Today on this Second Sunday after the Epiphany, we get a brief interruption by the Gospel of John in the series of Epiphany gospel lessons that are otherwise taken from Mark. We get a hint of the glory of Jesus, later to be revealed in the resurrection, when Nathanael is told he will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. We also hear a transition from heady Christology or theology of Christ to the nitty-gritty of discipleship.
Have you ever attended or participated in a spiritually moving and uplifting event? A beautiful evensong with wonderful choir, a quiet day of prayer and meditation, and I’m sure every service here at Grace. After you leave the event and return to “the real world,” returning to work and sometimes-mundane tasks, your spiritual high fades away. The first chapter of John, to me, in some way is very similar to this scenario.
In the prologue beginning the chapter we hear Jesus described in cosmological terms, being with God and being God and existing before all things. He is the Logos, the word of God that created all things. We hear John the Baptist, after he baptized Jesus, describe the heavens splitting open and God’s Spirit descending like a dove and God’s voice proclaiming Jesus as his son. John testifies that Jesus is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. And finally, John describes Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. We hear all these wonderful, beautiful descriptions of Jesus that lift our spirit and then, Jesus goes for a walk about. This gives me some insight on how Peter James and John must’ve felt coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration after they were there with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah when Jesus shone with bright rays of light.
A few verses before the beginning of our Gospel reading, Jesus picked up two followers that were John the Baptist’s disciples. This after John declares Jesus as the Lamb of God. One of them was Andrew the brother of Simon Peter. The two followers addressed Jesus as teacher and ask him where he is staying. Jesus’s reply to them was “come and see.” After the two spend the day with Jesus, Andrew brings his brother Simon to meet Jesus after proclaiming him to be the Messiah, then Jesus names Simon as Peter, the rock.
We pick up the next day when Jesus decides to go to Galilee and took Philip along with him. Philip finds Nathaniel and tells him that they have found the one who Moses and the prophets foretold. Nathaniel seems skeptical because of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. Philip tells him "come and see." Jesus on seeing Nathanael describes him as an Israelite without guile. In this exchange between Nathaniel and Jesus we see Jesus not only recognizing Nathaniel’s inner being, but what Nathaniel was doing before he met Jesus.
You may detect a pattern in the story, that people come to know Jesus with an invitation of come and see, and that Jesus immediately knows them and their quality. God knows all things. He knows everything about me and He knows everything about you. In fact, there is nothing that we can conceal from God. As the Psalmist said: LORD, you have searched me out and known me; * you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
What prompted these new disciples of Jesus to make these lofty claims about him at their first meeting? Messiah, Son of God, King of Israel? This was the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry after all, and He had not performed any miracles or signs that pointed to his divinity yet at their first meeting they discerned it. The following of Jesus is not the fruit of any individual’s deliberation and choice. Here confessing Jesus seems to follow with a certain necessity from merely seeing or hearing him.
They were called by God as Samuel was called. To be called by God is an act of spiritual intimacy and divine urgency. To be called by God also indicates a need for immediate response because the Almighty has indeed summoned one to a specific vocation or course of action. (1)
The manifestation of the divine to Philip and Nathanael was not a self-contained, isolated episode in John’s Gospel. Rather, it is the initiation of the disciples into an extended process that would become, as they were promised, in the full beholding of God’s glory. Belief, it was promised, would blossom into an unmediated vision of glory.
Like the first disciples we are also called to be disciples of Christ. Part of our vocation is to go into the world and invite all to come and see. To make disciples of all the world, to be an invitational church. How do we accomplish this? Remember that the church learns to speak about Jesus in the process of giving thanks, singing praise, Communing with Christ and one another in the Eucharist, sharing the good news, and speaking truth to power.
Philip said simply, “Come and see.” “Come and see.” Come and learn who God is, come and hear God’s word, come and change the direction in which your life is going, come and be forgiven, come and be part of the community called to be God’s people in the world. (2) This makes the best possible invitation for evangelism both then and now: “Come and see.”
(1)Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration (Feasting on the Word: Year B volume) (Kindle Locations 8790-8792). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition. (2)Black, Vicki K.. Welcome to the Bible (Welcome to the Episcopal Church) (Kindle Locations 231-236). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.