Sunday, January 14, 2018

"Did Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth?" Sermon for SUNDAY, January 14, 2018

Did Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth?

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 toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get 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."
~ John 1:43-51

"Did Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth?"
by Rev. Howard Gunter
Community Family Fellowship
Jacksonville, Florida

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Did Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth?

If we read this passage with an element of curiosity and desire to dig into the nuances a little bit, it becomes not only informative but also entertaining. It’s a short reading and centers on three characters this time. Jesus (of course), Philip and Nathanael.

So as not to become confused this Philip is Philip the Apostle not Philip the Evangelist Deacon found in chapter six of the Book of Acts.

Jesus actually sought out Philip and “called” him saying: “follow me”. vs 43. The way I read it, Jesus went looking for Philip. We have no indication as to what preparation or background led Jesus to seek out Philip and call him into ministry. He’s just a regular guy like you and me. Most pastors, preachers, ministers etc. believe they are called to the ministry. But I have never encountered or read about anyone that was just living a normal life and out of the blue, Jesus comes looking for them and calls them specifically to become a minister. As in my case, God got my attention alright, but I was involved in a lot of lay ministry. I wasn’t planning to go into ministry as a vocation, having retired from law enforcement and looking to go into the restaurant business. A series of circumstances brought my wife and I to begin ministry as missionaries and from there on to seminary and church ministry. Men and women called to ministry all have wonderful testimonies of their callings and I love to hear them.

But here is Philip, with no background or apparent interest or initiative in that regard. Soon after this encounter with Jesus, Greeks came to Philip wanting to know about Jesus. But Philip doesn’t take them or send them to Jesus. Instead, he goes to Andrew and together they go to Jesus.

20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.” John 12:20-22

To some that might appear like Philip was ill prepared, so he turned to Andrew to lead him in ministry. To me, that is a very smart thing to do. The last thing any clergy should ever do (my opinion) is trying to go it alone unless they have full knowledge and confidence in what they are doing.

“One lighted torch serves to light another.” Quote from Frederic Louis Godet, Commentary on John’s Gospel, Macmillan & Co., p. 26

Someone is led to Christ by someone else. Very few, if any, converts just wake up one morning saying, “I’m going to convert to Christianity today.” In most cases, they have encountered someone who impressed them with some testimony or example that prompted them to SEEK MORE.

And then we read that Philip does go out and carries this new good news to Nathanael. Apparently, he and Nathanael are friends or have some common ground and interests.

Let me stray off again and share that Nathanael is not mentioned in any of the other three gospels. Bartholomew however is mentioned in the other three and Nathanael is not. It is widely believed among biblical scholars that they are one and the same person. Nothing I read confirms this but neither does it disclaim or disprove this assumption.

Okay, now getting back to the reading. Philip seeks out his friend Nathanael and tells him to come and see Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. He went on to explain that Jesus is believed to be Whom Moses had written about.

“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” Verse 45

Nathanael didn’t appear very impressed. His response was just a tad blunt.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” verse 46

Philip answered, “Come and see.” Verse 46

What a goldmine for us to delve into. From what I gather, Nathanael is from Bethsaida. I gather that there must have been some rivalry or something going on between Bethsaida and Nazareth. Nazareth was just a little village with no history or anything to brag about.

To think that anyone important came from Nazareth might be like someone saying, “Hey come with me. I want you to meet this peanut farmer in Plains, Georgia. He is going to be something one of these days, maybe even the President of the United States.” Before he was governor of Georgia, would you have been overly impressed to meet a peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia?

So, before Jesus became known as the Messiah, or as the Son of God, to be introduced as the son of Joseph from Nazareth, might be a little less than exciting, even if some good friend said this was the guy that Moses wrote about. Right?

Come and see! When we invite someone to church, prayer meeting, small group or even visitation and are met with skepticism, rejection or worse, what is our response? Is it "okay"; "okay but think about it"; OR could it be, “Hey just COME and SEE.”?

In sales training at Comcast, one of the techniques taught to salesmen and women is to always pitch: “Just Try It!” You might be surprised at the success of that technique.

Then lo and behold as Philip and Nathanael are approaching, Jesus calls out to Nathanael, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” verse 47 Nathanael must have been taken aback and says, “How do you know me?” Jesus tells him that he saw Nathanael sitting under a fig tree before Philip invited him to come. Nathanael at that moment became a believer and recognized Jesus as the Son of God and King of Israel. Verse 49

Now just think about Jesus’ final response. He goes onto say that Nathanael was moved greatly based on one little incident of Jesus seeing him sitting under that fig tree. Jesus says keep believing and you will see many mighty things and one day the heavens will open up; angels of God will rise up; and you shall see the Son of Man descending.

What a powerful image! We can spend more time sharing that image and its meaning than trying to impress seekers with numbers and church accomplishments. After all it’s what Jesus accomplished and what Jesus is preparing that is important. Isn’t it?

Let us pray:
Lord Jesus – Today I have places to go, people to see, things to do. But in the midst of my busy-ness, I hear Your voice asking me – “What do you want?”

Forgive me Lord. I confess that I want stuff from You, more than I want to simply be with You. I want to fit You in to my schedule, instead of abandoning all to be with You. I want to know where I’m going, before I take the first step. Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on me.

Holy Spirit – Help me to find rest and refreshment in the silence that You offer. Help me learn how to abide quietly in Your presence. And fill my emptiness with Your light and life – Your grace and truth.

Heavenly Father – The universe declares Your majesty. May I find You in everything that I encounter today. Amen.
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New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Sermon contributed by Rev. Howard Gunter, on Jan 9, 2018.

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