Archive for the ‘John 1:43-51’ Category

Tag…You’re It!

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
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INTRODUCTION: In our gospel reading this morning we encounter Philip, a follower of John the Baptist along with His friends who aren’t mentioned in this reading, but who are nonetheless there; there’s John (the author of this gospel), Andrew, Peter, and James, all of whom were fishermen from the same region.  Philip, is about to try his hand for the first time at witnessing to his friend Nathaniel, who was also a follower of John the Baptist.  He’s excited because he really believes that the five have finally encountered the real-deal, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  There’s just one problem, He’s doesn’t fit the popular image about the Messiah; He’s the son of Joseph a carpenter from of all places…a very small and insignificant region called Nazareth.  “Oh well” thinks Philip, “at least I can use the other four as my back up”.  “Hey Nathaniel, just think of who we’ve found!  Yes I said we, you know the boys and I, John, Andrew, Peter, and James…We found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth!”  Nathaniel pauses, “Where did you say that He’s from?  Nazareth?  Can anything good come from that place?  Do you really expect the Savior of the World, my Savior to come from a place like that?  Come on Philip, get real!”  Philip pauses for a moment and says the same thing he heard Jesus say to them, “Come and see!”  And guess what….He did!

I. What part do our expectations play in our faith?  Well, Philip had high expectations in Jesus, so he really played up the importance of knowing and following Him as Savior.  Nathaniel had low expectations in Jesus, but His friend persuaded him to at least go and meet Jesus for himself.  The result was the beginning of the church. What do you want out of this morning’s worship service?  What’s the reason you’re here?  What were your expectations when you walked through the doors of this church this morning?  Expectations can be amazing things and they can lead us in ways we never would have imagined.  Hollywood uses expectations to hype their latest “big” movie.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been excited by movie promos and trailers only to be terribly disappointed once I’ve seen the movie.  Unfulfilled expectations seem to be the tragedy of the American way of life.  But with God, that’s never the case.  When our hearts are set on really seeking the Lord and all that He really is, and not just what we think He is, our God will always meet and beat our expectations. 

If you came through the doors of this church this morning expecting to be entertained and made to “feel good” then you will most likely leave here disappointed.  But if you came here this morning fully expecting to meet with Jesus, then you WILL leave here like Nathaniel changed and rearranged.  Like the first six disciples, your encounter with the Son of God and Son of Man will change you because of what you expect to find and because of what you actually find in Jesus.  You see, Jesus is the difference between your expectations and God’s intention for your life. 

So many times, when we enter into worship, prayer, and the study God’s Word, our expectations are way too low.  The first five of six disciples had very high expectations for their encounter with Jesus, but they discovered, even these expectations were still too low.  The sixth disciple, Nathaniel had very low expectations and Jesus changed his whole world by demonstrating knowledge about Him that only God could have, “When you were alone, deep in prayer with your creator, under the fig tree, I was there and saw you!”  Yes in both cases, and in our case, expectations seem to have very little to do with our relationship with Jesus.  Why is this?  Well, God’s Word in Ephesians (3:20) tells us that Jesus is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or even think.  So, let me ask you again—what are you looking for this morning?  Are you looking for a teacher?  Are you looking for meaning?  Are you looking for a Savior?  Nathanial was, and He was not disappointed, in fact He received far more than this!  Are you ready to receive all that Jesus has to give? 

 II. What does Jesus give to us today?  The very same revelation that Jesus gave to Nathaniel, He offers to us this morning!  When Jesus looked into Nathaniel’s heart and he found a sincere man who really wanted to have a lasting relationship of love with God.  He wasn’t a fake, lip service Christian, but rather he was a man who hungered for God, but knew that because of his sinfulness God must be the one to first move towards him, so Jesus did just that, he moved towards Nathaniel.  This is what Jesus wants to give us today!  Sadly, most people in our society lack this simple kind of honesty.  They profess their love for Christ but on their own terms; they still secretly love the world and the sinful desires of their own flesh; they promise faithfulness to Christ on Sunday but Monday through Saturday they would rather live out their social and political ideals instead of their faith!  This is the kind of false love that prevented the Jews from seeing Jesus as their Savior; this is the half-way kind of love that doomed the apostle Judas to hell, and it’s the kind of half love that almost trapped St. Peter.  Even today, we have whole denominations that seem to have embraced this phony half love for God with the mantra of a society that says, “If it feels good do it!  Sex without marriage is alright as long as you love each other” they say; same sex marriage can’t be wrong they say, because God does not make mistakes.  In their minds, Adam and Steve is just as valid as Adam and Eve.  Not only this but, they also demand that those of us who are trying our hardest to live out our simple faith and follow our Lord’s will, accept their sin and call it good.  St. Paul speaks of this duplicit mindset in our epistle reading when he says, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?… Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 

Now I know that this kind of faith is called bigotry and hate speak by some; they say that we are being judgmental and cruel, but is this true?  Who’s saying these things and why?  I know one thing for sure; it isn’t the working man and woman talking like this—demanding that others accept their behavior.  No, they’re too busy just trying to make a living in order to support a family; the last thing that they want to know about is what someone else is doing in their own bedroom.  But you see, these hard working people are the very people that Jesus called to follow him in the beginning of the church and they are the same people He calls today.  Jesus walked along the banks of the Jordan and through humble towns and market places, and He selected from the entire nation of Israel only those who pleased Him and who He considered to be best qualified for service in His kingdom. He intentionally avoided the big city lights of Jerusalem with its royal throne and political parties, its residences of the rich and famous. He refrained from calling the religious elite and rulers into His group. He gave the nation’s power players the cold shoulder.  He journeyed through the working class communities, through neighborhoods and market towns, and He selected the working poor like fishermen, carpenters, and good, simple, uncouth bumpkins. The great aristocrats “the Hollywood elite” of the day He left behind in Jerusalem, even though everybody assumed that these were the very people the Messiah would pick first. But Jesus did the opposite; He pursued His own plan and initiated His kingdom on His own terms with such an absurd simplicity that even the simplest of people could understand.

Christ’s only reason for such action was to prevent the high and mighty, the clever, and the powerful people from thinking that they could control access to the kingdom of Heaven and trample the simple God-fearing folk under their foot. To these lowly people, these working poor who simply seek God with all of their heart while raising a family, to these Christ says along with Nathaniel and you, “Behold, you are people of faith indeed, in whom there is no dishonest intent!”  “Truly, truly, I say to you, because you long for me and wait for me, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

III. What is this ascending and descending on the Son of Man?  This ascending and descending towards Jesus is nothing less than heaven itself opened allowing the angels and saints before us to gaze down upon us and allowing us through eyes of faith to gaze upon them.  It is a foretaste of the feast to come.  It is our new reality that we live in because of grace; because we believe by faith that Jesus is our Savior—God in human flesh who came to us to save us.  This is our reality every time we hear God’s Word preached or read; it is our reality because of our baptism into new life; and it is our reality every time we partake of His Holy feast receiving His body and blood in with and under the bread and wine!  Why do we do all of this?  For the forgiveness of sins! 

What does the forgiveness of sins give us?  Complete access, an e-Ticket to heaven!  How do we get this access?  Only by following Jesus Christ—only by responding to the invitation, “Come and see!”  But dear friends, don’t come alone…no this invitation is not just for you but for your children, your family, your friends, your neighbor, and yes even for the self serving politician, religious elite, and power broker.  All are welcome and you are the one that must extend to them the invitation.  So guess what?  Like Phillip and then Nathaniel, “Tag You’re IT!” 

May God continue to grant each of us wisdom, compassion, love, and mercy as we extend His kingdom one invitation at a time to all who will listen.  In Jesus name….  AMEN!  SDG