Instead of telling you “the rest of the story,” I’m going to go back and tell you the first of the story. We’ve come in on day two of the calling of disciples in John’s gospel. It reads a little different from the synoptic gospels where we hear about Peter and Andrew and James and John fishing on their boats. In this gospel, two of John’s disciples hear him call Jesus “the Lamb of God.” And they leave John to go follow Jesus. Those disciples are Andrew and the unnamed disciple. In John’s gospel, the unnamed disciple usually represents John himself.
Jesus turns around and sees them following and he asks them a question – he says, “What do you want?” I think this is probably a question that he asks each of us anytime we walk into a church or a religious gathering of any kind. Jesus asks, “What is it that you came here seeking?” Are you seeking comfort? Do you want answers? It is healing you desire? Are you looking for a better life? A way to heal the brokenness in your life? In your marriage? In your children? Are you looking for someone who will simply be with you during the hard times of life? Areyou looking for a relationship that can begin to answer all these questions and even more?
When the disciples answer, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” it is more than just the first thing they could think of to say. It meant that they were seeking something more than just a passing acquaintance. They wanted to spend time with him and get to know him better, to learn the things he could teach them. And Jesus answered their question with, “Come and see.” In other words, he allowed them to come with him and to stay with him. Andrew, during this time was so excited, that he ran to get his brother, telling him, “We have found the Messiah.” So nowJesus already has three disciples – Andrew, Simon Peter, and John.
Our story takes up the next day. The setting is Galilee and Jesus finds Philip and tells him, “Follow me.” This is the same message that Jesus still issues to us today, “follow me.” He doesn’t say, “if you are good enough,” or “if you are holy enough,” or “if you are without sin.” He simply offers all people the same invitation, “Follow me.”
One doctrine of Christian theology says that we pursue God because, and only because God first put the urge in us that calls us to follow him. It is Jesus calling us to follow him. Oh, we don’t necessarily hear a voice like Samuel did, or like Philip did, but we are made in the image of God. And that part made in his image, that spirit, always calls us back to the God whose image it is. “Follow me.”
Philip is already friends with Peter and Andrew, and so he runs and gets Nathanael. He tells him that he has found the Messiah, who is Jesus of Nazareth. Now remember that Nazareth is a little back water town several miles from the Sea of Galilee. It might be like saying, “We’ve found the Messiah. He’s from Seabrook.” And Nathanael is skeptical – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip doesn’t give him any long speeches or try to persuade him. He simply says, “Come and see.” The same words Jesus had said to Andrew and John the day before. This is the theme throughout this gospel – come and see. Come and see what Jesus is like. Come and see what God can do for you. Come and see for yourself. And so Nathanael comes, with his doubts, with his questions, he comes to see.
Jesus invites each of us to come and see. Bring your questions – bring your doubts. He can answer all your questions and lay all your doubts to rest. When Jesus sees Nathanael, he makes a statement, “Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” And Nathanael’s response was, “How do you know me?” When we meet someone new and they say something like, “Oh, I’ve heard about you…” You always wonder, ”What did you hear? Was it good? Was it bad?”
And Jesus tells him, “I saw you under the fig before Philip called you…” The answer lies in our Psalm 139 today, “Lord, you have searched me out and known me. . . you discern my thoughts from afar. . . There is not a word on my lips, but you know it altogether. . . “ And we might ask as Nathanael, how do you know. . . verses 12 and 13 of our psalm tell us, “For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made. . . “
Jesus sees each of us before we come to him. He knows the shape we are in. He knows what is troubling us. He knows the things we’ve done and said. And still he invites us in. “Come and see.”