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Epiphany 2B Sermon
John 1: 43-51
January
14, 2018

 

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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

In John’s Gospel, the phrase, “Come and see,” occurs four times. A few verses ahead of our Gospel reading today, two of John the Baptist’s disciples (one of which was Philip) have just been told by John that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. They then follow Jesus, and he asks them what they are looking for. They call him Rabbi and ask where he is staying. He tells them, “come and see.”
The second is in verse 46 of our Gospel this morning where Philip then uses the phrase on his friend Nathaniel when he asks, “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip had just told him that Jesus of Nazareth is the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote. It seems a little sarcastic at first, to truly wonder if the long awaited messiah could really come from some insignificant hill-town in northern Israel, but it comes from a sincere skepticism that any good Jew would have had. Philip doesn’t dismiss his response; he merely invites him to come with him to witness for himself this one who they have been waiting for.

In John 4, Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. He asks her for a drink of water and promises to give her living water so that she will never thirst again. After she runs back to her town, she invites her neighbors to check him out for themselves: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done. He cannot be the messiah, can he?”

Finally, in John 11, Lazarus has died and Jesus comes to Bethany for the sole purpose of raising him back to life so that Mary, Martha and the rest can witness God’s power. He asks them where they have laid his body and they tell him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept.
The words, “come and see” are words of invitation. These words invite someone to witness that which another person has found, that which the person wants to share. Come and see – where I am staying … the good man who has come from Nazareth … the one who told me everything about my life … where they laid the body of your friend so you can raise him back to life. Come and see.

Philip’s invitation to Nathaniel was not only an attempt to defend his own good name in the face of disbelief, but is an excited proclamation that he has encountered someone who he truly believes in as the one who will make a difference in the world. John has pointed to Jesus; Philip is waving his hands at Nathaniel to join him in following this one who rarely anyone else would consider worth even listening to.

The invitation from Philip to come and see sets into motion Jesus’ promise later in the passage that they will see greater things than merely being noticed under the fig tree. He will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. John really doesn’t describe anything like this happening in Jesus’ life, so it might either mean something symbolic – like you are going to see things that your eyes will not believe – or it could mean that these events are still in the future, promised still to us as we await Jesus’ return in glory one day. Regardless, Jesus promises that all who follow him will be part of great things from God … no matter how prepared we might think we are.
We all are invited to come and see Jesus; we all are called to invite others to come and see Jesus at work in our lives. It is not a perfect life, but it is a life which has been claimed by the Lamb of God, and our sin has been taken away by that very lamb, who has mercy on us. In talking about this, Martin Luther once said, “This life is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness; not health but healing; not being but becoming; not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. The process is not yet finished, but it is going on. This is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.” The invitation to discipleship is not an invitation to a perfect life, but to a life where we allow God to purify us as we serve him with our gifts and strengths, shortcomings and weaknesses. Nathaniel accepted this invitation to come and see, and Jesus blessed him and called him to a life of growth, healing, becoming and exercise. In this season of Epiphany, we can lift up Nathaniel’s sudden, unexplained and complete epiphany of Jesus as the beginning of his life.

We all desire these kinds of epiphanies to encourage us along the way. Martin Luther King Jr, who our country honors tomorrow, writes about his kitchen table epiphany in his book, “Stride Toward Freedom.” He says, “I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands I bowed over our kitchen table and prayed aloud. The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory: ‘I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.’ At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced God before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying, ‘Stand up for justice, stand up for truth, and God will be at your side forever.’ Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.”
Nathaniel was changed immediately by an epiphany when Jesus told him that he had seen him under the fig tree. King was changed immediately during that kitchen table vision. Will you be changed immediately and drastically in the same way? I am not sure. But one thing I do know, when we hear the invitation to come and see Jesus, the lamb of God; to come and see one who came from a little town where, archaeologists tell us they used to throw their garbage into the alleys; to come and see the one who tells people everything about their lives and even who heals and raises people with new life, then we grow, we are healed, and our faith is exercised in a way which excites us so much that we cannot help but invite others to come and see the one who is our Lord and savior. May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen.