Sermon Date: January 18, 2015
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Come and See Jesus
A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on January 18, 2015 by Pastor Dale Raether
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net
Come and See Jesus!
At our pastors’ circuit meeting last Monday, Pastor Dobberstein from Port Orange gave each pastor a demographic study of the area we serve. Pastor Dobberstein has all this information, because he serves on District evangelism committee. In fact he’s going to be one of the presenters at our evangelism workshop on January 31. Anyway, we have a lot of work to do here in Brevard County. According to the 2010 census, of the 490,000 citizens in Brevard, 65% or about 300,000 have no religious affiliation of any kind. Of the 35% who do have a church, not all of them teach that Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
Yes, the mission fields of Brevard are white unto harvest! So, are you ready to be a harvester? Are you sure enough about what you believe, that you’re eager to share your faith with others? This morning we meet one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. His name was Nathaniel. Nathaniel means gift from God. He was also called Bartholomew, which means son of a farmer. Maybe Nathaniel was both. Instead of being brought up as a fisherman like the other apostles, Nathaniel came from a family of godly farmers. At any rate when Nathaniel first heard about Jesus, he was skeptical. However later Nathaniel would become so sure that Jesus is God and Savior, that he would follow Jesus the rest of his life. In fact a Christian historian from the 300s said that Nathaniel became a missionary to India and served in Mumbai. Eventually he left India and served in Armenia in the area of Noah’s ark, until he was martyred by crucifixion up side down.
One would have to say that Nathaniel was sure about what he believed. Would you also like to be that sure? Maybe we’d just soon leave that martyrdom thing out, but we might like to have the joy and sense of purpose that Nathaniel had. Our text tells us how. Come and See Jesus. 1. Keep reading the Bible. 2. Keep turning from sin. 3. Keep looking ahead to His promises.
1. Keep reading the Bible
We read in our text: The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” John 1: 43-45
Philip and Nathanael read their Bible. Actually, they were Bible memorizers. You see, in those days very few people owned a Bible. They were too expensive, and often the only one in town would be owned by the local synagogue. So, what people did is they would copy the readings for the week on clay tablets, and then take them home and memorize them, and talk about them with each other.
Can you image how much more work that was than picking up a book off your nightstand, or pressing an app on your I-phone? But it was a blessing! Mary, for example, at the age of 15 had memorized many of the Psalms, because her Magnificat as it’s called is made up of 47 Psalm phrases woven together. At any rate, Philip and Nathanael really knew their Old Testament, and from its over 300 prophecies about the coming Savior, they knew what they were looking for. Also, unlike the Savior’s second coming, about which no one knows the day or the hour, in 550 BC the Prophet Daniel gave the exact time line for the Savior’s first coming. Philip and Nathanael knew that the time was THEN.
We read on in our text: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip. This was the one thing that puzzled Nathanael about Jesus. There was no direct prophecy that the Savior would come from Nazareth. It was more like Bethlehem. But of course Nathanael didn’t know yet that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Nevertheless, the little they did know about Jesus so far matched the prophecies, and Philip was convinced. Soon Nathanael would be too.
However, there’s more to being sure that Jesus is God than having head knowledge of all kinds of things in the Bible. Faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit, who works through the Bible. Paul put it this way: Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17 The Holy Spirit works through the Bible, because the Bible isn’t the words of men. Word for word it is the word of God. As a result a person can go into reading the Bible as an agnostic or skeptic; and he may even be reading it to pick it apart. But then without his wanting it, the Holy Spirit gets a hold of him, and he begins to see Jesus as his God and Savior.
Once a person becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit continues to keep him in faith, as he continues to ready his Bible. I have an electric shaver at home. It runs on a battery, but every few days, a little light comes on and I have to plug it in or the battery will go dead, and then I’ll get a scruffy beard. As messed up as this world is, as many temptations that surround us and pressures we are under, we need our faith recharged everyday; otherwise we can loose sight of Jesus, and end up overwhelmed by the temptations and pressures of life. Now, we don’t have to memorize large sections of the Bible like Mary, Philip and Nathanael did. But reading it ten minutes a day is reasonable, and if we keep doing that everyday, over time we will have enough of it memorized, that we’ll be able to face whatever comes our way with the right Bible verse.
However, it doesn’t work this way for everyone. Madalyn O’hair, for example, was a famous atheist. She had studied the Bible a lot, but never believed any of it. The same could be said of many of the scholars in Nathanael’s day. They knew all the same prophecies he did, but they still rejected Jesus. Did the Holy Spirit fail on these people? Not at all! To know Jesus as God and Savior, a person must turn from his sins.
2. Keep turning from sin.
We read in our text: When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” – John 1:47 The word deceit is the same thought Nathanael would heard many times in Psalm 32: Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. – Psalm 32:2 Nathanael was a sinner just like everyone else. But he was blessed or happy, because he knew God didn’t count his sins against him, but had covered them with the blood of the coming Savior. However this wouldn’t have meant anything to Nathanael, if he had been full of deceit. Deceit here is lying to oneself that he didn’t do anything wrong, or that sin isn’t really sin, or that he does enough good things, God owes it to him to let him sin a little. Not only is this kind of thinking wrong, but sin itself corrupts the mind and hardens the heart. As a result, a person could read the Bible everyday, and he could be in services every week, but if he full of deceit, he won’t be looking to Jesus as his Savior, at least not for long. Instead his Bible reading will be more of a knowledge thing or even just a pride thing.
Let’s think about this for ourselves? When we read the Bible, are we looking more for knowledge for the sake of knowledge? Or, are we looking more for righteousness to stand before God someday? When our first concern is for righteousness, when we’re begging God to root out all deceit from our hearts, our hearts are good soil for the seed of the Word. And then the Holy Spirit will make our lives rich in all the fruits of faith. However, this doesn’t happen over night. God spends years working on our faith, but while He’s working on us, it’s good that we keep looking to His promises.
3. Keep looking to His promises.
Our text reads: “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” – John 1:48-51 We think we know what Nathanael was doing when he was under the fig tree. Because of what Jesus said in the last verse, Nathanael may have been reading the Jacob’s ladder Bible story. Jesus knowing what he was thinking earlier that day so struck Nathanael, there was no doubt in his mind. Jesus is God. However, Jesus promised Nathanael that he would be seeing a lot more to warm his heart than Jesus’ omniscience. Jesus is the ladder between God and man. Through His death our sins are forgiven. And so for Jesus’ sake, the Father sends down His holy and angels to protect us throughout our earthly life. Also, for Jesus’ sake our prayers are carried up to heaven and answered. And finally, the angels will carry our souls up to heaven, and we will join all the saints in singing: “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” – Isaiah 25:9
There are a lot of temptations and pressures we all face everyday. These temptations and pressures don’t necessarily go away anytime soon, and sometimes they get even worse. But let’s keep trusting His promises! Then someday we will see more than evidences of His omniscience and evidences of His omnipotence. We will see HIM! Because we shall see HIM, let’s keep reading our Bible and let’s keep turning from sin until all His promises are fulfilled. So, now, are you ready to join Nathanael in following Jesus? Are you sure enough about what you believe to invite others to come and see? Let’s pray that it may be so! Amen.
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net