Today’s reading is John 1:43-51 – Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael.
What were you doing before you came here, to sit for a moment and meet with God? I’d invite you to take a moment to replay the last hour or so in your mind. Where were you? What kept you busy? I don’t know, but God does know. Just as Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree, He sees all of us as we go about our daily business. Jesus’ insight into Nathanael’s life astonishes him. We will probably never know the exact meaning of Jesus’ words to him, but they created the response in Nathanael that a ‘word of knowledge’ can often bring about: A sense of being known combined with an insight into who Jesus really is.
A few days ago, we heard John the Baptist proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. This had been revealed to John, you will remember, when the Holy Spirit came down to rest on Jesus. And a couple of John’s disciples had followed Jesus and spent the day with Him, and Andrew had invited his brother Simon. Now the story continues as Jesus finds Philip and greets him with the familiar words: Follow me! Philip finds his brother, Nathanael, and tells him about Jesus. At first, Nathanael is neither convinced, nor impressed. That is, until he meets Jesus, who knows everything about him.
These people come to Jesus in different ways. Some are invited. Some invite themselves. Some are invited by others. Each of them finds his way but it seems to me that all of them share a few things in common. Baptist preachers have a reputation for preaching sermons with 3 points all beginning with the same letter. Well, why not?
STORY: When Jesus calls these men to be disciples, something has been going on in their lives beforehand to prepare them. John and Andrew, the two first disciples, had been disciples of John the Baptist before, listening to his preaching. Simon would at the very least have listened to his brother, but perhaps also to the Baptist first-hand. Nathanael would have likely been under the fig tree studying scripture, because that was the usual location for Torah studies. Philip knows his Hebrew Bible well enough to recognise who Jesus is ‘based on the law and the prophets’. And yet, they are all also normal men, most of the fishermen, living ordinary lives with (as we read elsewhere) fathers, in-laws and ambitious mothers. But God is at work.
SEEING: As they are confronted with Jesus, His identity is revealed to them. There is something about Jesus which stands out and draws people to Him. He is like a magnet! Luke chapter 4 echoes what John the Baptist testifies in John 1:33, using the words of Isaiah the prophet: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” Jesus is anointed by God for His ministry. The Spirit remains with Him, giving Him an incredible authority which draws people in. It is the Spirit which reveals who Jesus is, not only to John the Baptist but also to the disciples, so that they can join Jesus.
SHARING: Once they know that Jesus is the One, they begin sharing the good news with others. Andrew fetches Simon, Philip finds Nathanael and eventually, all the disciples become involved in Jesus’ ministry and mission as Jesus sends them out on preaching tours (Luke 10) and eventually, to the ends of the earth (Matt 28).
We all have our own stories with good bits and bad bits, noteworthy moments and mundane periods. God knows exactly where we are at, and He is at work in our lives, preparing us for the next thing. It is the Holy Spirit who will highlight to us where Jesus is ministering and working, and it is the Holy Spirit who will reveal Jesus to others, but often, that happens through us as we watch and learn and share with others what we have seen and heard and experienced.
I wonder what the Holy Spirit has revealed to you lately which you might be able to share with others to encourage them to know that they are known by God and that Jesus is alive today? And what are you already doing that carries on Jesus’ mission today in small and bigger ways?