Last week, I began the last paragraph of my sermon with, “So, it’s been quite a week.” Well, it’s been quite a week again, hasn’t it? Our shared experience of our nation’s health combined with our individual experiences of everyday life in a pandemic can be overwhelming at times, difficult to get away from. Doan suggested compiling a playlist of songs in tune, if you will, with the times. In less than a minute we came up with Land of Confusion by Genesis; We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel; REM’s It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine); and The Final Countdown by Europe. I added Motorhead’s End of Time – Doan wouldn’t come up with that off the top of her head. I wanted to call it our Soundtrack to the Apocalypse, so I was disappointed when I found out that Slayer already has a box set called Soundtrack of the Apocalypse.
Today’s Gospel lesson deals with its own apocalypse, in the truest sense of the term: to reveal, a revelation, an uncovering. Jesus decided to travel through the region of Galilee, and somewhere near or in Bethsaida, He comes across Philip, who is quickly convinced that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah they had been waiting for. Philip, understandably excited, finds his friend Nathaniel (who also goes by Bartholomew), and tells him that they have found the one, the one that even Moses talked about, the one the prophets foretold.
And, well, He’s from Nazareth. This is where I figure that Nathaniel and I would have gotten along. Nathaniel’s first instinct, rather than to, say, marvel at what his friend was saying, was to make fun of Nazareth.
And why not? “Nazareth was southwest of the Sea of Galilee, and a very small community, probably less than 500 people during Jesus’ lifetime. Being so small, and not adjacent to major cities, it was the last place one would expect anything interesting to happen. Calling someone a “Nazarene” would have been like referring to them as a “bumpkin,” or even a “hillbilly.” Nathanael’s question is more than a little sarcastic. He assumes that Nazareth couldn’t produce much of worth,” let alone someone Moses talked about.
Philip, for his part, kept his head about him. He must have known Nathaniel pretty well, well enough to know that he might greet stupendous news with humor and skepticism. And so Philip didn’t argue, he instead invited. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Well, come and see.
Nathaniel would come to see. Jesus had seen him, seen him under the fig tree, a traditional place for the faithful to sit and contemplate the wonders of God. Jesus had seen Nathaniel’s true spirit, the spirit of an honest man, what you see is what you get, whether you like it or not. And Jesus promised that Nathaniel would see, would see the heavens opened, the angels of God in their processions. He would see Jesus in all His glory.
Come and see. What Philip knew and Jesus confirmed is that talking about Jesus and meeting Him in person are two wildly different things. Easy to say for the guy standing here talking about Jesus, right?
That’s why the response always has to be “Come and see.” Come and see who Jesus is to me, to us, to our community. Come and see what knowing Jesus looks like; how knowing Him changes your life forever; how when you come and see, you never know what you’ll see, what will be revealed to you.
It’s been quite a few weeks, surely, but just as surely, things will eventually work together for the good of those who come and see the one from Nazareth, the one Moses and the prophets spoke about, the Son of God and King of Israel.