Syria.

I like Philip because he shows us the raw core of a believer. He starts so strong in his faith. Jesus seeks him out (as he seeks us) and says; "Follow me!" Without hesitation, Philip follows the Lord. His first action as a believer is to run out and find Nathanael, a close friend who is also searching but lost. "Come and see," Philip tells him then brings him directly to Jesus. Then, Philip fumbles and trips as he tries to decide where to place Jesus in his life; "He is a good man, but is he truly the Messiah?" Philip is moved by compassion for the hungry masses, but relies on his own abilities to meet their need. He is given a chance to bring the lost (gentiles) to Jesus, but is tripped up by his religious prejudice and parochialism. Yet, finally, when his heart acknowledges Jesus’ claims, he gives himself totally to the Lord and his "purposes". He takes the initiative to go and seek out gentiles in Phrygia. In the strength of the Holy Spirit, Philip learns to rely on the "Master’s Card" and not his own resources. He rushes decidedly to Phyrgia, to the people he once turned away from in his original confusion and uncertainty. What a story of God’s grace and provision!

His sojourn is so like ours. Let’s reexamine the critical steps of his faith journey:

1.Enthusiasm at the start;

2.Confusion when it comes down to really making Jesus the Lord of his life;

3.Failure in attempts to do God’s work with his own resources;

4. Hesitation when he is called to reach beyond his own comfort zone;

5. But finally; total and unmitigated reliance upon Jesus.

For the many of us who trip before step five; Philip shows us there is hope. Don’t stop! The journey is hard—but when the Lord asks us to feed the thousands he is not asking us to draw on our limited resources—instead, he offers his own endless assurances. Blessed be God!

I John 4:19
19 We love, because He first loved us.

Come and See
There was no media campaign; there was no political strategy, no pollsters and futurists to ascertain public opinion. One by one the followers of Jesus met him, became entranced by him and then ran out to tell their closest friends and family about him.

One has to wonder if we have lost that passion today. Have we lost the overwhelming love that prompts us to take the risk of telling those who are closest to us—those who really know us—about our personal experience of Jesus, our Lord? Have we succumbed instead to billboards and media campaigns that allow us to evangelize without getting soil under our fingernails? Have we succumbed instead to membership drives in order to fill carpeted sanctuaries and forgotten that the work of God is really face to face; "Look what the Lord has done in this sinner’s life?"

The sincere response to Jesus must always be intimate and personal. Try as we might, Jesus will never be a very good poster child. When Jesus truly impacts our hearts, our first, most natural, response will always be akin to Philip. Running audaciously to our most needy friends or relatives and shouting; "Come and see!"

Within 100 years, the Gospel of Jesus had grown beyond Galilee, beyond the Jordan, beyond Israel, beyond the vast reaches of the Roman Empire. It was a story told face to face, embrace to embrace. One changed life inviting another. Andrew ran to Peter, John ran to James, Philip ran to Bartholomew. "Come and see!"

Jesus is not a product. We can’t package or sell him. He is the one thing, worth everything, to give away. No slogan or jingle will ever replace the impact of a person who was lost to the darkness telling another fearful soul; "All I know is that he changed my life. Come and see what he has done to me."

"Can anything good?"
Nathanael’s response to Philip’s excitement must have been a disappointment to the newly converted apostle. Nathanael gives a snort and a chortle and adds cynically; "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"

Nathanael lived in Cana, four miles from Nazareth. Perhaps there was a little hometown rivalry, maybe Nazareth had stomped Cana at a homecoming match during Nathanael’s impressionable years. We do know that there was a Roman Garrison stationed in Nazareth and that would make Nazareth look like the region’s house of ill repute. It’s not like Nazareth was asked to host the hated occupiers of Israel—but her reputation was sullied by the mere presence of the Romans. Nazarene’s were considered traitors by association even though there was no earthly way they could put up a struggle against the Romans. If Nazareth did not provide them services; the Romans would simply take them.

Still, once again we see the strength of Philip’s simple response. There’s no argument, no persuasive tactics or bargaining; just the simple plea; "Come and see."

Are our lives ordered in such a way that we are willing to say to the doubters and the cynics; "Come and see."

We can say; "Come, spend the day with me. Walk with me as I go through the hours. See how God’s love has affected everything that I do—how he has, in fact, changed completely who I am. You will see Jesus in every prayer, every touch and the words from my lips. His strength will match any task to which I am called. His peace has taken residence in my heart."

If Jesus hasn’t done that for us—perhaps we shouldn’t be selling him to others. Perhaps we need to be falling more in love with him. He is able to change a life to that degree; wholly, entirely, radically. He can be that abundant. So, that when others ask; "What happened to you?" We can honestly say; "It’s not me you see—it is him in me!"

John 1:47-49
[47] Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" [48] Nathanael *said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." [49] Nathanael answered Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel." (NAS)

Jesus doesn’t see who we are—he sees who we are destined to be
The word used, Dolos [GSN1388], means to be without subterfuge, without craftiness or… cynicism. Such a person was considered blessed by God:

Ps 32:2
2 How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! (NAS)

Ps 73:1-3
1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!

2 But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling; My steps had almost slipped.

3 For I was envious of the arrogant, {As} I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (NAS)

There are two ways of looking at what Jesus says to Nathanael. One is that Jesus catches Nathanael in his sarcasm ("can anything good come from Nazareth") and embarrasses Nathanael with his own candor. In this case, Christ’s words might be interpreted with a slight tinge of humor; "Well, here’s a guy who tells is like it is."

Or, Jesus’ words could be construed as a blessing, such as; "Here is a man who bears no falsehood."

To call Nathanael "a man with no guile" (or "with no deceit") could actually be interpreted either way. My sense is that Jesus used this statement to cut straight into Nathanael’s heart. For, by Nathanael’s response to dear Philip, he must have grown weary of seeking. It is what Jesus says next that would genuinely break the heart of the hardest man. "Before Philip called you, when you under the fig tree, I saw you."

This statement is more than just factual; it is fig-urative (sorry, about that pun). The fig was considered the sweetest fruit of the desert people. To eat of the fig tree was a blessing; to have your fig trees knocked down was a curse. It meant that the sweetest things in your life would be taken away from you.

Ps 105:33
33 He struck down their vines also and their fig trees, and shattered the trees of their territory. (NAS)

Pr 27:18
33 He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit; and he who cares for his master will be honored. (NAS)

Song 2:13
33 "The fig tree has ripened its figs, and the vines in blossom have given forth {their} fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!"" (NAS)

Isa 28:4
33 And the fading flower of its glorious beauty, which is at the head of the fertile valley, will be like the first-ripe fig prior to summer; which one sees, {and} as soon as it is in his hand, He swallows it. (NAS)

Amos 4:9
33 "I smote you with scorching {wind} and mildew; and the caterpillar was devouring your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees; yet you have not returned to me," declares the LORD. (NAS)

Micah 4:4
4 And each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make {them} afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. (NAS)

To say, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you," was equivalent to saying; "Nathanael, I knew you before you were cynical. I knew you when you were sweet to the touch, a fragrance unto God. I knew you when your heart could still be melted, when your faith was still hungry. That’s the Nathanael that I have seen."

Jesus did not see people the way they were—he saw people for who they could be. He saw bodies deformed by illness and he made them whole. He saw sinners weighted under the hatred of this life and he set them free. He saw a man who had once wanted to believe but had been hardened by an unresponsive world. To that man—he gave back wonder.

Do we strive to be like the Lord in this manner? Do we see people for what they have done—or, for who they can become? We can ask the Lord to give us back the eyes of faith. He can give us eyes that see hope; eyes that are compassionate and patient with a broken world.

John 1:50-51
[50] Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these." [51] And He *said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

"Greater things than these!"
"Fasten your seat belts."

Our Lord is "purposed" to show us something great in our lives. He is hungry to reveal his glory to us—even as the majestic angels serve the will of our Lord. Remember that "to see the heavens opened" means that Jesus will allow us to experience the full mystery and meaning of his Kingdom. Yet, it is not something we could receive in an instant; that would be like plugging the power of a nuclear reactor into your home computer. Revelation begins with a daily process of responding to God, first understanding his Character—then understanding his ways. That, to me, is the purpose of a study such as this; I am less interested in explaining the bible than I am interested in helping people "catch" God’s Spirit. If we know his character, his words become clear. If we read his words but do not understand his character—we will never grasp their full meaning. The great news is that God’s promise of revelation does not start "someday"—it starts "today".

The Deacon, Stephen, actually saw God’s heaven revealed to him while he was yet on earth. Look at his account:

Acts 7:55-56
55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

Here is a man who saw the heavens opened, who witnessed the Son of Man seated in his rightful place. Yet, the revelation of heaven comes neither to a new convert nor someone who is "nominally involved" as a follower. Observe the "all or nothing" passion of a man who is allowed to see the heavens opened.

· Stephen was the first deacon appointed to care for the needs of the poor and hungry in the church.

· He was picked for his faith; the evidence of the Holy Spirit in his life.

· He was consecrated by the apostles for his mission and his work was accentuated by both grace and power.

· Yet, his grace and power threatened the entrenched religious establishment. They brought him to trial for blasphemy (he was accused of threatening the temple and altering the commands of Moses). During his trial, his words could not be countered, his truth was too clear, his presence became like that of an angel. When men cannot argue with truth and observation—they turn to violence. Stephen’s trial became an outright lynching.

· Without due process, Stephen was hauled to the edge of town and stoned to death.

It was while he was being stoned that the heavens were opened to him.

Acts 6:5-15
5 And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. 6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith. 8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 8 But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, {including} both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. 9 And {yet} they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.

10 Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and {against} God." 11 And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and dragged him away, and brought him before the Council. 12 And they put forward false witnesses who said, "This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law; 13 for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us."

14 And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.

Acts 7:59-60
59 And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon {the Lord} and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" 60 And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" And having said this, he fell asleep.

The intensity of heaven is not for the faint of heart. It seems that to the degree which we are willing to reveal ourselves to the Lord—he reveals himself to us. It is as though the greater our need for his strength, the more intense our reliance upon him and the greater his revelation to us. That is why Jesus is experienced in his most dynamic intimacy at the furthest edge of ministry; in the arms of the suffering, outcast and alienated. If we want "Jesus in the raw"—we need to be prepared to go where our hearts are literally rubbed raw by the intense need for him to be revealed.

Stephen’s intense passion spilled out upon his entire community, he became the touchstone for the Diaspora; the persecution and scattering of the church.

Acts 11:19
19 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. (NAS)

I imagine that there were many among the believer’s that wished Stephen would have kept his mouth shut. Many who wished that Stephen would just "tone it down a notch." Yet, had it not been for the Lord’s call upon Stephen, two things might never have happened:

1. The church itself might have remained in Jerusalem; as a "denomination" of Judaism;

2. The man who the Lord used to lead the church out of Jerusalem might never have surfaced.

Paul was the official who "took the responsibility" for Stephen’s stoning. Paul lost all his sensibilities as a result of what he witnessed. Literally, he was overcome by bloodlust and drove the church underground. There was something in the way that Stephen died that confronted Paul to his core. In Stephen, Paul saw the peace that he would never know "through the law".

Acts 8:2-4
2 And {some} devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul {began} ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. 4 Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.

However, though the church was driven out of Jerusalem, it remained largely a Jewish sect:

Acts 11:19
19 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.

Paul’s jealousy for Stephen’s faith, his bloodlust for the new believers culminated on his fateful trip to Damascus. A trip where the man intent on wiping out the stain of Christianity from the map—became the man God used to spread Christianity beyond the boundaries of the known world.

But, wait! There’s more; for look at who resurfaces in the Lord’s strength and power during the period of the church’s intense trial and persecution:

Acts 8:2-6
2 And {some} devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul {began} ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. 4 Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. 5 And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and {began} proclaiming Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing.

We are at full circle now. The entire story of Philip is told; from cynic to convert to confused follower to passionately powerful in Christ’s name. This same full circle is God’s desire for our lives. "LORD, wake us from our slumber—don’t let us hold back!"

Copyright © 2005 by Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved. http://onefamilyoutreach.com.

"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, (C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988. Used by permission."

See Also:

Come and See
by Pastor Edward F. Markquart

Come and See - Assembling the Team
by Rev. Fr. Dr. V Kurian Thomas

Nathaniel with Jesus
by Rev. Fr. K. K. John

Jesus is Calling Us
by Rev. Fr. Dr. Joy Pyngolil

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the 2nd Sunday after Denaha (Baptism of our Lord)

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