Posted on Sun, Jan 15, 2012
January 15, 2012
2nd Sunday in Epiphany
Gospel Text: John 1:43-51
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 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.’ 46 Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ 48 Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ 49 Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ 50 Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51 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.’
The symbol for or metaphor for Epiphany is light as in, through the birth of Jesus the Light of God has come into our world. Light, understanding, and the Truth that Jesus is the Light of the World, are all concepts that fill our minds after we have received the Gift of the Christ Child. As Christians, recognizing that the Light of God has come to us in the incarnation of Christ as our Savior and Lord are key concepts for us during the time of Epiphany.
What is an important truth for us to comprehend during this time? One of the most amazing things to me is that after looking at how we humans have made such a mess of things, God stuck to God’s plan of love and restoration and went through the plan of sending Jesus into our world. God knew all about the end of the story and how the Christmas story was only the beginning of the Easter Story, and still God went through with God’s plan. God’s love and promise to save us is powerful and full of faith! God truly is so good!
I guess God didn’t really have a choice, even if God knew that Jesus would end up on the cross just in order to forgive our sins, the Truth that “WE” as the object of God’s love needed God’s intervention and God wanted to make sure that in the end we would never be separated from God’s love and we would never be alone again, God didn’t have a choice but to send Jesus as our savior… What an amazing blessing!
So the story of Jesus’ ministry begins. After Jesus was baptized down somewhere not far from Jerusalem, Jesus has returned back to Galilee. Bethsaida was a Gentile town not far from where he grew up in Nazareth. Jesus begins to choose his disciples. He begins to choose those who would “walk in the discipline” of Jesus. One day, after they had witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus, and only after they would be strengthened through receiving the Holy Spirit, they would be sent out with the power of the Holy Spirit to preach, teach, and heal just like Jesus did! In Jesus’ name!
Jesus approaches these two young men, and he first approaches Philip and says, “Follow Me.” We do not know the details of Philip’s call, but he immediately responds in a positive manner. So positive that it is Philip who runs out to Nathanael and says, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’
At this point the title, “Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth,” is nothing spectacular. It is simply a common name of a common man from a common town… but to say that you have found, ”him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote,” this is something much more, it is a statement of faith. How would you know you have met someone of this stature? The best guess of when Moses was born was between 1526 - 1391 BC! What did Philip see in Jesus that got him so excited? Or, what did Philip see in Jesus that confirmed in his heart that Jesus was indeed the Messiah?
We need to remember that at the time of Jesus, the Roman army occupied the people living in Palestine and they wanted nothing more than to be free from the Roman oppression and taxation. They studied the scriptures constantly looking for any clues as to when a King David like Messiah would be born to remove the Romans from their land. What made things difficult was that there was no shortage of people so full of themselves that they openly proclaimed themselves to be the Messiah only to prove themselves as false messiahs leaving the people of Israel disappointed and probably even more miserable under the Roman boot.
Nathanael had probably heard this before and probably muttered, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ There’s nothing particularly famous of Nazareth, it may have just been viewed as rival ‘religious’ Jewish town that just caused more problems to those living in a more Gentile influenced town of Bethsaida… we don’t know, but Nathanael wasn’t impressed with anything or anyone coming out of Nazareth.
But what happens next is significant. What amazing miracle occurred so that Nathanael would immediately understand Jesus’ identity as the Messiah? There wasn’t any burning bush, any thunder and lightning, no overly produced worship program and no fire on the mountain. Jesus simply knew Nathanael and accepted him to the point of calling him to be a disciple.
Nathanael could see and feel that Jesus knew Nathanael to the core, and chose him as a disciple. Nathanael was accepted and called by a teacher that obviously had some sort of Charisma, but the point was that Nathanael seemed to understand that Jesus accepted him for who he was, it seems that from that moment of being “called,” by Jesus, his life would never be the same again.
Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51 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.’
Jesus would take them out to God’s people and Philip, Nathanael and others would see Jesus preach, teach, heal, raise the dead, cast out demons, face down those who would be out to deceive the people.
But what is it about Nathanael that helped him comprehend whom he was standing in the presence of?
Of all the Gospels, John wanted to portray the relationships between Jesus and His disciples as significant and ‘intended.’ There are moments when Jesus and his disciples were brought together there was a relationship that looked to the cross Jesus and let’s us understand that they each were chosen for a reason and a purpose. The phrase, “you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” is possibly a reference to the fact that the disciples will see Jesus hung on a cross, and rise again, but it is through this experience the will see the Glory of God!!!
When God makes us God’s children through baptism we are claimed by God for a reason and a purpose. Through the death of Christ our old self dies, and through the resurrection of Christ we are raised up as Children of God living in Glory and Truth! The Light of Christ!
Each one of us has been blessed and strengthened through the Holy Spirit. We are Called and Blessed by Christ so that we can produce the Fruit of God that blesses the world! Jesus has promised to work with us, beside, behind us and before us. The needs of the world are boundless; the numbers of people who know little or nothing about faith and forgiveness grows each day; the earth is crying out for anyone to care for her and there is only silence, ignorance or distraction; our own church needs hands, hearts and minds to complete our mission… We are called and redeemed by Christ to fulfill the work of Christ, just like Nathanael and Philip were called! Can we see this Light, this Truth like Nathanael could see?
Where do you see yourself in Nathanael as Jesus comes into our presence at all times of each day? Maybe you are called to pray in our Prayer Circle, serve on our council, work with people interested in creating a time and space for fellowship and talk-story in our congregation, we are in need of teachers for our little kids in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, we need advocates for our youth by volunteering with OYEA and supporting our youth group. We need someone or some people to work with our young adults to help them feel connected, challenged and relavent in our mission of sharing God’s grace with Aloha. We always need bell-ringers, singers, dancers and musicians to help make our worship time the most beautiful time of the week. We need administrators and money counters and recorders to help us care for the offering we take to support our mission each week. We need the Holy Spirit to move us to share more of our time, talents and treasures so that we don’t have to rely on Japanese weddings for our basic church budget and use that money the way it was intended to be used, for mission and service! We need people to paint, clean and make our campus as beautiful and inviting as possible!
Every member of our church needs to be contributing to the church not only with his or her offerings and presence at worship, but by serving on some committee, tribe or service project. Where do you see yourself using your gifts in order to “Make the Good News of God’s Grace Known” in our hurting and broken world? Exercise your faith by putting it into practice!
The nominating committee is asking for people to serve on the council of deacons. They shouldn’t have to be looking for people to serve, rather they should be inundated with tons of names of members of the church asking, “how can I help?”
When it comes to finances, no one should even think about the income we receive through weddings, but we should be asking OURSELVES, “am I giving all that I can to make sure our expenses are covered so that the wedding income is only used as a blessing to do mission?”
Something was alive and awake in Philip and Nathanael when Jesus called them. Little did they realize how their lives would change for the better, but they would witness and participate in Jesus’ ministry from the beginning to their own martyrdom. But what a life they would lead because of the calling of Jesus! What a life of fulfillment they would have from that moment on because Jesus simply said, “Follow me.”
You and I are no different than Philip and Nathanael… Jesus’ presence and the Holy Spirit are no different now than 2012 years ago…
Let the Spirit enter you, and let the desire to respond to the grace of God be based on an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness and a desire for all people to be blessed and feel that overwhelming feeling of thankfulness and blessing.
The miracle of today is not only in Philip and Nathanael saying ‘yes’ to Jesus’ call, rather it was their faith that saw Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life, and they needed to put themselves into a position that they could walk in the discipline of Jesus each and everyday. Amen.
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