“Come and see.” This is the invitation Jesus gave to Andrew and another unnamed disciple of John the Baptist.
“Come and see.” Notice, Jesus didn’t say “Come and fill out this survey so I have an idea of what your religious beliefs are. Then I will decide if you’re worthy to follow me.”
Notice, Jesus didn’t say “Come and let me interview you regarding your qualifications for the job of disciple.”
He simply said, “Come and see.” It’s an invitation of discovery. It’s an opportunity to see Jesus in action. It’s a front row seat to watch the reign of Christ break into our world and change it for the better.
“Come and see.” Apparently, the invitation worked, because John says “They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.” Not only did they remain with him, but that afternoon Andrew fetched his brother Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah.” We don’t have their entire conversation. But I assume it included some skepticism from Peter regarding Jesus’ identity, and an invitation from Andrew to “Come and see.”
The next day, which is not a part of our gospel lesson, Jesus found Philip and said to him “Follow me.” Philip found Nathanael and told him essentially the same thing Andrew said to Simon, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael responded with some first class snark, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” I think you can venture a guess as to what Philip said in response to Nathanael’s skepticism: “Come and see.” Yep, that right! “Come and see.”
What we have here is John’s version of the call of Jesus’ first disciples. Notice there are no nets and boats. There is no talk about learning to “fish for people.” Instead, there is a simple invitation to “Come and see.” It is offered first by Jesus and then his followers offer it to others. We have a word for this. It’s called evangelism, which comes from the Greek word meaning “Good news.” The way Jesus invites others to follow him in John’s gospel is good news indeed.
Like I said before, notice Jesus didn’t ask anyone to fill out a survey of their religious beliefs to make sure they were a good fit for him. He didn’t interview them regarding their qualifications for the job of being a disciple. He didn’t knock on their door or stand on a street corner handing out religious literature. Instead he invited them to join him on the adventure of a lifetime: “Come and see.”
What, you might ask, is the first thing they came and saw? In John’s Gospel it is story of the wedding in Cana where Jesus produced an obscene amount of wine from six stone jars that were filled with water. It wasn’t some cheap, mass-produced wine like Boone’s Farm or Arbor Mist. It was the good stuff! The best wine the wine steward had ever tasted. It was some of that grace upon grace John talked about in the prologue to his gospel. This was only the first taste of that grace upon grace his disciples would receive. “Come and see, indeed!”
Perhaps the Church can learn something from Jesus’ invitation and the way he went about making good on his promise. I fear we spend far too much time worrying about rules and regulations. “Do this, but don’t do that.” I fear we spend far too much time trying to mold people’s beliefs about God until they are the “right” ones, whatever that means!
What if the Church set aside it’s preoccupation with good behavior and correct theology and, instead, invited people on the adventure of a lifetime? It worked for Jesus. Surely, it would work for us, too. What if the Church simply issued the invitation to “come and see,” and then offered people a delicious, life-changing, mind-blowing, taste of that grace upon grace John’s gospel keeps talking about? It worked for Jesus. Surely, it would work for us, too.
You see, I believe it’s our distinct pleasure, as followers of Jesus, to be living signs of the reign of Christ. We are supposed to be the “come and see” Jesus is talking about in our gospel lesson. We are supposed to embody grace upon grace in our words and in our deeds.
The beef I have right now with a certain unnamed segment of Christianity is that they have become a mean, intolerable, judgmental, exclusive bunch. They seem bound and determined to establish “Christian liberty” at the expense of the liberty of others. They are insensitive and outwardly hostile toward anyone who does not believe exactly what they believe. I don’t know where all this mean-spirited behavior comes from, but it doesn’t come from the gospels. It most certainly doesn’t come from Jesus. I believe it is a determent to Christianity and turns people off from the teachings of Jesus faster than I can turn off a light switch.
But all is not doom and gloom, my friends. I do have hope that some of us are trying a different approach. Some of us are focused less on correct belief and behavior, and, instead, hope to invite others to “come and see” the grace upon grace Jesus offers everyone.
I need to brag on our Confirmands for just a little bit this morning. They give me hope that they truly understand what it means to be the Church of Jesus Christ. They truly understand what grace upon grace looks like as we issue the invitation to “come and see” it. This past Sunday, our topic in class was the “kingdom of God.” We tried to unpack what that phrase means. The last activity we did was an art project. It was based on the parable of the Mustard Seed which tells us something about what the kingdom of God looks like.
In this parable Jesus says that a tiny mustard seed can grow into a magnificent tree where birds can build nests in its branches. I asked the class to create a collage with the theme of “What branches are on your mustard tree? How is the Kingdom of God being revealed in you?” Their answers honestly blew me away. It’s the best art project they’ve done this year. I’m very proud of them. You’ll have to look at the art gallery in our gathering space to see all the words they chose to hang on their trees. but here’s a sample of them:
“Joyful and free, peaceful, blessed, story, moments, home, has long promised life, celebrate, become your future you, journey, our lives are intertwined like the branches of the grapevine, service, simplicity, dreams.”
Yeah, that’s pretty wonderful stuff. It gives me hope for the future because I think they get it. Since they are a part of the church now as well as the future, I know we are in capable hands! I think their words illustrate beautifully the kind of grace upon grace Jesus offers to those who accept his invitation to “come and see.”
Going back to our gospel lesson for just a moment, I’d like to pick up one more detail that can help us to understand what it looks like to issue the invitation to “come and see.” It’s a detail you probably didn’t notice because it’s significance only occurs in its original language.
As Andrew and the other unnamed disciple begin stalking Jesus, he says to them, “What are you looking for?” They respond, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” This is where Jesus invites them to “come and see.” The word “staying” in Greek also means to “abide.” This is a very special word for John. He uses it quite a few times in his gospel.
It also appears two more times in our reading where it says “They came and saw where he was staying (abiding), and they remained (abided) with him that day.” The word “abide” is an intimate connection. It’s also the same word John used when he talked about Jesus baptism where the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and remained (abided) on Jesus. [Jn 1:32]
“Abiding” is most definitely what it looks like to answer Jesus invitation to “come and see.” It’s more than just tagging along like a puppy. It’s a deep, intimate connection with the one who promised to give us grace upon grace. There’s a lot of abiding in this story, which again, has nothing to do with following rules or having the right beliefs. It has everything to do with forming a deep connection with the one who offers us grace upon grace. This connection is an intimate as Jesus’ connection to the Holy spirit.
Jesus tells his disciples later in John 13: “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
So “abiding,” is really important stuff in John’s gospel. It’s a further illustration of what it means to answer the invitation to “come and see” Jesus. If the Church could do more abiding, and less gate-keeping and judging, we would be able to offer others an over-flowing, never-ending supply of that life-changing, mind-blowing grace upon grace. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is what it means to accept the invitation to “come and see.” AMEN
Copyright ©2020 by David Eck