Come and See Jesus (January 21, 2018)
Come and See Jesus
My sister and I are working on invitations together for our upcoming family reunion this summer. At the same time, I’m offering ideas for the invitation to the upcoming Women’s Rally here at Trinity. And there’s a space on both of these invitations that I’ll just call the “Come and See” section. Yes, you are coming for the main event, but what else is going to draw you in and get you excited?! Come and see one of Temple’s newest shopping areas – The Hub! Come and see the waterparks and splashpads that we have. Come and see historic downtown, and the Santa Fe Plaza which is being renovated! Come and see!
You know, I could send a long letter along with those invitations that describe all of these attractions. But 1) how do I know what to highlight that is really going to grab your attention, and 2) reading about something is nowhere near as exciting as seeing it for yourself!
There was a lot of “Come and see,” “Go and see” going around when Jesus was just stepping into the limelight. There was the testimony of John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29) after the unique and identifying baptism of Jesus. Then John encouraged his disciples to “Go and see” the Lamb of God (Jn 1:36). Andrew and John were two of the disciples who went to see Jesus and wanted to be his followers. When they asked Jesus where he was staying, where he was conducting his ministry, Jesus encouraged them to “come and see” (Jn 1:38-39). Jesus was encouraging them to stay with him and continue to follow him. He was inviting them to see with their own eyes that he truly was the “Lamb of God” as John had pointed out.
What was it, exactly, about Jesus that made him such a draw? Andrew and John perhaps knew a little bit about him. Perhaps they knew that although he came from Nazareth, he was really born in Bethlehem during the census that took place. They also knew that John the Baptist was very open about his role as the forerunner of the Messiah which the prophet Malachi had prophesied about 400 years earlier. And we know that John explained to his disciples what that special baptism of Jesus was all about. “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’” (Jn 1:32-33). He was the link between God and man! All signs were pointing to this Jesus of Nazareth as the one who fulfills the Scriptures – the Messiah! And if we want to be sure, we should heed his invitation to “Come and see!”
Well, that’s great for people who actually got to see Jesus face to face! But what about us who are living here and now? Have we missed our opportunity to “Come and see Jesus” by a couple thousand years? What about the excitement of seeing him with our own eyes? What about the fascination as he performs miraculous signs and speaks profound wisdom? I think sometimes we feel like we have missed the boat when it comes to seeing Jesus. It’s true, we don’t get to see Jesus face to face like his first disciples were able to do. But you do have something that they didn’t! You have not just one, but 4 detailed accounts of Jesus’ whole life. You have it laid out in a way that highlights his work of salvation for all people. You even have a detailed history of how God continued to preserve his Church and bring about an explosion of growth in the book of Acts. You have very personal letters which, although written to congregations of that day, still apply to your life today. And you have the revelation of how God continues to work behind the scenes to guard and protect his Church throughout all history. They got to see Jesus, and how he fulfilled the Scriptures in their day and age. You have not only a history of those events, but also a behind the scenes look – a director’s cut – of all that God does for you and his followers. You can revisit that director’s cut as you “Come and see Jesus” again and again through the Word!
Despite the opportunity, there was one Israelite who had a hard time with the thought of Jesus being the Messiah. I guess that’s one potential problem of being able to see him face to face. The sight of him may not be what you were expecting, and that may put you off completely. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (Jn 1:46) Nathanael asked. Coupled with the thought of a tiny little town was the realization that Galilee itself wasn’t really the place for religious thoroughbreds of the time. Nathanael knew this well because he himself was a Galilean. He had probably experienced religious prejudice himself as he journeyed to Jerusalem for various religious ceremonies. Add to that the fact that the Messiah was supposed to come from Bethlehem, the town of David! Now that was a far more likely hometown for the Messiah. You see, Nathanael didn’t have the account of Luke chapter 2 drummed into his memory by annual Christmas celebrations. Luke hadn’t even written his gospel yet. And Philip could have sat there arguing and reasoning with Nathanael why Jesus was the Messiah, but instead he only said three words, “Come and see” (Jn 1:46). He knew that seeing and experiencing Jesus firsthand would quickly change Nathanael’s mind.
Jesus already had it all planned out. Not only did he know and see all things, he could also read hearts and knew exactly what would change Nathanael’s heart. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, even before a formal introduction, he called out to him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false” (Jn 1:47). Nathanael was one who carefully tested and analyzed everything he heard in regards to the Scriptures. No doubt he believed in the Messiah. No doubt he knew the details and what to expect. And from his limited perspective, not having the whole picture of Jesus yet, things were not quite adding up. And Jesus praises him for his scrutiny! Nathanael wouldn’t put up with falsehood. “How do you know me?” (Jn 1:48) Nathanael asked? We’ve never met and yet you act as if you can read my heart! “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (Jn 1:48) Jesus responded. In other words, I can indeed read your heart! And that’s exactly what Nathanael needed.
“Rabbi,” he said, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (Jn 1:49). Calling Jesus the “Son of God” shows that he understood Jesus’ relation to God the Father. And calling him the “King of Israel” shows that Nathanael understood Jesus’ relationship with his people and the work he came to do. With this statement, Nathanael was confessing that he believed Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah – the bridge that links us to God.
Can you think of a time, when perhaps you have felt like Nathanael? You believe that God forgives sins. You know that he promises to be with you and stand by you. But yet, how can he really know what you’re going through? How can he really know the emotions that you face, or all the factors that make your life and your situation uniquely different than everyone else’s? Well come and see! Dig into his Word and experience his knowledge and wisdom firsthand! Because “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are” (Heb 4:15). I can’t count the number of times I have finished a morning devotion, or some other reading of Scripture and as I put the book down I marvel to myself, just like Nathanael, “How do you know me?” (Jn 1:48).
God responds to our wonder and Nathanael’s wonder with, “You will see greater things than that” (Jn 1:50). Nathanael saw God’s omniscience, but he will also see all other attributes of God in his next few years with Jesus. Nathanael confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, but he will see Jesus to be the true ladder between heaven and earth. Nathanael confessed that Jesus is the King of Israel, but he would see that Jesus is also the king of all humankind.
“You will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man” (Jn 1:51). Indeed, what the disciples shall see is heaven permanently open over Jesus. In all his miraculous works they shall see that no bar exists between Jesus and God, between him and the heavenly world. They will see him die for the sins of the whole world – something which only a human being could do. They will see him holding the door open for all who believe by declaring sins forgiven – something which only God can do. They will see him pray to the Father on behalf of all people; and they will see him be the answer to our prayers. They see him walk this earth; and they will see him ascend into heaven promising to bring them there.
Through Christ, heaven is opened to you. You can look in and go in. All things in heaven and things on earth are reconciled and gathered together in Christ. Come, believe, and you will see!