(sermon note: 01-02 sermon note)
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip 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.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a man named John who managed a band in which his dog played the guitar and his cat sang alongside. Everyone was amazed. No one understood how they were doing it and the act became a huge hit. The band traveled around the country and John made a lot of money from the band’s success. Eventually, the president caught wind of it and wanted to hear the band live. So the president invited John to the White House and he came with his cat and dog ready to play. Before they began to play, the president started up a conversation. “John, I don’t care about your actual band, I just want to know the secret. How do you do it?” John responded, “I don’t do anything, the dog plays guitar and the cat sings, it’s as simple as that.” “Come on, John,” the president replied, “just tell me! No way it’s real!” “Look, it’s my livelihood. I can’t go around telling the secret to just anybody. I’ve made a successful career out of this!” The president insisted, “Money is nothing to me, I’ll pay you whatever you want, just tell me how you do it!” “Alright, alright…I’ll tell you. The dog plays the guitar and sings…the cat just moves its mouth and pretends.”
The cat just moves its mouth and pretends…bet you didn’t see that one coming! What a delightful twist of an ending! I bet the president didn’t expect to hear that twist either. As if a guitar-playing dog and a singing cat wasn’t fantastic enough, the idea of a guitar-playing, singing dog paired up with a lip-syncing cat is downright absurd! Hence, why we laugh… At the core of the joke is an invitation to perform before the president. The president doesn’t know what to expect but is awfully suspicious. There’s no way a dog can play a guitar and a cat can sing! The president needed to see it to believe it. Just because the president extended the invitation doesn’t mean that John couldn’t have extended an invitation once the president had heard of his act. The effect is the same: an invitation was extended to resolve any suspicion the president had of John’s band. Much the same way an invitation was extended in our reading for today. First, Jesus extended the invitation to Andrew and another unnamed disciple, “Come and see.” Then Philip offered the same invitation to Nathanael the very next day, “Come and see.” What an intriguing invitation to extend! Some would say it is an invitation at the very heart of all of scripture. All of scripture is nothing more than one big invitation to “come and see” who God is as revealed through wisdom and historical events and Jesus himself. From the moment we open scripture, we are all invited to get to know our revealed God. At the same time, it is an active invitation. We are called to participate in the revealing of God. Jesus didn’t simply confirm John’s claim that he was the Lamb of God, the Messiah of whom Moses and the prophets spoke. No, Jesus invited the inquisitive disciples to come and find out who Jesus was and is. Revelation is a living, on-going action. Jesus is alive and continuously revealing himself to us and the world around us. The more we live, the more we know him. Jesus isn’t a static being to be studied and understood in a box. Jesus is ever-growing, ever-evolving, ever-changing love in this world. The disciples and us are invited to participate in his love. That’s the only way we can ever come to understand who he is, by actively participating in his love and act of loving.
Now then, what makes the invitation all the more intriguing is that it is also a false invitation. Jesus invites us to come and participate in his life and ministry with the assumption that he will be revealed to us. “Come and see.” Come and participate and you will fully understand who he is. Does anyone fully understand who Jesus is? Yes, of the three parts of the Trinity, he is the most accessible and understandable. God was very deliberate in creating an accessible path into his threefold identity. We can relate to Jesus as a human so therefore we can relate to our triune God. But that doesn’t mean we can fully understand Jesus. Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, meaning he is both knowable and unknowable. So in a sense both Jesus and Philip are attaching false promises to their invitation. The disciples went and saw who Jesus was but that didn’t mean they understood who Jesus was. To see with the eye is different than to see with the mind or the heart or the spirit.
To truly see and understand who Jesus is, you have to have something instead of do something. You have to have faith! Faith bridges the gap between your eye and your mind and heart and spirit. Faith fills in all the unknowns about Jesus and God. Perhaps beneath the invitation to “come and see” is a far more important invitation: “have faith and trust.” After all, the act of going and participating in Jesus’ ministry and getting to know Jesus requires a great deal of faith and trust. It requires that you live selflessly instead of selfishly. It requires living in uncertainty and doubt, not in him but in the world around us. In him there is certainty and truth as revealed against the uncertainty and doubt of this world. Anyone who is called to become a disciple of Jesus must first and foremost place their trust in him. Jesus invites us to place our trust in him, to have faith in him, before we can ever go and see who he is. Perhaps this is why not everyone gets to go and see who Jesus is. Some of us fail to answer the invitation beneath the invitation.
The true invitation has more to do with having faith than doing something. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “so faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (10:17) Jesus speaks an invitation to come and see. In order to respond to his invitation, we must have faith. Remember faith fills in all the unknowns about Jesus and God. Faith rewards us with full understanding. Recall the wisdom of Hebrews, “now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (11:1) Faith gives assurance and certainty and understanding.
As we begin a new year, let us hear Jesus’ invitation and respond to it with faith and trust. We don’t know what the year holds in store for us but we do know God will provide for us and strengthen us and encourage us. Put your trust in these promises! Let us live by Paul’s words given in his second letter to the Corinthians, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (5:7) It is good to walk by faith! Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.