Sunday, September 13, 2015
Sermon: John 1: 35-51 Come and See
First impressions can have a lasting impact. Whether you’re going for an interview, or meeting a blind date, or being introduced to a friend of a friend, those first moments will long stick in the memory. For some of you, the first time you met your husband or wife stays with you - seeing them across the room at a dance, or the night you were introduced by mutual friends. You remember exactly where you were, what you were doing, what they were wearing. First impressions have a lasting impact.
As John sits down to write his gospel, he tells us about the first time he met Jesus. He remembers it so clearly. He knows where he was, and what happened. He writes it down, not to boast, not to say, look how great I was that it happened to me. He tells us, so that we can meet Jesus as well. If you were with us last week, you’ll remember that John gives us the ‘key’ to his gospel right at the end - evidence about Jesus leads to belief in Jesus leads to life through Jesus.
In our reading this morning, we see how these things fit together as John and others meet Jesus for the first time. It happens over two days, and there’s a bit of a pattern in how it all works out - as followers bring other people to meet Jesus, and as they discover just who Jesus is for themselves. But let’s launch in at verse 35.
It’s early days in Jesus’ ministry. He has just appeared on the scene. At this moment, he has no disciples, no followers. But John the Baptist does. He’s standing with two of his disciples, when Jesus walks past. [The way I imagine this is thinking about my dad. Every morning, him and a group of men gather on a summer seat in the square. They chat about all sorts of things. They maybe chat about people walking past.] Jesus walks past, and John says: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ Look - he is the Lamb of God.
Suddenly, John’s two disciples walk off. They leave John and start following Jesus. How do you think John felt? Annoyed? Angry? It’d be like if two of dad’s friends saw someone going by and went for a chat with him, leaving dad behind. Or is it? Already in the gospel (1:7), we’ve been told that John the Baptist came to be a witness, to bear witness about the light. That’s what he’s done. He has told people about Jesus. He has done what he was made to do - tell people about Jesus.
The sight of two men walking along, following you, might be a scary thing. After all, stalking is a crime these days. Jesus turns around and, in my Norn Irish version says: What do you want? Verse 38: ‘What are you seeking?’ Why are you following me? So they say that they want to know where he is staying. Are they nosy about his house? I think it’s more than that. They want to find out about this Lamb of God, to get to know him. So Jesus says that’s ok - ‘Come and you will see.’
Come and see. It’s an open invitation to see him, get to know him, offered to people who are curious, people who are searching, people who have heard something about Jesus but want to see for themselves. That offer was for John and Andrew that day, but through John’s gospel, Jesus is still saying to you, ‘Come and see.’ If you’re searching, come and see.
So they came, and they saw, but it was Jesus who conquered. Look at verse 40. Andrew was one of the two, and he went to get his own brother Simon. And what does he say: ‘We have found the Messiah’ - the Christ, the anointed promised King. So he brought Simon to Jesus - Simon who we know better as Peter, rocky, the name given to him by Jesus.
John the Baptist bore witness about Jesus the Lamb of God. John and Andrew heard the witness, and believed it, by going and following Jesus. Personal introduction is really important. Friends introducing friends to Jesus. Word of mouth about the Word of God.
And maybe you think to yourself, well, that would be wonderful, but my friends aren’t like that. If I were to mention Jesus to them, they’re not going to like it. Easier to keep quiet, and keep my friendship with them. They don’t want to know. What do I do then? You need to hear about Philip and his friend, Nathanael.
It’s day two in v43. Jesus finds Philip and tells him to ‘follow me.’ Just as Andrew encounters Jesus and then goes and tells a friend (or a brother) who he has found, Philip goes and tells Nathanael. ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ This Jesus is the one the whole Old Testament is pointing to. It’s all about him, this Jesus of Nazareth.
Nazareth? Huh. You can almost hear Nathanael splutter. ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Every place seems to have another local town that they don’t think much of. And in the new supercouncils, those places seem to have been lumped together... Nathanael refuses to believe that anything good would come from Nazareth. He doesn’t want to know. He’s sceptical. He thinks Philip is mad. So how does Philip respond? ‘Come and see.’ The same phrase Jesus used, only this time it’s more, even though you don’t believe, just give it a try. At least come and prove me wrong. Make sure that you’re right.
Somehow, it works, and Nathanael comes along. As Jesus talks to him, and calls him ‘an Israelite in whom there is no deceit’, Nathanael wants to know how Jesus knows him, or anything about him. Jesus’ answer shows his divine power and knowledge: ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ The fact that Jesus knew all about him was enough for him. Look at his response - this sceptic, Nathanael, the one who thought the only thing good in Nazareth was the road out of it - ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’
In his very first minute with Jesus, Nathanael is brought to know who Jesus is - the Christ, the Son of God of 20:31. Already he believes. Already he has been turned around from scepticism to certainty; from doubt decision. Yet Jesus says he will see even greater things than these. Look at verse 31: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’
Jesus is pointing back to our first reading, to Genesis 28, where Jacob dreams of a ladder between earth and heaven, the angels ascending and descending. Led Zeppelin might have sung about a lady buying a stairway to heaven, and Neil Sedaka about building a stairway to heaven, but Jesus is saying that he is the only way from earth to heaven. He is the only route to heaven.
When we really get this, when we realise that Jesus is the only way, then we’ll be moved to tell people about Jesus, and introduce them to him. When we know that Jesus is the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the King of Israel, the Messiah, the one the Old Testament is about, we’ll want to get other people to meet him and know him too. So who could you speak to this week? You don’t have to cross the world to tell someone about Jesus - you can cross the street, or cross the room. John the Baptist told his followers, the people he worked with. Andrew told his brother, his family. Philip even told someone who was hostile. It’s not always easy, but it’s the right thing to do. So who could you speak to this week? Take a moment. Think of one person - at work, in the your family, among your friends - and resolve to tell them something about Jesus. You can even mention Christianity Explored to them, and say that you’ll come along with them. It might be scary, it might be costly, but wouldn’t it be worth it to introduce them to Jesus?
But maybe you’re sitting thinking to yourself that you don’t know Jesus. You might have come to church all your life, you know about Jesus, but you don’t know Jesus. You’ve never taken that opportunity to get to know him. You’ve never been introduced. I’d love to do that with you. Come along on Wednesday night to Christianity Explored. Or grab me and ask me for a chat sometime We could go through CE one to one.
Whatever you do after this morning, don’t do nothing. Don’t walk away without resolving to speak about Jesus, or get to know Jesus. First impressions can have a lasting impact. Perhaps even today could be the day you meet with Jesus for the very first time, or introduce sometime to Jesus for the very first time. Whether you’re searching and open, or sceptical and hostile, take those three words in, and follow it up - ‘Come and see’.
This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 13th September 2015.