The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
There was a storm here Thursday night. I heard rain, hail, and wind at 4:00 am, but I didn’t hear tornado sirens or the weather apps on my phone beeping, so I stayed in bed. I pulled the covers over the dog’s head and eventually went back to sleep. When I walked outside Friday morning, tree limbs draped the lawns down my street like Christmas garland. Massive, huge, mature oaks trees and pine trees had toppled like dominoes. They had crushed cars, downed power lines, and even completely barricaded several streets in the neighborhood. Soon the buzz of chain saws began filling the air, and OPPD trucks rolled into view. Wow! Was it a tornado? Did straight-line winds do all this? I opened my local news app to find out. The story read, “Downed Tree Limbs Knock Out Power.” I thought, “Oh no, that’s not nearly enough! There’s much more here than a downed tree limb, you guys need to come and see! Come and see what I’m seeing. This is something big.”
“Come and see” is powerful request. I think that’s at least one of the reasons Facebook is so popular. That’s what we say with every post, “Come and See. See what I see? Let me share it with you. See the lovely sunset, see the wonderful vacation vistas, purple mountains majesty and sea to shining sea is really quite breathtaking. See my child, see my puppy, aren’t they cute? See my lunch and dinner and the pie I made, shall I apply for Top Chef?” People are saying, “You really should see what I’m seeing. I want to share my view with you! Come, and see! See the cute video I found, see my political view, and see things from my perspective. See what I like, see what I don’t. See me. Come and See.”
In that sense, the gospels are really the Facebook of the first century church. Without iPhones and digital cameras at their fingertips, the early church paints pictures with words and story that say, “Come and See. This is what we saw in Jesus of Nazareth. Come and See—here is a snapshot of Jesus healing people. Here is a snapshot of Jesus feeding people. Here is an image of Jesus challenging the people of power and authority. Come and See what we see. Jesus is amazing. You really should see this. He is tearing down walls that have divided people for centuries! You won’t believe it. Come and See.” There is passion and urgency in their posts.
He was saying, “Come and See” all about Jesus. He didn’t have Facebook, but he was constantly inviting people to come and see. Across the pages of the Gospel, there are women and men, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, powerful, and vulnerable, people of all shapes, sizes, and varieties that Jesus meets. To each one, in one way or another, he says the same thing: come and see. Come and see God do a new thing. Come and see as your future opens up in front of you. Come and see the grace of God made manifest, accessible, and available to all. Come and see the possibilities. Come and see justice roll down like floodwaters. Come and see hope and healing. Come and see nonviolence and compassion. You ask to know what God looks like? Come and see. See in the bread and the wine. See in the towel and basin. Come and See.
The text that we heard is from the beginning of John’s story as the first disciples are gathering. John the baptizer was with his followers when Jesus walked past. John points to Jesus and says, “Look at that one.” Andrew went and saw Jesus. The text says, “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him,” and bring him to Jesus. The next day they ran into Philip, and the first thing Philip did was to find Nathanael.
In this first chapter of John’s story, he does two things repeatedly. One, he tells who Jesus is. There is no suspense in John. No hints or secrecy in John. Right off the start, John identifies Jesus: the Rabbi, the Messiah, the Christ, the one Moses wrote about, the one of which the prophets also wrote is Jesus of Nazareth. The second message John stamps on his gospel from this first chapter shows what disciples do. Disciples follow Jesus. Disciples bring other people to Come and See Jesus. John brings Andrew. Andrew brings Simon. Philip brings Nathanael. That’s how this works. That’s what disciples do. John says that Jesus is the one we’ve been waiting for. Spread the word.
Philip goes and finds Nathanael. Philip deliberately sought out Nathanael. Maybe Nathanael was his best friend, maybe he and Nathanael had talked before about the long-awaited messiah theory. I’m guessing Philip knew what kind of a guy Nathanael was which means that Philip probably knew how Nathanael would respond. Philip probably could have guessed that Nathanael would scoff, make fun of him, or ignore him all together, but Philip goes and tells him anyway, because this news was too good not to share, especially with such a good friend.
Nathanael responds as Philip might have guessed, “Jesus of Nazareth! Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
Philip doesn’t have a clever retort. He doesn’t get defensive. He doesn’t walk away hurt or angry, vowing never to share anything with Nathanael again. No, he doesn’t do any of these things. Instead, he just takes it in stride and answers, “Come and see.”
Come and see. Such simple, open, and inviting words. Words, I think, that sum up not only the heart of the Gospel of John but the whole Christian life. For this, according to the Fourth Evangelist, is the only fit response to having witnessed the grace and mercy of God take shape among us, fleshed in the babe of Bethlehem, crucified at Golgotha, living out God’s love amongst us. The story snapshots all say, “Come and see.” These are the words we’re invited to say to others who are seeking something more from life.
Philip doesn’t wait to have all the answers in case Nathanael asks him to explain his doctrine of atonement. Philip doesn’t pause to ponder the questions that his announcement must raise. Philip’s witness is simple, “Come and See.” He does not try to convince or cajole. Doesn’t even try to answer Nathanael’s questions. He doesn’t shame or guilt. He doesn’t discount Nathanael’s skepticism.
That’s the post from John’s Facebook story. We don’t have to be able to answer every question. Others can bring their own questions. Our job is not to think for people—only invite them to a place where they might encounter Jesus—where they might experience grace, love, welcome, belonging themselves.
So my questions for you today, “What is your favorite thing about the life we share in this faith community? Second, would you be willing to invite someone you know to come and see and share this aspect of our congregational life that you enjoy?”
When I think of that question, there are so many possibilities that come to mind. Come and See the most welcoming church I’ve ever experienced! They greet you at the door and then offer you a donut—does it get any friendlier than that?! Come and see a place where people live out their beliefs. It’s a place where people work for racial equality and feeding the hungry and ecological sustainability. Come and see what is without a doubt the best music program in the country! Come and see. I’ve found a place to pause in a busy week and reframe, remember, and re-center. Come and see a place where I hear that I am loved and not judged and you will be too. Come and see a place where all soul journeys are honored and many paths acknowledged. Come and see what the youth are doing and the children are doing. Come and see a beautiful sanctuary that was built in 1957. Look at the stained glass images. Notice Jesus. He doesn’t have pink skin or white skin. Jesus and those around him are dark brown and black. Come and see a place whose DNA has been progressive and inclusive from the very beginning.
“Come and See” are three simple words that you can say. Simple words that could change a life. Simple words that could change the world.