1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
January 15, 2012
January 15, 2012
© 2012 Norman Stolpe
I. Did you catch one of Ed and Lisa Young’s TV interviews about their “Sexperiment” book and Friday’s 24 hour “bed-in” on the roof of Fellowship Church? Did you think, “Creative outreach or publicity stunt?” I don’t know if you’re relieved or disappointed, but Candy and I will not be competing with the Youngs. When older congregations whose current life doesn’t seem to measure up to the memories of a glorious past, they are tempted to compare themselves to newer congregations that seem to be overflowing with young people. “We can never compete with that!” Envy feeds criticism and defeatism. Imitation stifles creativity and authenticity. Even in the church saturated DFW Metroplex, there are so many unchurched and dechurched people that even if every congregation was going full out with evangelistic outreach, there would be more than enough people to go around. I am convinced that there are plenty of spiritual seekers and wounded wanderers who would fit into 1st Christian Church that this congregation could anticipate a full decade of vigorous growth. We have no reason to be the least bit concerned about the competition!
A. A post from Rachel Held Evans’ blog has been circulating around the internet this week. She writes, “I want to be part of an un-cool church because I want to be part of a community that shares the reputation of Jesus, and like it or not, Jesus’ favorite people in the world were not cool.” She says that when she goes to a “cool church” (define that however you like) she gets a “creeped-out feeling like someone’s trying to sell me something. It’s as though we’re all compensating for the fact that Christianity’s not good enough to stand on its own so we’re adding snacks. … Cool congregations can get so wrapped up in the ‘performance’ of church that they forget to actually be the church. We’re all guilty of thinking we’re too cool for” the people Jesus attracted who were “mostly sinners, misfits, outcasts, weirdoes, poor people, sick people and crazy people. … Some of us wear our brokenness on the inside, other on the outside, but we’re all broken. We’re all un-cool. We’re all in need of a Savior.” http://rachelheldevans.com/blessed-are-the-uncool
B. First Christian Church of Duncanville can grow in the next decade with a new pastor, not with flashy preaching or jazzy programs but by inviting people to come and see Jesus.
C. Whether they are spiritual seekers or wounded wanderers, you can invite people to come and see Jesus in First Christian Church Duncanville, Mark’s Gospel, and daring prayer.
II. I’d like you to turn to John 1:19: pew Bible, it’s on page 87.
A. Most of John’s Gospel is theological not chronological, but here John gives us a sequence of four consecutive days to show us how Jesus’ first disciples found that he is the one!
1. On the first day (v. 19), Priests and Pharisees question John the Baptizer and he tells them he is not the Messiah, but among them stands one they don’t know who will come after John, presumably he is the Messiah. (v. 26)
2. The second day (v. 29), John sees Jesus and identifies him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Apparently referring to Jesus’ baptism, which is not reported in this Gospel, John says he saw the Holy Spirit descend and remain on Jesus (v. 32), which he takes as a sign that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit (v. 34), so John testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. (v. 35)
3. On the third day (v. 35) Jesus again walked by John and he again identifies him as the Lamb of God. Two of John’s disciples leave him to follow Jesus. Inquiring about where Jesus is staying, he replies by inviting them to “come and see.” (v. 39) One of them is Andrew who found his brother Simon and told him he had found the Messiah. (v. 41) Andrew offers no explanation or proof that Jesus is the Messiah, he simply brings Simon to Jesus. (v. 42)
B. John 1:43-51 continues to show finding and following.The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip 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.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And 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.”III. As this story unfolds, Jesus is the one – the one who does the finding, even as those he finds think they have found him – the one for whom all Israel had been waiting. Pay attention to finding and following in this story.A. In those first three day, John the Baptizer said that he was not the one, but that the one was already standing among them, even though they didn’t know it. Twice when Jesus comes by John said, “He’s the one!” Andrew follows Jesus and at Jesus’ invitation to “come and see,” he finds that Jesus is the one. Andrew then finds his brother Simon and tells him we have found the Messiah – he’s the one! He brings Simon to Jesus so he can see for himself.B. Jesus found Philip and says, “Follow me.” Just like Andrew, Simon and John the Baptizer’s other disciple, Philip follows Jesus. He knew Jesus was the one.
C. Following Jesus’ example with him, Andrew finds Nathanael. He said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses and the prophets wrote.” That’s how Philip told Nathanael that Jesus was the one – the Messiah – Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.
D. Nathanael couldn’t imagine anything good or significant coming from obscure, insignificant Nazareth, much less the one – the Messiah. Philip didn’t argue with Nathanael, he only invited him to “come and see.”
1. Jesus did not even mention much less criticize Nathanael’s skepticism. Rather, Jesus commended Nathanael’s integrity.
2. Jesus’ seemingly prophetic vision of Nathanael under the fig tree convinces Nathanael that Jesus is the one – the Son of God, the King of Israel. Presumably Jesus could have picked out any detail from Nathanael’s day before Philip called him, so why the fig tree? Zechariah 3:10 makes this a sign of the peace and plenty of the Messianic Kingdom. “On that day, says the LORD of hosts, you shall invite each other to come under your vine and fig tree.” So the place to meditate on the prophetic Scriptures and pray for the Messianic Kingdom was sitting under a fig tree. Perhaps Nathanael was praying for the Messiah to come when Philip told him he had found the one – the Messiah!
3. Nathanael’s reaction to a Messiah from Nazareth may not have been derision as much as surprise. Why would the Messiah come from such humble, paltry roots? How could the Messiah be so un-cool? By telling Nathanael he had seen him under the fig tree, Jesus may have been telling him, you did not find me but I found you, just as I found Philip and Andrew.
IV. The examples of Andrew and Simon, Philip and Nathanael guide us in how to introduce the people we know to Jesus. Whether they are spiritual seekers or wounded wanderers, you can invite people to come and see Jesus in First Christian Church Duncanville, Mark’s Gospel, and daring prayer.
A. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Thomas Huxley, the towering agnostic intellect of his generation, was a guest at a country house. Sunday came round, and most of the guests prepared to go to church; but, very naturally, Huxley did not propose to go. He approached a guest known to have a simple, radiant Christian faith. He said to him, “Suppose you don’t go to church today. Suppose you stay here and tell me quite simply what your Christian faith means to you and why you are a Christian.” “But,” the man said, “You could demolish my arguments in an instant. I’m not clever enough to argue with you.” Huxley said gently, “I don’t want to argue with you; I just want you to tell me simply what this Christ means to you.” The man stayed and told Huxley most simply of his faith. When he finished there were tears in the agnostic’s eyes. “I would give my right hand if only I could believe that.” (Barclay’s Commentary on John, volume 1, page 92)
B. When Andrew brought Simon to Jesus and Philip invited Nathanael to “come and see,” they knew they couldn’t argue anyone into recognizing that Jesus is the one. All they had to do was give them a chance to see Jesus for themselves. Similarly, we don’t have to convince anyone to believe anything about Jesus. All we have to do is invite them to “come and see.” Jesus will do the rest.
C. Yes, Andrew found Simon, and Philip found Nathanael. However, Jesus found all of them first! So if Jesus is the one doing the finding, we can relax. All we have to do is be God’s hospitality team inviting people to come and see Jesus. The Holy Spirit will do the rest, and do it much better than we could anyway.
D. Where can we invite people so they can come and see Jesus? I’m going to suggest three very specific invitations: First Christian Church of Duncanville, the Gospel of Mark and a daring prayer.
1. First Christian Church of Duncanville. Trying to present a perfect picture of the church will only make the un-cool people feel unwelcome. Just let people know that you know you need Jesus’ grace and have received it. The people Jesus is finding don’t care much about preaching and programs. Spiritual seekers just want to find the one – the one they are looking for even if they don’t know it. The wounded wanderers don’t want to see a bunch of people who have it all together. They want to know that Jesus has healed people who are as messed up as they are. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do everything the best we can, only that if people are paying attention to what a great job we’re doing, they won’t see Jesus. But if we’re looking at Jesus, they will too.
2. Mark’s Gospel. Nothing can substitute for meeting Jesus in the pages of the Gospels. People who know nothing about the Bible and try to read it may start in Genesis and get bogged down long before they get to Jesus. I usually suggest that people who are just starting to read Mark’s Gospel. It is short and moves fast. They could read it in one sitting on a relaxed afternoon. Mark has a minimal amount of cultural and theological stuff to wade through. It is mostly Jesus in action. If you’re inviting someone to come and see Jesus, offer to read Mark with them. Don’t try a complete Bible study, just say, “Let’s read a couple of chapters and get together to talk about how we can see Jesus.” I have a few paperback Marks in Eugene Peterson’s Message paraphrase. If you’d like one to give a friend, I’d be happy to give one to you.
3. A Daring Prayer. I got to know Allan Eubank during the years I served at Central Christian Church. He has served for fifty years in Thailand. In that Buddhist culture, he does not try to argue the superiority of Christianity, he simply invites people to a daring prayer. “Jesus, if you’re real and I’m supposed to be following you, I want you to do something specific that changes my life that could only come from you.”
E. Did you notice that the places we can invite people to come and see Jesus are the same places where we meet Jesus: Scripture, prayer and church?