LWML Sunday 2016 LSB #’s 656, 827
Text – John 1:46
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come & see.”
Come & See!
Have you ever been surprised? Surprises can be pleasant. After a romantic stroll in the park, a man gets down on his knee, pulls out a beautiful ring, & asks his high school sweetheart, “Would you marry me?” A young wife eagerly shares big news with her unsuspecting husband: “Guess what? We’re having a baby!”
Surprises can also be unpleasant. Unexpected rain pours down on your much anticipated wedding day. An optimistic job seeker receives a letter of rejection after a seemingly great personal interview. News of the sudden death of a loved one crushes our spirit. All surprises are, by definition, unexpected, but not all surprises are received in the same way.
People can have vastly different reactions to the same surprise. When the results of the presidential election are in some will celebrate. Others will lament. Think of restaurant or movie reviews on the Internet. One woman’s favorite film or café is another woman’s worst entertainment or dining venue.
Perhaps you’ve heard someone describe an artist’s new style or her latest song by saying, “People either like it or hate it.” Same surprise – different responses. This dynamic is exactly what we encounter when Philip & Nathaniel see & hear of Jesus for the 1st time. Through His only Son, God revealed His greatest surprise for a world in darkness.
Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, has come from above to dispel the darkness. Yet we have two entirely different reactions to this news. After calling Andrew & his brother, Simon Peter, Jesus found Philip & called him to be His disciple too: “Follow me!” Once he spent time with Jesus, Philip learned the basics about this man from Galilee & shared the good news about Him with Nathanael. We sense excitement in Philip’s words: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law & also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!” It’s as if Philip had found an invaluable treasure & he must tell everyone about it. He receives the news with a joyful heart because he saw Jesus through the eyes of the Holy Spirit – the eyes of faith.
He has literally seen the Light, but not so, for Nathanael. Through the mouth of Philip, Nathanael also hears of Jesus for the 1st time, but his reaction is entirely different from that of Philip. We read of no excitement upon Nathanael’s hearing of the good news. Instead, there’s a sense of suspicion about this Galilean Jesus:
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael’s is not a joyful attitude, but a guarded posture. He receives the news with cautious disposition at best, & a doubtful one at worst. Unlike Philip, Nathanael sees Jesus through the eyes of the flesh, somewhere in that spectrum between disbelief & unbelief.
He is literally in the dark & the Light has yet to overcome it. His question remains: Can anything good come out of Nazareth in Galilee? The odds seem to be against it. The northern province of Galilee is a land too close to unclean Gentiles & too far from holy Jerusalem in the southern province of Judea.
No self-respecting Israelite from Judea would look for the Son of God, the King of Israel, in such an unexpected place as Galilee of the Gentiles. Unlike their counterparts in Judea, Galilean Jews speak with a strange accent & are known for a less than clean record on following prescribed Jewish laws. Why look for God’s power & wisdom in Galilee? It makes no sense!
Is not the great city of Jerusalem the real center of kingly power & rabbinic wisdom? Are not God’s holy temple & priests in the holy city? Are not the learned Pharisees & scribes there, as well? In short, are not the clean, pure & righteous Israelites to be found in Jerusalem? Can God truly work out His salvation from an unlikely place such as Nazareth in Galilee, & among such unlikely folks as the Galileans?
God surprises us. We frequently look for power & wisdom in the wrong place – in the best that human beings have to offer, in our holiness, purity & righteousness. Yet, it is in Jesus of Nazareth, the unassuming man from Galilee, that we are called to see the power & the wisdom of God at work in our lives.
We are called to fix our eyes not on ourselves, but on Jesus; not on our holiness, but on Jesus’ holiness. We are reminded that we are not the light. Jesus is the Light – the Light of the World. To the surprised & perplexed, to the cautious & guarded, to those in disbelief or doubt, yet seeking answers, Jesus appears & invites them to fellowship with Him:
“Come & you will see.” Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist, but then is suddenly sent by the Baptist on a different path. He must now follow Jesus. After all, John the Baptist was not the light, but came to bear witness to the Light. Andrew likely had questions about this sudden change of allegiance to this Man from Galilee, & sought answers.
So Jesus asked him, “What are you seeking?” And Andrew, along with another one of John’s former disciples, responded: “Rabbi…where are you staying?” Then, we hear Jesus’ wonderful invitation to these seekers: “Come & you will see!”
Later, Jesus extends the same invitation to Nathanael. But this time, Jesus speaks His words of invitation through Philip, whom He had just called to follow Him. Nathanael’s infamous words, “Can anything good come out Nazareth?” are met with Philip’s call to meet Jesus: “Come & see!”
Any lingering questions & doubts Nathanael may have had about the man from Galilee eventually come to an end when Jesus Himself appears to him &, to Nathanael’s surprise, tells him exactly where he was before Philip called him, “I saw you under the fig tree.” Suddenly, the light came on for Nathanael! The light of Christ overcame the darkness of Nathanael’s heart. Nathanael had now seen the Light, & his infamous words are replaced by his confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Good things do come out of Nazareth in Galilee. Not only does God work out His salvation, but reveals the Light of the world, from a most unexpected place – out of Galilee, through the Man from Galilee.
In addition to this surprising state of affairs, God also chooses to bring the light of His Son to the most unlikely folks – to Galileans themselves – & through them invites others to partake of the fullness of life in His kingdom. Andrew, Simon Peter & Philip are from Bethsaida in Galilee. Nathanael is from Cana in Galilee. And the list goes on.
A Galilean Savior with His Galilean disciples. How shocking! How surprising! A people too close to the Gentiles; a people with too strange an accent. A people cut from a different cultural cloth than their southern counterparts in Judah.
Nevertheless, it is out of odd & lowly Galilee that the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, sends His Galilean disciples. They’re sent out to bring the world God so loved into the Light, to bring a wayward, erring & dying world to the One who is the Way, the Truth & the Life.
Who are the Galileans of our day? Who are the people in our neighborhoods who look & speak differently from us, whose cultural ways confound us? Who are those strange folks, or children of folks, from different tribes, languages & nations in our midst?
Whom do we think, from our narrow human perspective, are the neighbors least likely to benefit from the goodies, from God’s surprising news of salvation in Christ? Who do we think, due to our close-minded sinful ways, are the neighbors least likely to receive God’s gracious invitation into the life-giving kingdom of His Son?
You see, we too can be like Nathanael, doubtful about what God can do on behalf of & with neighbors in marginal areas like Galilee, cautiously optimistic about strangers coming into & serving in our churches, guarded about inviting modern-day Galileans to be disciples of Jesus with us for the sake of the world.
When we think in these ways, we are in the dark. We see only with eyes of the flesh, & we close our hearts to the surprisingly gracious ways in which God reveals His great love for new neighbors near & far through His Son.
Yet God is merciful, surprising us again & again, inviting us to see with the eyes of the Holy Spirit what mighty deeds He can do in the most unlikely places & among the most unlikely characters. He calls us once again to see the Light, wherever He shines, even in Galilee & among Galileans! When we ask ourselves, like Nathanael:
“Can anything good come out of” Ann Arbor, or Syria, Iraq, & even Washington DC? Jesus gently sends a Philip who invites you to “come & see” that the Lord can do great things in & out of lowly Galilee. Through Philip, we are called anew to “come & see” that God’s love in Christ Jesus knows no ethnic, racial, linguistic, tribal, or geographic boundaries.
What is the church but a beautiful fellowship of Galileans! A marginal people called out of darkness into the light of the Son. A people once dead raised to new life through faith in Jesus as Savior. Through strangers in our midst, God reminds us that His entire church is a bunch of strangers in a foreign land. We are in the world, but thankfully not of the world.
To the culture, we are aliens, strangers speaking with a foreign accent while walking to a strange beat. We speak the ancient language of Holy Scripture. We initiate people into the church by sprinkling them with water at the baptismal font. We eat the body & drink the blood of God’s Son at our altar. Our pastors forgive us our sins. We love those who hate us while we sing & dance to the tune of strange-sounding hymns, canticles & songs to worship our Galilean Lord & God. How odd! How surprising! We, too, are strange Galileans.
On Women’s Missionary League Sunday, we rejoice in Jesus’ calling & invitation to come & see once again what He has graciously done in our lives, His great deeds of salvation on behalf of Galileans like us.
Today, we also receive with great thanksgiving & awesome wonder Jesus’ surprising invitation to come & see what He can do, & is indeed doing, even among strange Galilean neighbors in our midst in order to extend His kingdom throughout the world.
We also ask the Lord Jesus to open our eyes to His surprising opportunities for partnership with brothers & sisters in Christ from different ethnic & language groups in the United States & abroad. In those ways, together we might invite even more neighbors to meet Jesus, the man from Galilee, our Light & our Life.
Hey Philip! Can anything good really come out of Nazareth in Galilee? Yes indeed, Nathanael. Jesus, God’s greatest gift to us, has surprisingly come out of lowly Galilee for us & for our salvation. Good things do come out of Galilee!
Hey Philip! Can God work out His salvation in lowly places & among strangers today? Yes indeed, Nathanael. “Come and see!”
Hark, the voice of Jesus calling, “Who will go & work today? Fields are white & harvests waiting – who will bear the sheaves away?” Loud & long the Master calleth; rich reward He offers thee. Who will answer gladly saying, “Here am I, send me, send me”? Hearken to the Lord whose coming marks the time when grace shall end. When with His angelic reapers He in glory shall descend. Soon the night, the final harvest; soon the time for work shall cease. Then the souls His grace has garnered shall enjoy His Sabbath peace. Amen.
LSB 827:1, 4
Pastor Dean R. Poellet