Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Bible Background We are now fully into the Gospel of John. John is unique in the line up of Gospels. The community that writes John is writing later than any other gospel writers. The Gospel of John is written around 90 -100 AD. These dates are after the temple has been destroyed (70 AD) and almost an entire generation after Jesus. We are looking at a community who yearns to know what it feels like to be in the presence of Jesus and who are desperately trying to make sense of their faith. This puts a unique spin on how we will study Jesus.
Jesus comes into the world as light (John 1) and is God in human flesh. Jesus is fully human and fully divine. The prologue with its beautiful poetry is John’s birth narrative. The rest of the Gospel will be about recognizing Jesus, seeing Jesus and seeking God, and then following Jesus. John’s Jesus does not coerce but invites us to come along. John’s Jesus invites us to not only to come along but to experience (to see).
Our passage for today helps to lay out these themes. It comes on the heels of John preparing the way for Jesus. He is called in by the authorities because they think he is the real threat and is claiming to be the Messiah. John is the first to recognize Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” He baptizes Jesus and the spirit descends upon him. In essence this is Jesus’ call to ministry, his other birth narrative. Once John identifies Jesus, the disciples start to assemble. Each new disciple comes from a reference. They come and see. Jesus responds by inviting them to join him over and over again. He creates relationship. He invites. They form community. By seeing him, they recognize him. They accept the invitation. They join the community. They continue to invite. And so on….
Once Jesus addresses Nathaniel about what he will see, Jesus address us his readers. Not only are the disciples invited, we are invited into relationship and community. We are invited to continue the invitation. We are invited to come and see and then spread what we see. Why are we so hesitant to do so? Haven’t we experienced the beauty of community and relationship?
This Sunday we will be renewing our covenant with Jesus. We will be asked to come and see again. We will be accepting the invitation again to renew the journey in the new year. This Sunday we will be saying yes again to community and relationship. We will be discerning how we might carry out what it means to spread the invitation and tell the good news. Jesus is walking with us and is wholly human and wholly divine. Jesus has been born into this world as God incarnate. How will we carry our end of the invitation?
Quotes of the Week “This is a God who is not identified with the help of a dictionary but through a relationship.” ― Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace
“He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.” ― Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus
“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.” ― Brené Brown
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” ― Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
John 1:35-51 (Message) The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb.” The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” He replied, “Come along and see for yourself.” They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him for the day. It was late afternoon when this happened.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus. Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. When he got there, he ran across Philip and said, “Come, follow me.” (Philip’s hometown was Bethsaida, the same as Andrew and Peter.) Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth!” Nathanael said, “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding.” But Philip said, “Come, see for yourself.”
When Jesus saw him coming he said, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.” Nathanael said, “Where did you get that idea? You don’t know me.” Jesus answered, “One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!” Jesus said, “You’ve become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven’t seen anything yet! Before this is over you’re going to see heaven open and God’s angels descending to the Son of Man and ascending again.”
Questions for the Week What does it mean to accept an invitation? What must you see to believe? What would you have done if Jesus had asked you to follow?