Come and See

To really understand our gospel reading from John, you need to press rewind and go back a few verses. It really begins the day after Jesus’ baptism. John is standing there with two of his disciples. Maybe John’s disciples are wondering what John was getting on with saying that there, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! …And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1: 29, 34) Maybe they are preparing for the day’s work. Maybe they are just waiting for something to happen. As they are standing there Jesus walks by and John says, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” (John 1:37)

            John’s two disciples follow Jesus so they can figure out what John is talking about. When Jesus notices them following him, he says, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38) The two answered by asking, “where are you staying?” [Jesus] said to them, “Come and see.” (John 1:38 – 39) They did just that. I’m not sure what they saw or what they did during that day. We only know that one of the two was Andrew and Andrew’s brother is Simon Peter. Inspired by what he saw that day, Andrew boldly tells his brother, “We have found the Messiah.” (John 1:41) Then Andrew brings his brother to see Jesus. Jesus takes one look at Simon and says, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).” (John 1:42)

            It is almost miraculous how Jesus calls the first disciples – it begins with looking for something and an invitation to come and see. And when they see what Jesus is about they drop everything and him. It is only after the calling of Andrew and Simon Peter that we arrive at our reading for today.

Our reading starts the next day when Jesus decides to go to Galilee. This is where Jesus finds Philip and says him, “Follow me” and Philip does without hesitation. Philip finds Nathaniel and tells him the amazing news about Jesus being the Messiah. Now we hit the first road block. Nathaniel is skeptical. Oh he hears Philip telling him about Jesus and how they have found the Messiah in Jesus, son Joseph of Nazareth. All Nathaniel says is “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

            It’s a bit rude – playing on stereotypes and preconceived notions about people from a particular place. It’s sarcastic. It implies that there is no way Philip is telling the truth. Nathaniel is a sceptic. Philip doesn’t get mad. He simply repeats the invitation he received from Jesus, “Come and See”

            It’s a powerful invitation – especially since it seems that so many people are looking for something more. I’ve found often wondering or looking for something that gives more meaning. Perhaps you’ve been there too.  I think most of us can identify with that search for deeper meaning can’t we? As a society it seems that we are all searching for something whether it is meaning, or hope, or a new way of living, or that “thing” that will help everything else make sense. It reminds me of one of U2’s great hits “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was one empty night
I was cold as a stone
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for

I believe when the Kingdom comes
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes I'm still running.
You broke the bonds
You loosened the chains
You carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for

We are looking for “that something” that puts everything in perspective. I read an article in Christianity Today this week about the “new monasticism.” It is Christian monastic communities where people become “monks” but the target age is 20 – 35 and you commit to a year instead of a lifetime. In these communities they learn the ancient practices of prayer that have stood the test of time. The new monastic communities are attracting the people who call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Perhaps if Nathaniel were living today he would be spiritual but not religious. In the article it says “'There is a deep spiritual yearning for substance and depth,' says Rev Ian Mobsby of St Luke's Camberwell in Peckham, London. 'But people immediately assume the church has nothing to offer to that. That is why people call themselves spiritual and not religious.'  'People are asking, "What are the anchors to life? What is life about?"' he says. 'New monasticism is trying to say to a world increasingly interested in spirituality that Christianity has a lot to say.'” (

            I think that the heart of Jesus’ invitation. It is like Jesus says to us, “Come as you are with your questions and your doubts and concerns and see what I am about.” Jesus didn’t really answer Nathaniel’s questions but Jesus somehow sees him as he is. Philip asks Nathaniel to come and see. When Jesus sees Nathaniel coming he says, “Here is truly and Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47) The Message translates this phrase, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.” (John 1:47) Nathaniel couldn’t hide his questions or doubts or that he did not believe Philip’s proclamation that Jesus was indeed the One, the Messiah that they had been waiting for.

            You can imagine that Nathaniel’s reaction to statement about his was just as direct. “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” (John 1:48) I’m not sure what happened for Nathaniel in that moment but something big happened. The next words out of his mouth are, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49) It is amazing.

Jan Schnell Rippentrop writes, “Nathaniel is not one of those folks whose faith developed gradually. He is one who was also himself startled when the reality of Jesus snapped unexpectedly into focus. There is something about that fig tree remark that made who Jesus is clear for Nathaniel. The reader does not get to be privy to what exactly transformed Nathaniel’s view of Jesus. What is clear is that epiphanies of the Christ come to different people in such drastically different ways that it can even be incomprehensible.” (

We come to faith in a variety of ways. For some it is just like it was for Nathaniel one-minute doubting and asking questions and then next minute full of conviction. For others it is a lifetime of questions and answers and gradually coming to believe. A friend of mine once describe the different ways of as faith as deep fryer faith and slow cooker faith –both create something beautiful.

Jesus invites us all to come and see. It is not an invitation rooted in the past but one that is given each day. With that invitation comes the promise that Jesus sees us just as we are and invites us to be about God’s work in the world. We come as we are with all our questions, fears, beliefs, doubts, joys and see what Jesus is about in our lives, community and world. Jesus to us today, “Come and see.” Amen.