Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 1-14-24  “What did they see?”

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John 1:43-51

This is the second Sunday after Epiphany. The season of Epiphany is the time in the liturgical calendar when we get to read all those Bible stories about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It begins with the first manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi follow by the manifestation of his divinity, during his baptism in the Jordan River and all his first miracles.

Epiphany is about Jesus breaking onto the public arena; Jesus making his way into the lives and hearts of all those living in Nazareth and around. Epiphany is about Jesus offering us the life-transforming opportunity of becoming his followers.

            Our text places us right at the beginning of all this, right at the beginning of the Gospel of John, where this carpenter from Nazareth began breaking new ground, by beginning a more organized effort to communicate the message of God’s kingdom.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is making his way through Galilee. He has already convinced a handful of disciples to follow Him. According to John 1:35-42, the first two disciples came to Jesus because of John the Baptist’ testimony. When John saw Jesus coming, he said: “Look, the Lamb of God.” After this, two his disciples followed Jesus and asked an estrange question, “Where are you staying?” and Jesus gave them a estrange answer “come and you will see” or “come and see.”

            One of the two who followed Jesus was Andrew, the other one it is believed to be John. They went with Jesus and stay with Him for one day. The gospel of John does not say what they saw. But whatever it was, it was worth for them to stay and follow Jesus. After this, Andrew went and invited his brother Peter. By the next day on their way to Galilee, Jesus invited Phillip and Phillip went and invited Nathanael. In matter of days Jesus’ followers had more than doubled their number from 2 to 5.

From what we read in today’s text we can say that our scripture is about bringing others to Jesus; it is about inviting others to “come and see.” Come and see who Jesus is; come and see what Jesus can do in you, with you and through you.

Therefore, Epiphany is the season of discovering what kind of disciples we are. When concerning our faith, there are at least three kinds of disciples: One, those who keep the faith for themselves. Two, those who want to force everybody to think and believe the way they do. And three, those who invite others to “come and see.” According to the Gospel of John, sharing our faith in Jesus is not about shoving our faith down someone else’s throat; it is not about using magic formulas. It is not about using hell and fire to bring people to heaven. It is about inviting them to “Come and see.” We have several examples of these “come and see” in John’s Gospel.

“Come and see” is what Jesus asked to John and Andrew when they asked Him, where are you staying? Come and see is what Phillip told Nathanael when he did not believe that something good could come out of Nazareth; Come and see is also what the Samaritan woman told the people in her town after she spoke with Jesus.    

Yet as simple and non-threatening as this invitation is, many Christians still have a hard time making it. Many Christians choose to stay quiet because they believe faith is something personal. Our decision to follow Jesus and accepting Him as our Lord and Savior is personal, yes. However, sharing our faith is not, should not; sharing our faith is the reason why Jesus called us. Do you remember the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Sharing our faith must be part of our spiritual DNA.

Those firsts disciples we read about in the Gospel of John are a great example for us, the followers of Jesus in the 21st Century.

In Galilee, Phillip found whom -he believed- was what every Israelite was waiting for, the Messiah and he could not keep it for himself. He went to share this founding with his friend Nathanael; Andrew did the same with his brother Peter. For both this news was so good that it was hard not to share it, especially with the people they care for. Therefore, Epiphany is a time to remember our Great Commission. Jesus is telling us, disciples of the 21st century to go, go, and make disciples. In other words, go and invite others to come, to come and see what Jesus has done, what Jesus is doing, and most of all come and see what Jesus can do in your life.

We often feel we must have a special skills or knowledge to fulfill the Great commission, that we must have a profound knowledge of the Bible, and be well-versed in theology, and yes, that can help us to do it, and if we can, we should study theology and learn as many verses of the bible as we can. However, listen what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power…”. Spirit and power of God.   

Paul and John’s gospel tell us that inviting others to Christ is not about having the right words to persuade them -that is the Holy Spirit job-. It is about being faithful in sharing our passion about what Jesus has done in our lives, and then invite people to “come and see” for themselves what He is all about.

When Jesus wanted Phillip to follow him, He said, “Follow Me.” In other words, Jesus invited Philip to come and see and to experience firsthand what to be a follower means. Then, when Phillip came to know Jesus Christ, He just had to tell other. The person He told first was Nathanael. The seed Philip planted in Nathanael’s heart was planted with a simple invitation, ‘Come and see.” Remember, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17) and I would say, by hearing the invitation to “come and see.”

Very often we want to convince people and we try to prove we are right, and they are wrong. When Phillip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael reaction was, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” After hearing this, If I had been Phillip, I would have tried to convince Nathanael that yes, something good can come from Nazareth. I would have taken my best arguments to convince him. But not Phillip. Philip knew he was unable to prove what he believed, what he had found in Jesus, and he did not even try. But he was able to say, “at least come and see.” What Philip had seen in Jesus moved him to help others to see. Nathaniel came and saw and whatever he saw, was good enough for him to continue following Jesus.

There are two lessons for us in this scripture that I would like to highlight. One, the only one who can convince people is the Holy Spirit, not us. John 16:13 says, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” The Holy Spirit -sisters and brothers- is the only one who can lead people to Jesus who is the Truth. We are nothing more that vessels God uses.

Epiphany is the time of God’s self-revelation to the world. Epiphany is the season when we must ask ourselves: How can God reveal Himself thru me? How can I be His witness? How can I be a place of epiphany for others?

How will we invite others to come and see what we have seen? Remember, Jesus called Philip, and Philip responded by witnessing to Nathanael. When Phillip invited Nathanael, Jesus -and the Spirit who was resting on him- was already looking at him resting under the Fig Tree. The Spirit was already working in Nathaniel’s life. Brothers and sisters when we invite others to “come and see,” God will work in those we have invited.

Phillip, Peter, James, and John, these first group of disciples who were invited to come and see are also found in the book of Acts 4:20, arguing with those who wanted them to stay quite saying, “we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” When people ask you, “why do you go to church every Sunday?” you can answer them, “Come and see for yourself.”  When they ask you why do you believe in Jesus? You can answer them “come and see.”

That takes us to lesson two. If we invite others to “come and see” what is happening in our community of faith. When they come, will they like what they see? Will, what they see move them to come again? The invitation to “come and see” brings with it a great responsibility. Those we invite must see Jesus reflected in us. Those who we invite must find in this community what they are looking for. I will end my meditation reading Ephissians 4:1-3, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” And I would like to add to what Paul wrote, do all these for others to come and like what they see.

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