Come and see.
Think for a moment about the effect those words might have on you if you were to hear them in an everyday context. Would they generate a sense of excitement about whatever it might be you were being invited to witness? Perhaps they might ignite your curiosity. Perhaps you might be thankful that someone thought to include you.
Come and see.
The words are both simple and warm, issuing an invitation not only to see something, but also to join a community. To come along and be part of something.
Come and see.
Have you ever used those words to invite friends to come to church with you? Have you ever talked to your friends about Jesus and what He has done in your life? If some laugh and say you’re foolish to believe as you do, don’t argue with them. Be friendly and accept them as Jesus does. After a while, your friends may be curious and willing to “come and see” what church is all about. Best of all, they may come to know Jesus.
We see a good example of this in the passage we heard from John’s Gospel. Philip invited Nathaniel to come and see the long-promised Messiah. The law and the prophets were the two most important parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. Philip told Nathaniel that he found the one that the Scriptures had been telling them to anticipate. The Messiah was now in their midst, but He went beyond the prophets of the Old Testament. He was the Word-the one who most perfectly revealed God and God’s will.
Nathaniel couldn’t believe that the Messiah came from Nazareth. Nathaniel was prejudiced. He came from Cana, which was another town in Galilee. Galileans were hated by the Judaeans, and Galileans hated people who came from Nazareth. The reason might be because Nazareth was an insignificant village that didn’t have prophetic importance. Today, many people allow their minds to be filled with prejudice against religion, and they pronounce their prejudice without examining the subject. The invitation to come and see is an invitation to join Jesus as He walks in the footsteps of the poor and stands in solidarity with those who suffer from systems of injustice and prejudice.
The darkness of the sin called prejudice allows us to sit and judge everyone and everything around us. It allows us to jump to conclusions about people without knowing their full story. It’s too bad for the people who don’t fit into our nice, neat categories. It doesn’t matter if it’s a nerdy kid at school who doesn’t dress like we do or that estranged family member, the strange neighbour or a congregation full of hypocrites. We even do the same with God. We judge His holiness and faithfulness by the circumstance of our lives. We don’t give God the right to be God.
The world is prejudiced against Christianity today. The world asks if any good can come from the One who calls us to stake our whole existence on Himself, and who calls us out of our individual worlds to follow Him to His cross. Our culture finds that offensive and labels it as a need to bring punishment on ourselves. The person of Jesus is the great cleaving sword of humanity. He divides those who come to faith in Him from those who reject Him. He separates the sheep from the goats as written in Matthew 25.
People do not need to be argued into the kingdom of God. Philip simply told Nathaniel, “Come and see.” The role of believers is to introduce people to Jesus, share His story and their stories of what He has done. Philip didn’t try to reason with Nathaniel. He asked Nathaniel to go and examine things for himself, to see Jesus, to hear Him speak, to lay aside his prejudices and to judge after he made a fair and candid personal inquiry.
Similarly, we should encourage people to lay aside their prejudices against religion and Christianity. If people want to know what God is like, they can look to Jesus. If they want to know what Jesus is like, they should be able to look at His followers. Can people see Christ in us? Seeing Jesus is the most compelling argument that exists for Christianity.
The heart of Christian evangelism is inviting people to come and see Jesus, God’s gracious Word and flesh for themselves. To come and see those who are inspired by Jesus enough to follow Him. To come and see how God continues to work in the world and in our lives. The invitation to “come and see” is the only appropriate response to having seen the grace and mercy of God taking shape among us.
Despite the setbacks of being from Nazareth, Jesus had insight and intuition that the best family, geography and education can’t give. He knew people, their nature, their motivation and their desires. That’s what drew him to Nathaniel as He saw him sitting under the fig tree.
Jesus sought out Philip and went after Him. Philip was an ordinary man, but Jesus invited Philip not just to stand out, but to keep on following Him. This encourages those of us who are shy and feel that we have so little to offer, just like the little boy in the Christmas Carol, “The Little Drummer Boy.” These are the type of people He looks for most eagerly. Similarly, Philip sought out Nathaniel and invited him to come and follow Jesus.
Jesus saw Nathaniel for who he really was. Nathaniel lived up to everything he saw and did. He was sincere and upright. Jesus knows who people really are. He sees their hearts. He sees their true motives. Jesus is divine, so He sees what we do when we think we’re doing it in secret. He sees us even when we don’t think He sees us. He sees us in our private devotions, hears our prayers and sees our meditations. He judges our character chiefly by our private devotions. If we have faith in Jesus, it will always be strengthened. If we believe His Word, we will see proof that it is true. Jesus was under God’s protection, and His friends will also be protected. God will defend us and save us if we put our trust in Him.
When he addressed Jesus as the Son of God, Nathaniel didn’t understand the full meaning of that title, but he knew that Jesus had an unusual relationship with God. Nathaniel called Jesus the King of Israel, but since Jesus referred to Nathaniel as an Israelite, Nathaniel surrendered to Jesus as his own king. This should encourage all of us to surrender to Jesus as our own king.
Nathaniel will be given far deeper grounds for belief than Jesus’ perception of who he is. As Jesus’ ministry unfolds, Nathaniel will see mighty works, great and wondrous surprises that will reveal God. We will see the same things when we surrender our lives to Jesus. It’s only as we get real and courageously honest with ourselves and God that He can help us become the people He wants us to be. If we live up to all we know, we will know more. If we are all we can be, we will become more.
Nathaniel went on to become a disciple and friend of Jesus. He traveled across India, Armenia, Ethiopia and Southern Arabia, sharing the gospel and drawing people to Jesus. When he encountered Jesus, he stood under a fig tree minding his own business. As he trusted that Jesus knew him inside and out, it changed the direction of his life.
What gifts are inside of you? They may seem ordinary to you, but not to Jesus, He sees our gifts of hospitality, deep compassion, music or writing. He is happy that you are good with kids or a good planner, or that you have a natural ability to lead others. Jesus sees those gifts because He gave them to us. Are we using them to their fullest potential? Are we using them to do God’s work in the world?
What does it take for us to believe? God doesn’t need to prove He is God as much as we need to prove we believe He is God. Despite how we feel, what we see or how we think, in the words of Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Faith goes beyond the senses to a deep understanding and knowing that He is God in the midst of a hassled day and the hurts from life’s circumstances. Faith is believing without seeing, as Jesus told the apostle Thomas.
The essence of discipleship is to follow Jesus. It’s what most of us want for ourselves, our family members and our friends. Life is much better for people when they follow Christ. To be a Christian is to realize that we have been called by God. Called to grace, called to life, called to move. Our proper response is to follow Jesus-slowly, perhaps not perfectly, but to try and follow nonetheless.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1443)
- “Come and See.” Retrieved from www.KeysforKids.org
- Barnes, Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package
- Fredrikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 56-60)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010, pp. 1451-1453)
- Suzie Eller, “He Sees the Gift in You.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Richard Innes, “Authenticity.” Retrieved from www.actsweb.org
- Pastor Dick Woodward, “A Fig Tree Fellowship.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- “Just Believe.” Retrieved from www.dailydisciples.org
- Rev. Wayne Palmer, “The Darkness of Rash Judgment.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Matthew A. Maus, “John 1:43-51.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for John 1:43-51.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- David Lose, “Come and See.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org.
- Pastor Edward Markquart, “Come and See Gospel Analysis.” Retrieved from www.sermonsfromseattle.com