Lord Jesus, I praise You for Your grace which has called me to faith and enables me to follow You. Still, I know that I fail to deny my self and all my sinful desires. I strive to follow, but often find myself tripping and stumbling and turning the wrong direction. Forgive my sins, patiently lead me in Your mercy, and help me “show” You to others. Bless us all in worship this day! Amen.
“Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew) mean “the Anointed One.” This prophecy of Isaiah begins with the Son of God speaking. He describes the work for which He had been chosen and anointed the Spirit of the LORD. Then Isaiah continues by describing the effect of the Messiah’s redemptive work. Prophesies like this foretold how wonderful the Messiah’s coming would be, which was why Nathanael had a hard time believing that the Chirst could come out of Nazareth (cf: Sermon text).
Jesus once said, “He who is not with Me is against Me…” (Matthew 12:30); and “No one can serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24). It is impossible to follow Jesus and our sinful flesh at the same time. Paul reminds us that we are part of Christ’s “body.” Would a member of Christ’s body pursue sin? Christ paid the purchase price to buy us back from sin and death, we are His…not our own to pursue our own sinful ways.
Text: John 1:43-51
The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and 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 of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
In Christ Jesus, our Savior whom we follow and to whom we seek to lead others—dear fellow-redeemed:
There is much in this life that is complicated…organizing and balancing daily schedules within an over-busy family; trying to sort out who did what, said what and thought what as some problem or twist in life is unraveled in an attempt to find a solution.
There is also much in this life that is simple…watching snowflakes drop toward the ground as they flock the branches of trees with heavy white; sitting warmly by a fire enjoying a good book or family time while the wind howls outside; watching a toddler toddle into full-fledged walking then running…
Those caught in complexity often long for simpler times. Those seemingly caught in simplicitymay wish for challenge and excitement…
Often times something that is complicated is associated with success and simplicity is associated with lesser value or even failure…
Some of life’s complexity is only MADE complicated by the people involved. The human tendency to complicate things affects religion too. It is easy for faith and worship to become a complex system of rituals and tradition into which people are pulled. The Old Testament had (by God’s command) a rather involved set of laws, rituals, and festivals. Although the Old Testament religious laws were in some ways rather complicated, the message was simple—they all pointed to Christ. When a church or religion gets caught up in ritual and externals, the same cannot be said. Then there is no longer a simple message and the focus on Christ is lost.
Over the years and still today, complex forms of penance and ways of earning God’s favor have been created. In other words, systems of good works have been created to win forgiveness of sins. So if you do this, then you must do this and this and this and that will make the sin go away…UNLESS in the meanwhile you have done this then you need to go back and do that and hope that in the process you don’t do something else wrong…until finally it is simply one big complicated unscriptural mess of what YOU will do and any concept of grace and forgiveness through Christ is gone.
On the other hand: The truth of the Gospel is really VERY SIMPLE. This is not to say that the truth of God’s Word doesn’t have great depth, and meaning, and importance. It is so simple that a young child can understand and believe it; and yet so deep that a life-time theologian will only scratch the surface of what is there. This morning we consider: SIMPLE CHRISTIANITY and use two imperatives from the text I. Follow Me II. Come and See.
The words we have read in the story of Philip and Nathanael being called by Jesus, actually took place on the 4th day in progression of days.
On the FIRST DAY, Pharisees had sent people to John the Baptist who was at the Jordan preaching and baptizing. The people were sent by the Pharisees to test John and to see what he was all about. On that day, John gave the testimony that there was One greater than he who was coming (cf: John 1:24ff).
The NEXT DAY, John saw Jesus from a distance and cried out, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Then John continued to bear witness of Jesus telling the people that Jesus was the greater One of whom he had spoken, that Jesus was the One whom he had baptized; and when he had baptized Jesus John had seen the Spirit of God descending like a dove and stay upon Jesus (cf: John 1:30ff).
On the THIRD DAY Andrew and John who were disciples of John the Baptist were standing next to him. Again Jesus walked by and again John the Baptist said, “Behold! The Lamb of God” (John 1:36ff). Then those two disciples—Andrew and John—followed Jesus and spent the rest of the day with Him. Andrew also went and found his brother Peter and told him, “‘We have found the Messiah!’ and brought Peter to see Jesus” (John 1:41). The text implies that John did the same thing with his brother, James.
Then Day 4, the day we are considering—Jesus was on His way to Galilee and when He came to Philip, Jesus said: “FOLLOW ME.” [v.43] Before Jesus ever gave that powerful invitation to Philip to “Follow Me,” Jesus first FOUND Philip. This shows a very important part of the Savior’s work also for our own lives. Philip did not go out finding Jesus. Philip was not seeking his Savior. His Savior found him.
To illustrate this, Jesus once told the parable of a man who had 100 sheep. He leaves the 99 behind, so he can go out into the mountains seeking the one who is lost. That parable illustrates the seeking nature of our Savior, but there are also real life examples from Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus sought out Zacchaeus. You will remember that Zacchaeus was the short man who wanted nothing more than to see Jesus as He passed by on the road. Because Zacchaeus was short he could not see over the crowd, so he climbed a tree so that he could look out and see the Savior whom he wanted to see so badly. To Zacchaeus’ surprise Jesus stopped at the bottom of the tree and said, “Zacchaeus…come down for today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). Jesus sought out Zacchaeus. Jesus NEEDED to visit Zacchaeus’ house to convey the Gospel’s assurance of forgiveness to that man and his household. At the end of the day, Jesus reaffirmed to Zacchaeus that “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10).
Once Jesus has sought and found the sinner to whom He is going to minister, He then calls out: “FOLLOW ME.” We hear in our text that Philip went after just hearing those simple words. Now undoubtedly, Philip had heard about Jesus because he lived in the same town as did Andrew and Peter. Philip had certainly heard about this Jesus of Nazareth, but now that Jesus was standing before him and calling out, “Follow Me.”
The “following” to which Jesus called Philip was not just a geographical “follow Me through the day…follow Me where I go.” Rather it was FOLLOW ME—conform your life to the truth that I teach, follow My Word and TRUST Me.
Any time that we are going to follow someone trust is certainly a great part of it. It is important to know the person you are following and to trust that person lest he lead you into danger or harm. Jesus warned against the Scribes and Pharisees leading the people into danger. Speaking about them Jesus told the people, “Let them alone, they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind both will fall into the ditch (Matthew 15:14); and speaking to the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus said, ‘…WOE to you blind guides…’” (Matthew 23:16).
Someone can create a sense of trust and have people follow him wherever he leads even if that is into great harm, but not Jesus. When Jesus calls out, “Follow Me” it is to follow Him in the trust that He will lead aright, that He will lead to salvation, that His words are true. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand…” (John 10:27-28).
The Word of our Savior calls out. That Word is what moves hearts to want to follow Him. That Word is what leads each of us to believe that Jesus is leading me aright.
Certainly this trust is part of following Jesus, but in what are we putting our trust. We put our trust in God’s “SIMPLE SALVATION”—the forgiveness of sins which Jesus freely gives. It was costly. It cost Jesus His blood and His death on the cross, but it was SIMPLY HE FOR US. “HEwas wounded for OUR transgressions. HE was bruised for OUR iniquities. The chastisement forOUR peace was upon HIM and by HIS stripes WE are healed” (Isaiah 53:5)—it’s just that simple. Or put another way by Paul, “God made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is as simple as casting all your care on Him (cf: 1 Peter 5:7). You don’t have to worry about keeping anything for yourself. Throw it ALL on your Savior. CAST ALL your care on HIM because He cares for YOU! He died for you. He washes your sins away.
Salvation is as simple as a snowfall covering the dirty snow of spring. As you came down to church this morning you probably noticed how white everything all of a sudden appeared. Everything had gotten pretty mucky, pretty dirty, pretty sloppy with our warmer weather. Piles of dirty snow are now covered with white. Even with the fresh snow the streets are still dirty and sloppy because the cars and trucks have been driving on them, sand has been spread, etc. This is how simple our salvation is as well. We, because of our sin, are the dirty brown muck. Christ’s righteousness covers us over with a blanket of snow. We go back to our sins and muck it all up again making it filthy and dirty with our sinfulness; but again, the white blanket of Christ’s righteousness covers the sin and makes us clean—washed away. Salvation is SIMPLY by the grace of God. Jesus died to give us life.
Part of following Jesus and putting our trust in His salvation also involves self-denial. Jesus says in Luke, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). These words are shocking. Jesus is saying that unless we HATE father and mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters we cannot follow Him. Does He not command us to love and to honor our parents? Yes He does, but our love for Him will be so much greater that when it is compared to our love for fellow human beings the love for our fellowmen will look like hate because our love for Jesus is so much greater. If we love someone more than Him—more than Christ—we are not following Him.
Again Jesus says in Matthew, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Denying ourselves is perhaps the hardest part of following Christ. We have that sinful flesh that so wants to do its own thing. We have those desires that are very world-centered. Jesus says if you are going to follow Me, deny yourselves those things and follow My truth—follow Me, put your faith and trust in Me. Paul wrote the Romans, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14).
Part of this self-denial is that we deny ourselves the desire to complicate things. Human nature wants to complicate things. When we have something so simple as God’s free and full salvation—salvation that comes to us without any merit on our part; salvation that comes to us without any demands or cost to us—it is something so simple and so wonderful that human nature can’t stand it. Human nature wants to get involved and if it does, messes it all up by complicating it, adding in our own self reliance, adding in our own ideas about what’s going to get me to heaven, adding in all sorts of human contrived ideas and logically reasoning out things for which there is no logical explanation because they are “things of God” far exceeding our human limitations. Yet, we go into these matters and complicate them thinking that “we know better.” Self-denial is setting that aside and saying: “God’s Word is true. God’s Word is simple. God has said it, therefore it is true. Therefore, I believe it.”
Self-denial involves having God as our master and leader; not ourselves, not the world, not money, not the possessions of this world, nothing but Christ. When we have Jesus as our Master and our Savior we have eternal life. Paul writes again in Romans, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…for the Scripture says, ‘whoever believes on him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:10,11).
When we hear Christ’s call and we do put our trust in Him, practicing self-denial and following Him then His promises give us confidence. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world, he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life” (John 8:12). “If anyone serves Me, let him follow me, and where I am there My servant will be also” (John 12:26).
“FOLLOW ME”…so beautifully simple…difficult because of our flesh and the struggle that we have with it, but glorious in the Gospel of Christ!
After Jesus had found Philip and called him, Philip found Nathanael and said, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote” and that person is Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” [v.45]
This reaction of Philip was very similar to that of Andrew and John the day before when they had sought out their brothers and told them, “We have found the Messiah!”(John 1:41). When Philip came to Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one prophesied. We have found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth is His name, He is the son of Joseph,” Nathanael was very skeptical. Nathanael said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” [v.46]
Nazareth was not a prominent town. It is not mentioned once in the Old Testament. It was not in an area that was well respected in the region of Galilee. Joseph was just perceived to be Jesus’ dad. He was just a carpenter, a common laborer, and this person from NAZARETH and from JOSEPH is supposed to be the Messiah???!? That would not fit Nathanael’s understanding and hopes concerning the coming Savior.
The question of whether or not Jesus had the “credentials” to be the Messiah was at the heart of a debate that continued in Jesus’ early ministry long after Nathanael’s question. We hear later in John, “Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, ‘Truly this is the Prophet.’ Others said, ‘This is the Christ.’ But some said, ‘Will the Christ come out of Galilee? “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?”’ So there was a division among the people because of Him” (John 7:40-43).
Nathanael’s skepticism and confusion was because He didn’t know the full truth. Jesus was originally from Bethlehem and not really Nazareth. Jesus did not have Joseph as His father, but rather God Himself. However, when Nathanael proved to be skeptical, Philip didn’t try to argue out some long extended logical argument as to why Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah. Philip didn’t enter a long debate with Nathanael, he simple said: “COME AND SEE.”
These words were the same as Jesus had spoken to Andrew and John the day before. When they came to Jesus to inquire of Him where lived and what He was doing, Jesus answered: “Come and see.”
We hear the results of Philip’s invitation to Nathanael: “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you, “I saw you under the fig tree,” do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And He said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’” [vv.47-51]
Nathanael was convinced as soon as Jesus was able to tell him things about himself and where he had been even without ever having met him. Jesus told Nathanael that if he was believing because of those things only, he had not seen anything yet. He would see so much more, and things so much greater! Nathanael would be a witness to Jesus’ ministry and see all the miracles of Jesus. He would hear Jesus’ preaching. As he traveled with Jesus he would see much. As he grew in faith he would see even more because he would grow in understanding concerning Jesus’ person and work.
Talking to Nathanael, Jesus alluded to Jacob’s dream during the first night in his flight from Esau. As Jacob slept with a stone for his pillow, he dreamt of a stairway reaching from earth to heaven. Angels were going up and down on the stairs. God Himself spoke to Jacob from heaven, reassuring Jacob that the promise was still his and he would return safely home.
Jesus was the promised Messiah. He was the fulfillment of the prophesy which God repeated to Jacob in his dream. Jesus would bring peace between God and sinners and open heaven to them. Jesus came and would accomplish salvation for all. Nathanael would be a witness of all that Jesus would do. “COME AND SEE”— Nathanael SAW and believed!
These words of invitation are also important for us. We have, I believe, a tendency to want to PROVE our faith to others. If we get into a debate with other people and they question what we believe, we try to reason with them—to logically defeat them in a debate style and say, “See! I win! I’m right!” This is not the way to win hearts for Christ. Rather, invite, encourage, exhort: “COME AND SEE!”
It is so much simpler. We do not have lay out a whole logical argument. Salvation is simply found in the Gospel. So simply invite fellow sinners to COME and SEE and behold what God has done for you. Then the Word of God will take over and, we pray, work faith in their hearts.
Recall the Old Testament man, Naaman, who had leprosy and came to the prophet, Elisha, asking for healing. The prophet never came out even to see Naaman. He just sent word through a servant that Naaman should go wash in the Jordan River 7 times. That was way too simple for Naaman’s liking, way too beneath his dignity. Naaman didn’t want to do it. Naaman’s servants pleaded with him to just give it a try…just do it. If the prophet would have told you to do something complicated, you would have done it in a heartbeat; but he has given you something so simple, something so “not-dependant-upon-you.” GO! Wash in the Jordan and be healed! GO! and see! (cf: 2 Kings 5:1ff).
The same truth applies to us as it did to Naaman. God’s Word is here. Come! (and as the psalmist says) “Oh taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trust in Him!” (Psalm 34:8) There are so many earthly foods that people never enjoy because they don’t have the courage to taste, or just never try it. There are so many sinners who just “out-of-hand” disregard Jesus and say, “Nope! Religion’s not for me. I don’t want anything to do with it.”—COME AND SEE! TASTE AND SEE! HEAR THE GOSPEL and BELIEVE!
God wants us to invite others to come and taste and see the salvation which Jesus brings. God wants us to continually come and “…desire the pure milk of the Word, that [we] may grow thereby if indeed [we] have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:2-3). Come and See! Come again and again to My Word and promises. Come and see what I have planned for you and trust Me.
In Malachi, God says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house and try Me now in this, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. ” (Malachi 3:10). God challenged His people to trust His promises that He would provide for them, even if they gave their offerings to Him.
This is still true today in every regard—not just our stewardship but in every part of our Christian lives. God says, “Come and see my promises. Come and try Me now. See what I have promised. Trust in what I have said, and just see if I won’t bless you when you follow My Word…and He surely WILL!”
This is a little scary but not half as scary as relying on ourselves. It takes a great deal of trust to say, “God I don’t see how this be, but I came, I saw Your promise, I’m going to trust that, I’m going to follow Your Word… The option is ‘I’m going to trust ME and rely on Me and see what I can do’ and that will surely end in failure.”
COME AND SEE and BELIEVE. See what God has done. See what He promises, and KNOW that He will fulfill all that He has promised.
Our faith is really rather simple: FOLLOW ME. COME & SEE. Amen.
—Wayne C. Eichstadt