Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Sermon for January 14, 2024 – Second Sunday After Epiphany

Welcome to this week’s episode, a special rerun from our Speaking of Life archive. We hope you find its timeless message as meaningful today as it was when it was first shared.

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 3008 | Lukewarm Coffee
Cara Garrity

I have a friend who likes her coffee lukewarm. Her husband on the other hand will only drink it piping hot. Early in their marriage this created a moment of tension. One morning her husband prepared some fresh hot coffee just the way he would like it. Then he surprised her with a cup to enjoy for her morning reading. She seemed touched by the gesture, but he noticed that she didn’t drink it. In fact, she let it sit so long that he knew it would no longer be any good. From his perspective she had wasted his efforts of kindness.

But, instead of showing frustration, he took her coffee and went to heat it up in the microwave. Now it was her turn to be frustrated. From her perspective he was about to undo her patient waiting for the perfect cup of coffee. Thankfully, with some sharing of coffee preferences, marital disaster was averted. The problem wasn’t that her husband didn’t know how to brew coffee. It was that he didn’t know his wife.

I think we could all agree that the best gifts come from those who know us best.

With that in mind, listen to this Psalm that speaks of the Lord’s knowing of us.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.” Psalm 139:1-4 (NRSV)

We could read more of this passage to discover that the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. As the one who created us, we can know that he is the only one who knows us perfectly. And that means he knows the perfect gift to give us. The Christmas season we just celebrated was all about that perfect gift—Jesus Christ his one and only Son. In this gift, God the Father has given us himself to be known. This is what we were created for, to know the Father like the Son knows the Father.

When we receive the gift of Jesus, we will also have an epiphany about ourselves. As we come to know Jesus, we will come to know ourselves the way our Creator knows us. It’s only after receiving the gift of Jesus that we come to see that knowing the Father and being known by him is the life we are made for.

And since he knows us perfectly, we can trust he knows how to brew the perfect cup of coffee—even if it’s lukewarm coffee.

I’m Cara Garrity, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 • 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20) • 1 Corinthians 6;12-20 • John 1:43-51

This week’s theme is God’s divine intimate knowledge. In our call to worship psalm, David affirms that nothing in his life escapes God’s notice. In 1 Samuel, the young prophet receives the word of the Lord concerning Eli the priest. In 1 Corinthians, Paul declares that we are in intimate union with God through Christ. And in our pericope in John, Jesus reaches Nathanael by telling him things that only God could know about him.

Can Anything Good Come from Nazareth?

John 1:43-51 NRSV

A young college student was invited by his girlfriend’s grandparents to join them one Sunday afternoon at their farm. As he perused their ample garden, he saw several rows of large leaves with reddish stalks attached to them. He asked his girlfriend what they were. She exclaimed, “Those are rhubarb plants, and tonight we will have strawberry rhubarb pie.”

The young student recalled the dozens of times that his mother told him and his siblings that rhubarb was the worst thing on God’s green earth and was not fit for human consumption. She declared that nothing good has ever come from those plants.

After finishing his dinner at the farm, a strawberry rhubarb pie was placed before him. He just knew that nothing good could come from this, but he didn’t want to be rude. He cautiously took a very small bite and as he did his eyes lit up. He started digging into the tasty desert taking bite after bite until it was devoured without a crumb left on his plate. Something good did come from that cursed plant after all.

In the gospel of John, Nathanael asks the question, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” The answer for us is obvious as we have the benefit of reading the end of the story. We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. But the answer for Nathanael wasn’t so obvious.

As we read today’s text, we will examine those places within us that we may still have a hard time believing. We may uncover where our prejudices lie concerning who we expect God to be. Can he be trusted? The text and sermon today are inviting us to come and see.

Read John 1:43-50

Verse 43 starts out with “The next day…” To give us some context, we have to go back to the previous day. And on the previous day, we see Andrew encountering Jesus. He decides to follow Jesus and then goes to find his brother, Peter, who also follows Jesus. And this brings us up to speed for today’s text.

At the beginning of our text, we have Jesus issuing an invitation to Philip to follow him. Philip, as scripture indicates, was from the same town (Bethsaida) as Andrew and Peter. Might they have known each other? It seems likely. In any case, there is a strong presence of relationship among the disciples of Jesus, which we are about to glimpse more of.

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.”  (John 1:43-50 NRSVUE)

Prior to our text, we saw Andrew finding Peter; after our text begins, we see Jesus finding Philip and Philip finding Nathanael and telling him about how they found Jesus, the Messiah. That’s a whole lot of finding. Which gives us the indication that there must also have been a whole lot of searching as well.

In 1976, Campus Crusade for Christ started a bumper sticker campaign in the United States. They worked with thousands of churches to distribute and display a slogan on car’s bumpers that said, “I Found It.” There was an 800 number also listed that people could call to find out what had been found, although, writing down a phone number while driving was definitely not a good idea.1 The truth is, we cannot take credit for finding “It.” Which, if you haven’t figured out what the “It” was — it was Jesus. And we didn’t find him, he found us.

Philip did not “find” Jesus as a result of an active search, neither did Andrew or Peter. They were most likely keenly aware of what was written about the Messiah in the law and the prophets, and in some ways they were always looking, but the truth remains, Jesus found them.

Long before any of us had any thoughts of following Jesus, of wanting and desiring to know God, he was the one looking for us. Notice what the Psalmist says:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6 NRSVUE)

Where is the hope in us going out and trying to find God? If it is up to us, we are doomed to failure. But the good news is that we have a God who has found humanity and has embraced us as his own through the very life of Christ.

Obviously, Philip is very excited about encountering Jesus. He is convinced that Jesus is the one that they have been waiting for. Jesus seems to line up for him what was written about the Messiah, and Philip is eager to share this good news with Nathanael. But there is a problem. Nathanael needs a little more convincing.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael’s response was full of doubt, disbelief, prejudice, and suspicion. We might be tempted to think that this would have been just something that was unique to Nathanael, but this is probably a question that many Jews would have had.

Nazareth was a small hill town in Galilee of about 400 residents.2 But what that town was known for primarily was having a Roman Garrison, a stronghold full of Roman soldiers. Most Jews would have avoided Nazareth like the plague because of this. To make matters worse, many of its residents were poor, and therefore, they were held in suspicion as traitors or perhaps even spies for the Romans.3 The Nazareth chamber of commerce had their work cut out for them.

Once again, Philip doesn’t help his own cause. Technically, he was correct in saying that Jesus was from Nazareth, as that was where he grew up. But Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is part of the mighty tribe of Judah. It was also the birthplace of King David. Bethlehem is the kind of place from where messiahs are supposed to come. The book of Micah, in the Old Testament even prophesies this.

We prefer our messiahs to be nice and respectable, from well-to-do families, to wear three-piece-suits and to be on our side of the political aisle to the exclusion of our enemies. We want predictable and pious messiahs, but certainly not messiahs who come from questionable backgrounds, or who might challenge our paradigms.

If Philip had included this part of Jesus’ lineage, about Jesus being from Bethlehem, then Nathanael could have had a lot easier time accepting Philip’s invitation. However, this should also give us hope. Despite our best intentions and zeal, we don’t always present the gospel in the most accurate light. But more importantly, there is a God who is more than capable of using even our inadequacies. God is not dependent on our perfect presentations, but on the activity of the Holy Spirit working through what we have shared. He will have the final word in a person’s life.

Philip’s reaction is to answer Nathanael by saying “come and see.” Come and see who Jesus is and what he is all about. The key is taking a good hard look at Jesus. People who are skeptical of Christianity like to point out the inconsistencies between our words and our actions. They point at disgraced evangelists and those in the church that have perpetrated harm on others. They try to discredit the Bible as mere fables as well. We should be honest about these things in a spirit of humility. But there is something that we can do even better. Point them towards Jesus, himself. We can issue the invitation to “come and see.”

As a church, what is our ultimate aim with people? Is it to impress them with our buildings, our programs, charismatic leadership, dynamic worship, free coffee and donuts? Or is it to get them to see Jesus? And the Jesus that they most need to see is the Jesus in us — to see how Jesus is expressing his life through us as his body.

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.” (John 1:47-48 NRSVUE)

Jesus begins ministering to Nathanael before they are even face to face. He cannot wait to start giving him the good news. As Nathanael is walking towards him, Jesus begins to read the contents of Nathanael’s heart to him. Nathanael is incredulous. “How can you know me?” And to sum up what Jesus says to him, “There isn’t anything that I don’t know about you, Nathanael.” Again, we read from the Psalmist:

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; (Psalm 139:13-14 NRSVUE)

Nathanael is seen by Jesus. Not just physically, but more importantly, Jesus sees into him. Jesus affirms something in Nathanael that perhaps he doesn’t feel has been recognized until now. Jesus speaks to his very need. And although we don’t know what was going on with Nathanael at the fig tree, it was important to him and therefore important to Jesus.

So many people go through this life feeling like no one really knows them. And yet they long for just one person with whom they can share the deepest part of their being. The author, John Lynch once wrote:

What if there was a place so safe that the worst of me could be known, and I would discover that I would not be loved less, but more in the telling of it.4

Jesus tells us there is such a place. And he has been calling all of us from that place. The same place that he called Nathanael from. God, in his overflowing heart for humanity has been crafting a way to reach us all.

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 1:49-51 NRSVUE)

Nathanael saw who Jesus was. His heart was touched in an intimate way. In fact, he is the first person documented in the Bible for making a verbal confession of Jesus as the Son of God. Nathanael came, and he did see!

Church tradition says that Nathanael traveled to several countries, but he is most recognized for bringing the gospel to Armenia, where he was eventually martyred for his faith. Nathanael assuredly received the promise from Christ, that he would see the heavens opened and that Jesus, himself, would be present there with the angels.

Today, let us turn from our prejudices about God. Let us accept him who has accepted us in all of the love and grace that flows from the Father. Let us put aside anything that distorts the fundamental character and nature of Christ from being shown to a world that watches us. May we be led by the Holy Spirit to go and simply offer the invitation to come and see that something very good has indeed come from Nazareth.

1) https://www.baptistboard.com/threads/i-found-it-sticker.12746
2) https://jesus-story.net/about-nazareth
3) https://iamohanyere.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/can-anything-good-come-out-of-nazareth/
4) Lynch, McNicol and Thrall: “The Cure” What if God isn’t who you think He is and neither are you. (San Clemente, CA: Crossection, 2011)
5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartholomew_the_Apostle

Grace Areas w/ Dan Rogers W2

Video unavailable (video not checked).

January 14—Second Sunday after Epiphany
John 1:43-51, “Come and See”

CLICK HERE to listen to the whole podcast.

If you get a chance to rate and review the show, that helps a lot. And invite your fellow preachers and Bible lovers to join us!

Follow us on Spotify, Google Podcast, and Apple Podcast.

Program Transcript

Grace Areas w/ Dan Rogers W2

Anthony: Let’s move on to our next passage for the month. It’s John 14:3-51. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for the second Sunday after Epiphany, which falls on January 14. Dan, we’d be grateful if you’d read it for us, please.

Dan: All right. I’d be happy to.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 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.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 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.”

Anthony: There’s quite a lot in this text, Dan. So, let me ask you this, if you were preaching this sermon, what would be the focus of your sermon?

Dan: I think a good title for a sermon on this text might be, Who is Jesus and Have You Seen Him? This is a pericope for the season of Epiphany, and Epiphany means revelation.

In other words, seeing something you haven’t seen before. The first chapter of the fourth Gospel begins with revelation and then a series of accounts witnessing to who Jesus is. Now the character of Nathanael is told by his friend Philip to come and see Jesus, who he believes is the Messiah. Now based on some facts and some prejudice, Nathanael doubts who Jesus is.

But upon seeing Jesus and hearing from Jesus, Nathaniel accepts that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. So, a point to bring out is that a conversation with a friend, even a doubting one, and an invitation to come and see Jesus and hear his message can lead to a doubter becoming a believer. Lesson: go and tell your friends about Jesus.

Anthony: So, that really does touch on the next question, and you’re already digging into this. So, with the fact of “come and see,” it’s a repeated phrase, not just in this pericope [but] other passages in scripture. So, what more would you want to say about it? And is there any sort of relationship, a symmetry to the notion of go and tell?

Dan: Come and see is such a seemingly innocuous but important phrase. Come is an invitation; it’s a welcome. And when you think about it, most Christian experience begins with an invitation from a previous believer. To someone who is seeking to come and see, to come and see means to experience this for yourself.

It’s when you experience Christ for yourself that you become a believer, but that usually follows an invitation from a believer who has gone to you and given you a message and an invitation to come and see. We see examples in the New Testament, such as the women at Jesus tomb, the Samaritan woman at the well, and in our text of Mark here, Philip going to Nathaniel.

The point? What does it mean? How does it relate? Tell people to come and see. Go and tell folks to come and see.

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • What are some prejudices you may have felt about God in the past?
  • How did your views begin to change about God?
  • What are some ways that we can share our faith with others?
  • How can we partner with the Holy Spirit to be more aware of those who need Jesus?

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2024 Grace Communion International

GCI Equipper Privacy Policy