The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
“How Do You Know Me?”
January 14, 2018
Sermon Text: John 1:43-51
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
If you live with a person for a while, work with a person for a while… spend any real time with a person… be it quality time or a sheer quantity of time with them… you cannot help but get to know them… know things about them.
In fact, spend enough time with someone and you may know that person better than he or she knows himself… or herself.
In our Gospel text for today, however, we see how one Person knew someone, but their knowledge of the same really has nothing to do with spending time with them. In fact, this Person never met the other individual before… at least, not in a conventional way. But certainly, in a divine one… for you see, the Person we are talking about is none other than our Savior, Jesus, God in the flesh.
Our Lord, we are told, decides to go the region of Galilee. It is at the beginning of His ministry and He is in the process of calling His disciples… ordinary men who will accompany Him every step of the way on His journey to the cross… ordinary men who will be eyewitnesses of all that our Lord said and did here on earth… ordinary men who, after Jesus’ ascension into heaven…will go out and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in a most extraordinary way through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord has already called Andrew and his brother, Simon Peter, as well as James and his brother, John (the writer of the Gospel we are considering this morning) to be His disciples. Now He moves on… continues on.
We know that this is all divinely arranged… perfectly arranged. Thanks be to God that one of the great “epiphanies” the Spirit has given to us and all believers as we consider this portion of Holy Scripture… and all of God’s Word… all of the history it contains… is that nothing happens by chance… by coincidence… by accident… by so-called “fate.”
And the same holds true for everything and anything that happens today or any day… to us… to our loved ones. Anything that has happened in the past to us and all people… or will happen… is all part of God’s plan.
In everything… every day and in every way… His will… God’s immutable will… is being done. Not that it always meets with our liking or approval. Sometimes, far from it. Sometimes in our humanity… in the weakness of our minds and of the flesh, being human, we scream out, “No!” God says “Yes.” And if not in this world, certainly in the next, we will heartily exclaim, “Amen!” Why? Because what God does… what He allows… is always good and for our good.
So, when we read in our text that Jesus decided to leave for Galilee, there was a definite purpose… a divine one. Indeed, much of our Lord’s ministry will occur in this region because the conditions there were so that He could best accomplish what needed to be done… what needed to be said… all for our salvation.
And lo and behold… all part of the plan, mind you… Jesus “finds” Philip. Go figure! In truth, our Lord knew exactly where Philip could be found… would be found… He knew that Philip was to be one of His disciples… and He simply says to Philip, “Follow me.”
But our Lord knew more than that. Jesus knew that Philip, in turn, would find Nathaniel. Take a look at what happens here. Philip… learning who Jesus is… cannot keep the news to himself… he wants others to know and he joyously, exuberantly, excitedly goes to Nathanael (who we believe is Bartholomew, one in the same) and tells him,
“We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45)
Isn’t it interesting who Philip says found whom here. He tells Nathanael that he and others have found the Messiah, the One who Moses and all the prophets of old foretold would come to save us.
Philip did not find Jesus. Jesus found Philip! And the same holds true for you and me and all believers… all the faithful. We did not find our Savior. Our Savior… Jesus… found us!
You see, all that the spiritually blind can do is stumble, fumble, fail and fall. All they will find ultimately is trouble which will be compounded throughout their earthly life, but nothing like that which they face after they have drawn their last breath.
Oh, they will tell you otherwise, try to convince you otherwise about how great things are going, how great they are doing. They think they are headed in a good direction, right direction… that all is good by and large because they have made it good… of their own… on their own… having no idea or having rejected the truth told to them… that they are really lost more than ever and what is more, they are about to step off into the black abyss of hell itself… a bottomless pit from which there is no coming back.
Let us never forget for a moment that you and I could be in a very different place right now… in a very different situation and condition with a very different outcome. And this, if it were not for the grace of God and His great love for us.
We are so thankful… immensely thankful and eternally grateful for how diligently our Good Shepherd has sought us out… how He has found us and lovingly brought us to Himself… to the Flock, to the precious Fold that we know as the Holy Christian Church – Christ’s very Body.
We are so thankful and eternally grateful that when our Lord talks about the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to find the one lost sheep, He is referring to Himself finding… rescuing us! (Luke 15:4)
We hear Jesus, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) And a little later in John’s Gospel our Lord makes it perfectly clear to all His followers, declaring, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16)
So, Philip tells Nathanael that they have found the Messiah and that He is from Nazareth. At first, Nathanael is not impressed. He remarks to Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
How skeptical Nathanael is… but how typical… how classic… how common is his response to the news that the Messiah is here… that there is hope… that there is salvation… that there is freedom from whatever prison a person may find themselves in… that there is life eternal.
When we share the comforting message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people in our own lives, you and I know all too well the negative responses this can evoke. But notice my friends, that to Nathanael’s skepticism and doubt, Philip simply says, “Come and see.” In other words, “Don’t take my word for it. Come and see for yourself.”
May that, indeed, be our response to others as well. To their initial skepticism, pessimism, hesitancy and even outright rejection… simply extend to them again and again the invitation to come and see… see for themselves.
Come see Jesus… meet Jesus… hear Jesus… right here in this sacred space, sacred place… this holy ground! Come to where the Lord of life, the very King of this universe comes to you and me… to all… in the divine service… in His Word and in the Sacraments.
Come and meet your Lord and Savior. He who knows you perfectly as He knew Nathaniel perfectly. He who knows your every need… including the need to be forgiven… the need to be loved, comforted, consoled… the need to be strengthened… the need to be picked up from the muck and the mire of this world and placed on solid ground.
Indeed, come and meet your Rock! The “Rock of Ages” cleft for you… there to hide and protect you… to defend you. The Rock on Whom you alone can stand and withstand everything that sin, Satan and the world will throw at you. As the psalmist declares… that which is chanted here again and again in sacred liturgy, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” (Psalm 95:1)
He who knows us perfectly… because He is the perfect God… the only wise God… the only true God… who is perfectly seeing to all of our needs of body, soul and mind. The perfect God who is perfectly leading us home to Himself in heaven.
How thankful we are having received our dear Savior’s gracious invitation to come, follow Him. How thankful we are that by the mighty working of His Holy Spirit, we are doing just that! Amen!
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“How Do You Know Me?” 1/19/97 and 1/14/18 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL