Lectionary Passage: John 1: 43-46 (47-51)
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
At the risk of overusing movie metaphors, I saw an advertisement for a movie that touted that the critics had dubbed it “a must see.” We all know what that means. It means that someone is telling us that we need to try to find time to go see this movie, that perhaps our lives will be more enriched by the very act of taking the time to watch a movie. It doesn’t mean that it’s inviting us to rewrite it or recast it or, for that matter, even critique it. It doesn’t mean that there’s going to be a quiz at the end of it to make sure that we understood it in the way that the writer intended. And it’s not even maintaining that we have to commit every line and every scene to permanent memory. It’s inviting us to simply come, to put down what we’re doing and quit worrying about what we’re not doing, if only for a couple of hours, and come experience it. It’s inviting us to come and see. And the claim is that in some small way, our lives might be enriched by the act.
The Scripture that is used here is only part of our lectionary Gospel passage for this week. But in this short segment, we meet Nathanael. Most of us don’t know much about him. After all, he was never part of the “Big 12” as far as we can tell. But that usually didn’t matter much to the Gospel writer that we know as John. In this version of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the notion of “disciple” is broader than Jesus’ inner crowd. You see, Nathanael is a whole lot like us. He wanted to understand who this Christ was and, yet, it didn’t make sense to him. Shouldn’t there be something more? Shouldn’t this be obvious? How can anything this incredible come out of this little nothing town? After all, in the first century, Nazareth wasn’t much. There was no Roman settlement there which means, more than likely, that there was little work. In fact, you wonder how a carpenter family even eeked out a living there. It was probably just a couple of houses, a blip on a map. It was nothing anyone would ever really want to see. Yes, Nathanael was trying to make sense of this, to put it into a perspecive that made sense to him. He was trying to take this Presence of God that was beyond anything that he could imagine fit into his notion of who God was. But Philip’s response was simply, “Nathanael, just come and see.” In other words, put down all of your preconceived ideas of who you think God should be and what you think God should look like and from where you think God should come, and just come and experience the Presence of God.
I don’t think that Philip was promising that Nathanael would see something tangible that would prove the existence of God. After all, “seeing” is not limited to what we do with our eyes. Philip is instead offering Nathanael the experience of God. But in order to experience God, to “come and see”, one has to put everything else aside. We cannot see God by listening to something else; we cannot see God when our hands are holding too tightly to what we think we need; and we cannot see God when our minds are so full of who we think God should be. We’re not being called to figure God out or know everything there is about God. You know what? We’re not even called to be perfect renditions of what God envisions we should be. I think God’s a lot more filled with grace than we give God credit for being. And I don’t think we’re called to be “godly” people. I hate that word. Being “like God” is really God’s area! Shhhhh! Just come and see.
Last week’s lectionary passages included the first few lines of Genesis. We read of God’s spirit “sweeping over the face of the waters.” In other words, God’s Presence was not just standing beside or standing over Creation. God’s Presence washed over Creation, consumed it, made it part of the Divine. We are no different. Seeing God is about letting God’s Spirit sweep over you. It is about experiencing God in every fabric of your being. Joseph Wood Krutch said that “the rare moment is not the moment when there is something worth looking at, but the moment when we are capable of seeing.” So, for all of us who are waiting for that one incredible moment when we finally see God, stop. Just come and see. It’s a “must see”!
What is right now so important, to what are you holding so tightly, and what are you doing now that means you cannot come and see?