This Week’s Sermon – Come and See

SCRIPTURE – John 1:35-46
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

SERMON
Come and See
Jan. 16, 2011
John 1:35-46

Leigh and I are convinced that our oldest daughter Sydney should be an attorney when she grows up, because it would be a shame for her amazing argumentative skills to go to waste. Sydney is so intelligent that she has the ability to debate almost anything, and usually win.
“Sydney, five more minutes of TV, and then it’s bedtime.”
“Aw, Dad, how about 10 more?”
“Sydney, I said five.”
“How about 15?”
“Sydney, I said five.”
“How about 20?”
“OK, 10 and that’s it.”
That girl would give Jack McCoy of “Law and Order” a run for his money.

I may be a few thousand hours short of my law degree, but I’ve watched “A Few Good Men” enough times to know this: for any lawyer to have a credible case against someone, you have to have a witness. Without a witness, it’s all hearsay and speculation and he said-she said. Any good case is made stronger by a witness.

In the Old Testament, before there was DNA testing and forensic pathologists and fingerprinting, cases were decided purely on the testimony of witnesses. That’s why one of the 10 Commandments is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” The authenticity of a witness was crucial to the maintaining of justice and order.

Our reading today provides us with an important witness: John the Baptist. During his ministry, John testifies: “Look! The Lamb of God!”, and goes on to give a powerful witness for how he knows Jesus is the Son of God. One of the ways he articulates his witness is through the different names John uses to testify about Jesus. In this first chapter of John, Jesus is called the Word, Light of the World, Lamb of God, the Eternal One, Son of God, Rabbi, and Messiah. And those are only a fraction of the names the Bible gives for Jesus. Why all these names? Why isn’t the name Jesus Christ sufficient?

When I was in college, working in a video store and kind of meandering my way through my bachelor’s degree, I didn’t have much of a clue about where I was going and what I was going to do. I was also a bit skeptical spiritually. I believed Jesus existed, but I didn’t really believe in Jesus as my savior. My life was good, I was a college student. Other than mid-terms and people who didn’t rewind their videos, what did I need saving from?

But then I heard a sermon one Sunday on Jesus as the Good Shepherd, one who guides us and leads us down life’s path. And it was like this epiphany for me. Suddenly the role of Jesus in my life made perfect sense. I needed someone to guide me, to give me direction; I needed a shepherd. It was only after getting to know Jesus as my Shepherd that I realized how much I needed Jesus as my Savior.

Our circumstances in life can shape who Jesus is for us. The person whose life is filled with conflict knows him as Prince of Peace. The oppressed know him as the true Master. The ill and afflicted know him as the Great Physician. Those seeking knowledge know him as Rabbi. And the lonely know him as Friend. Separately, each of these names gives us a glimpse into a different aspect of Jesus’ identity. Together, they form a constellation of images that witness to Jesus Christ.

The names used for Jesus obviously meant something to John’s followers, because they immediately begin walking after Jesus when he passes. Sensing this, Jesus turns around and speaks his first words in this gospel, “What do you want?” or as other translations say, “What are you looking for?”

Jesus has a way of cutting to the chase, doesn’t he? No idle chit-chat or small talk about the weather. Instead, he turns to meet them and says, “What are you looking for?” What are you looking for? We come here Sunday after Sunday, participating in worship and fellowship, doing our part in the church. But what’s our goal? What are we hoping happens to us as a result of this? The two disciples said they wanted to see where Jesus was staying. They want more than just a passing word. They wanted to abide with him, to rest with him, to simply be in his company. Are we hoping to catch a once-a-week glimpse of Jesus, or do we want something more? What are we looking for?

And so Jesus offers a simple invitation, to the disciples and presumably to us: Come and see. Come and see who I am and what I’m all about. Come and learn about me. Come and learn about yourself. That’s what Peter does. He actually starts off this story as Simon, brother of Andrew. Andrew meets Jesus and calls him Rabbi, but after a few hours with him, Andrew tells Simon not about Jesus the Rabbi but Jesus the Messiah, the anointed one of God. Just as Andrew gives Jesus a name change, so Jesus does the same with Simon. Jesus says, “You are Simon, but you will be called Cephas,” which translates in Greek as “Peter,” or “the rock” like the word “petrified.”

This is strange, because Jesus has just met Peter for the first time. We don’t get any indication that Peter is a body-builder or has six-pack abs, so I don’t think this new name describes his physicality. What Jesus is doing is calling Peter, not who he is, but who he has the potential to be. He’s casting a vision for Peter, as Andy Stanley says. Jesus isn’t just looking at Peter; he’s looking into him. From this day forward, Peter will carry forward a constant reminder of what Jesus saw in him.

I remember at a family gathering when I was young my mom was asking me questions from a baseball trivia book. After I answered a few questions in a row, my uncle Herman said, “That boy should be on a game show!” I’m presuming he didn’t mean “The Gong Show.” Now, I never made it onto a game show, but his comment has stuck with me to this day. He saw something in me, named it to me, and changed the way I saw myself.

The beauty of this story is that Jesus has a new name for each of us, as well. Some of us have heard those names, and are already attempting to live them out – teacher, singer, minister, elder. Others of us may still be discovering those names. These aren’t simply jobs or duties; these are the gift identities with which God has endowed us, just as he gave Peter the potential to be the rock on which he would build the church.

Was Peter always a rock? Far from it. Many times he was as soft as Jell-O, wavering back and forth in his faith. But eventually he became one of the leaders in the early church movement. Do you think he ever forgot the moment when Jesus called him Cephas? Do you think I’ve ever forgotten the first moment someone called me a minister? God has a name for you. Are you listening? Have you heard it? Are you living it out?

We have been given an invitation to come and see who God calls us to be, and this story today models that invitation for us. I remember vividly when I got the invitation. It came from my mom. One Saturday afternoon, when I was lounging around the house, she said, “You know, I think you’d like our new preacher. He talked about Kentucky basketball in his sermon last week. You should come and see.” That was it! No quoting scripture, no threats about going to Hell if I didn’t go. Just a simple, “I think there’s something there for you. Why don’t you come and see?” That invitation changed my life. If she hadn’t made it, I might still be working on my bachelor’s degree right now. Thanks, Mom!

Notice the progress of the invitation in our story. First, Jesus says “Come and see” to two disciples who were following him, and then Phillip turns around and says “Come and see” to Nathanael. And we can presume that Nathanael said it to someone, who said it to someone else, who said it to someone else, until eventually someone said it to us. Come and see.

We’re called to offer the same invitation to others. There are people in our lives who are trying to answer the question “What do you want?” but who haven’t been invited to seek the answer. They desire so badly to be welcomed into the light, to be accepted, to be loved. But no one has said to them, “Come and see.”

That may feel intimidating, like we’re being all Jesus-y right in someone else’s face when we do that, but I disagree. Religion is a personal issue, but not a private one, especially not for those who believe in the Good News. And there are people out there that we know and love who are just waiting for someone to ask them, “What do you want? What are you looking for?” There are people out there who need to know that Jesus is their Prince of Peace, their Good Shepherd, their Bread of Life, their Friend and Lord and Savior. They need to know this. Their lives depend on it.

You and I both know people like that. So maybe the name we’ve been given by God today is the name of “sharer of the Good News.” Here, then, is how to live out that name: “We have worship at 8:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. on Sunday. We have Sunday School for the kids and adults and active youth groups on Sunday evening. We have men’s and women’s groups, and we have all kinds of outreach programs. Most of all, we love being together and we love serving God. We don’t have all the answers, but we sure enjoy asking the questions together. We do our best to give people a glimpse of God’s kingdom. And most of all, we believe we have found someone who helps us make sense of life. It really is amazing. Won’t you come and see?”

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