Church of England Diocese of Leeds Barningham

A SERMON from Rev Antony for the 2nd Sunday of Epiphany 17th January 2021

Second Sunday of Epiphany

Reading John 1-43-51.

May the words of my lips and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen

What does it mean for us to be followers of Christ? What did it mean for Philip?

Today the scene is set, Jesus heads for Galilee and that’s when the encounter with Philip begins.

The first point we notice is actually very easy to miss. Right at the start of the story, John says: “Jesus found Philip”.

Philip didn’t find Christ. Christ found Philip. The truth at the heart of the Christian story is not that you and I have found Christ but Christ has found us.

In reality that is always the case, Christ comes to us before we come to him.

And the narrative that runs throughout the Bible is of a God who constantly seeks out his people. And that’s the case right from the beginning of Scripture. God sends his Son to redeem the world.

If you remember in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, realised they were naked and were embarrassed, so they hid. God is walking in the garden and looking for Adam and Eve and then, the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” Right from the beginning of time, God is seeking his people.

And this is important because the knowledge that God has sought us out rather than the other way round is so important to us.

Once Jesus found Philip, he issues a single command: “Follow me”.

Putting Jesus as number one is what is demanded of us as Philip is compelled to follow Jesus – and leaves all else behind: his work, his family, his possessions, his ambitions.

When Jesus calls us to follow, he does not give us a Get-Out clauses: Following Jesus is a radical commitment that demands every aspect of our being.

Of course, we get it wrong from time to time and fall short of the ideal but the intention of discipleship should always be before us.

The first thing Philip did after been called was find his brother Nathanael and tell him about Jesus!

The first rule of being a disciple of Jesus is very simple: tell other people about Jesus!

Philip didn’t have any great learning and yet he was really effective in being an evangelist for Jesus.

But look what Philip says to Nathanael: “We have found him about whom Moses in the law wrote…” Philip hadn’t realised that Jesus actually found him, he didn’t find Jesus! But, nevertheless, he is effective in bringing Nathanael to Jesus.

So often, we think we can’t tell other people about Jesus because we don’t know enough or we don’t know our Bibles well enough…but none of that matters. We don’t need to be theologians to be effective. We just need to be passionate for Jesus, and he will do the rest!

So firstly, to be a follower of Jesus means to be found by him.

Secondly, to be a follower of Jesus means to tell others about him.

Thirdly, to be a follower of Jesus means, keep going even when things are difficult.

We note that Nathanael’s response to Philip is not particularly encouraging, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip had come running over to Nathanael, passionate about sharing this good news about Jesus, only to be met with a really cynical response.

Sometimes, when we tell people about Jesus, we are met with cynicism or apathy and it can be really discouraging and it can knock our self-confidence. But when it happened to Philip, he didn’t get into some theological debate.

He just said “Come and see!” and let God do the rest.

Now, here is a real challenge to us here as a church because we need to ask ourselves a question.

If people do “Come and see”, what will they find? Will people receive a warm welcome here? Will they get a sense of God changing lives? Will they have an experience of worship that gives them access to God? Will they go away with a sense of excitement that something is happening here? Is Jesus at the centre of our church life? If they come and see, will they meet with God? All good questions for us to ponder.

Jesus said “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you” which suggests that Jesus knew of Nathanael before this encounter - not in a physical sense of having seen him before - but in a more spiritual sense of having had his hand on Nathanael’s life before that encounter took place.

Jesus Christ had found Nathanael, just as he had found Philip even though both Philip and Nathanael thought they had found Jesus. And there is a real sense of peace that we can derive from the knowledge that God has had his hand on us even before we became aware of him.

The words “I saw you under the fig tree”. are used three other times in the Bible:

(1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10.)

And each time that phrase is used, sitting under the fig-tree is a symbol of living in the peace and blessing of God.

in a relationship with Jesus, there is even more for Nathanael life: far more than obedience to the Jewish law would ever give him.

Jesus says to him: “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” I think Jesus is commending him for having been an obedient Jew but he is calling Nathanael into a deeper place of peace and blessing through a relationship with himself.

And, as Christians, we know that peace and blessing can only derive from our relationship with Jesus. The more we allow Jesus to be the centre of our lives, the more we know peace in our hearts.

In this very simple passage; we have a lovely story about the calling of Philip and Nathanael and it teaches us about the nature of discipleship…

We are called into a life of peace and blessing with God: Jesus sees us, he knows everything about us and perceives our deepest needs and, if we follow him, as he says to Nathanael “[we] will see heaven opened…”

Jesus Christ is, indeed, a Saviour to be followed and it is a lifetime’s work for us to live out these two simple instructions: “Follow me!” “Come and see!”

Today, we follow.

Today, we come – and we will see.