The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” -John 1:43-46
I know it’s hard for some people to put aside old ideas and notions about Christianity, Christians, and church in general. It’s a dug-in skepticism that’s born from a life of bad experiences, and even worse Christian jargon and teachings. It’s pushing back against all of it.
I can admit with you that sometimes, pushing back is good. We push back against bullies and people who exploit others. We push back against unequal treatment at a job or in a school. Sometimes, people don’t go to church anymore because they’re pushing back against some hurt or pain that occurred. I’ve been there. I know what that’s like.
Sometimes though, when we push back, maybe we do it because we don’t like what we’re hearing or who said it, even if it does make a little sense, and even if we secretly want to hear a little more. Sometimes, we don’t like it because it might change or challenge our old dug in ideas and notions. We don’t like it because we know it causes us to re-evaluate things, and who wants to do that!
That’s why, even though we want to share the Gospel, it’s sometimes hard, because we know that someone will push back. Talking to people about this stuff can be messy and difficult, and in the end, there are no guarantees, and I don’t think there should be. Still, one of the best ways to deal with that kind of push-back and skepticism, which is the kind of attitude Nathanael had, and if we are honest, we had at one time, is to invite people to “come, and see”.
Philip called by Jesus himself, is the one who goes to his friend Nathanael. Philip is filled with that “New Christian” zeal and desire, but he’s still pretty wet behind the ears when it comes to knowing Jesus. He’s even corrected by Jesus a few chapters later in John for not understanding something about him and the relationship between Jesus and the Father.
This is good for us to see. It’s good to see that Phillip was still learning, that he didn’t have all the answers. It shows us that his lack of knowledge didn’t stop him from talking about Jesus. Let’s be encouraged by that. We don’t have to have all our theological ducks in a row, to talk to someone about Jesus. This is a perfect example of that right here.
Philip finds Nathanael and says, “I found the guy! The one we’re waiting for!” Of course, Nathanael the skeptic knew what Philip meant, he studied the law and the prophets, but still, he pushed back. He pushed back because of some prejudices about Nazareth, which according to some scholars may have been religious in nature. So, Nathanael responds, “What good can come out of Nazareth?”
Growing up in Staten Island, I get this. Most New Yorkers seem to treat us like a step-child. In fact, when people ask me where I’m from, my response is usually, “the forgotten borough of New York City”, just to see if they can figure it out. Our biggest claim to fame was a former dump. The literal high point on the east coast, claimed to be visible from space.
But, if you come and see now, you’ll find we have the most parkland in all the boroughs. You’ll find we have beautiful hiking trails and historic little towns and some of the best pizza in NYC. Ralph’s Ices alone is a summertime tradition worth the trip here. We’ve even got deer now! You don’t like Staten Island? Come check it out and then decide if there’s “anything good” here.
The point is that Philip doesn’t try to persuade Nathanael in that moment with a theological argument. He gives a simple answer. “Come and see!” He says, “You don’t think anything good can come out of Nazareth? Come see this guy before you dismiss him.”
There are many evangelism/discipling tools and programs out there today, but the reality on the ground, day in and day out, is come and see. It’s always been the most gracious thing I could ever say to someone.
It’s saying, come be a part of my life.
When I met my pastor, I was struggling spiritually. He never set up a class with rules and benchmarks for progress. He simply met me for breakfast, over and over. The conversation wove through any number of topics, including life, movies, family, 80’s rap, Jesus and Scripture. It was a conversation filled with grace and mercy, in a time when I wondered if it existed, or if I even deserved it.
It was very much, “come and see.”
For the very short life of the church I’m blessed to be a part of, I’ve seen that modeled continually. I’ve seen people walk into one of our Thursday Question and Answer meals at the local restaurant down the street. A meal designed to allow skeptics and doubters to ask hard questions. I’ve seen people come to our bible studies, and show up to church on Sunday nights. Most of it has happened because some of the people here, simply asked them to come and see.
Come and see is not “getting with the program”, or being “sold out.” Come and see is inviting people to hear the words of God. Come and see is inviting people to walk alongside you. Come and see is inviting people to serve each other in love.
The best thing you can do, for anyone is simply invite them to come and see.
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?