1 Samuel 3:1-10
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
“Come & See”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
I was never good at remembering things audibly, you may speak to me and it’s not like it goes in one ear and out the other, it’s just that my mind was not wired to process audible information. I had trouble hearing growing up, this explains the problem, in that my mind had to wire itself so that it could better retain information through the not-so-compromised modes of information reception. I could see, touch, smell, taste, and I had muscle memory, it’s just hearing was difficult. So growing up, learning things through audible means was interesting, to say the least, but not impossible; for there was one teacher who was able to teach very effectively things of the Bible through audible means. My pastor used music to teach the books of the Bible, to teach about Martin Luther, and also to teach the Disciples. The song goes as such: “Peter, Andrew, James, and John, fishermen of Capernaum; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas the Doubter and Matthew too; James the least; Thaddeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas betrayed; Jesus called each disciple and you can be a disciple too.”
Remarkably enough, the musical teachings has kept with me. They are catchy and the addition of notes, ability to remember was not hindered but rather enhanced. Now let’s go over the names of the apostles again: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas. Notice a name missing? What about the guy mentioned in today’s Gospel?
In the Gospel, right after Jesus called the fishermen of Capernaum, He goes out and calls Philip, but before Philip goes he brings with him the man called Nathanael. Now what was Nathanael’s response to Philip’s enthusiastic invitation? Skepticism. A reasonable response, I must admit, but his skepticism is rooted in more so in a lack of faith in the city that Jesus came from. For this is what Philip said, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Oh well, I was following until you said the name Nazareth, now I’m not so sure this man of whom we have been waiting for is Jesus, because, well, Nazareth. Thus Nathanael says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” That is like me, a Bengals fan, saying can any good come out of Pittsburg… Well of course, the NALC’s Seminary is in Pittsburg, as long as we ignore those pesky Steelers… I’m kidding, the Browns is a good team too…
Now maybe Nathanael is just using Nazareth as a convenient excuse and he is just naturally skeptical that the one of whom Moses and the prophets forewarned has truly arrived. I mean, Nazareth is just a small itsy town that isn’t even mentioned in the Old Testament. Not much is known about it. What is known is that there will always be those who are skeptical with regards to things of the Divine. The Jews all knew that a Messiah would come. Just not when, thus I would understand those who aren’t willing to fully get on board immediately. It’s one of the reasons why I believe Thomas gets too much of a bad rap. I understand where Thomas comes from, and, likewise, I understand where Nathanael is coming from.
But back to my original question, who is this Nathanael? In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts there is one person who was a disciple of Jesus and was regularly with Philip, and was a close friend of Philip, but his name was not Nathanael. His name was actually, Bartholomew. In fact the two are one and the same. Bartholomew is Nathanael, thus when I sing the names of the twelve disciples, when I sing Bartholomew, I am also singing Nathanael, “Peter, Andrew, James, and John, fishermen of Capernaum; Philip and Nathanael; Thomas the Doubter and Matthew too; James the least; Thaddeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas betrayed; Jesus called each disciple and you can be a disciple too.”
Nathanael isn’t just some guy who was called by Jesus and whom we don’t hear from again, Nathanael is one of the twelve disciples, and between Philip and Nathanael, the more interestingly vocal ones. For the two represents two pictures. The first is the disciple who believes and goes out trying to pull others to Christ; the latter is the reluctant one who is pulled towards Christ and eventually believes. Both proclaim their faith, but differently. The first quietly believes and is loud so others believe; the latter openly and loudly expresses their faith upon seeing the truth. Here is the thing, Philip believed, but before he followed he went to drag Nathanael with him. Philip didn’t say wait Jesus, I need to say good bye, He more like said wait Jesus, let me bring a friend. This is the stark difference between Philip and the fishermen of Capernaum. For the fishermen’s response to Jesus was to immediately abandon their family and follow Jesus. Jesus gave a command and they immediately followed. Philip on the other hand did not merely follow but he brought others with Him. Jesus told the Capernaum fishers that he would make them fishers of men; Philip acted like a fisher of men and all Jesus had to say was, “Follow me.” Philip followed, but he also brought with him other followers, to include Jesus’ next disciple, Bartholomew Nathanael.
It’s interesting, because Jesus didn’t come to Nathanael like he did the others. Philip invited Nathanael, and Nathanael came to Jesus, who accepted Nathanael as a disciple. Let me say that again. Jesus did not go to Nathanael. Philip invited Nathanael to Jesus.
Now Nathanael was a doubter, he didn’t believe, but he was a dear friend of Philip, so upon hearing Philip say, “Come and See,” he followed to give this Jesus of Nazareth a chance. And here is the thing, Nathanael may never of followed Jesus had not Philip invited him that fateful day. But because of his friendship, he was willing to try. And well Jesus is Jesus, all Nathanael had to do was interact and hear Jesus say, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” That was all Nathanael had to hear to proclaim that Jesus was the Son of God! Wait, that’s what caused him to believe? That was all. It did not take much for Nathanael to believe, which is what sparked Jesus to response. Wait, that was all? You believe because I said I saw you under a fig tree? Ok, umm, well, get ready to be surprised because greater things are about to happen.
Now Jesus cannot be surprised, but I can imagine the oh-so knowing smirk on his face as he witnessed the lack of evidence needed to completely flip this mere skeptic into a disciple.
But here is the thing, Nathanael wanted to believe, he just, by himself, couldn’t do it. He needed a push. He needed someone to invite him. He needed someone to come to him and say, “Come and See.” Philip was that man.
Are we not surrounded by Nathanaels? There are many out there who would be more than willing to come to church and hear the Good News, be baptized, and to join the community of believers, but wait for an invitation. They might grumble a bit, but secretly inside they want to come. They might be putting up a façade, a false face in order to appear tough, but in all reality, they are all giddy inside. I for one would love to go to events left and right, and go to people houses, but if I am not invited I will never go. On top of that, usually I would not ask to be invited, I would just not say anything and wait to be invited. In college that got me in trouble quite a bit because the Army boys would go out dancing and I would never go with them. Why? Because they never invited me, I didn’t ask to go, and it was an open invitation, but I wasn’t personally invited.
Same goes for the Nathanaels in our lives. Is not Resurrection Lutheran Church open to all? Do we not have an open invitation? So why won’t the Nathanaels in our lives come and see? Maybe instead of thinking that they may come of their own free will, maybe instead of thinking that they may already be a member at a different church and thus wouldn’t come to our church, maybe instead of assuming that they wouldn’t want to come and may became offended and we wouldn’t want to hear their grumbling, maybe instead of all this we just have the gall to be a Philip and ask these Nathanaels to come to Resurrection Lutheran Church. What’s the worst thing they could do? Say No? And even if they say no, do you end there or do you keep on asking them every now and then? Because who knows, maybe all they want is an invitation. So during this season of Epiphany, let us have the gall to ask our friends, our neighbors, or family, will you come to church with me? I’ll drive; I’ll pick you up; let us go together. It doesn’t hurt to try. Let’s do just that, try.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, through your servants many have come to see the glory of your Son Jesus Christ who lived, died, rose again, and lives for all eternity for our sake. Make us your willing instruments to reach out into the world so that others may come and see just as we have come and seen your righteousness, grace, mercy, and love. In your most Precious name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.