January 17, 2021
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 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.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 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.”
Blueprints are key for any successful building project. From the project manager on a skyscraper to the weekend warrior, a good set of plans makes a project go much smoother. Without a good set of plans, a project can quickly go off track. For example, if you find designs for a bunkbed on Pinterest and get all the materials, but do not follow the directions, then you might end up building something that could support a mattress, but does not impress the kids or your spouse, or look anything like the picture on the original post. A good set of blueprints and holding to them sets the stage for a successful project.
First impressions like blueprints are just the beginning. When someone gets the blueprints to their house, they do not put the blueprints on the ground and say, “Ah, what a nice home I now have.” The blueprints are not going to keep you safe from the elements, provide you with privacy, a place to raise a family or a place for all your stuff. A piece of paper is nowhere near a finished home. In the same way, no one meets someone for the first time and says, “Let’s get married, or open a business together, or be roommates, or even split the check.” You might have an instant connection with someone based on looks, mutual interests or a similar location, but you need more than just a first impression to get to know someone.
In our reading from John 1, a man named Nathanael was wrestling with his first impressions of Jesus. In John 1, we hear about Jesus calling some of his first disciples. One of the men Jesus called as his disciple was Philip, who was from the same city as some of Jesus other disciples and had likely heard about him from them. After Jesus called Philip to follow him, 45 “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.’” Nathanael knew what God has spoken through Moses and the prophets, the promises in the books we know as the Old Testament. Nathanael believed in God, but he was not ready to trust what Philip said because Moses and the prophets never said anything about the Savior coming from Nazareth. Plus, Nazareth was not known as a nice city or good place to be from. Instead, Bethlehem was the place the Savior would come from, which is where Jesus was born, but he grew up in Nazareth. Philip did not take time to convince or explain any details to Nathanael when met with doubts about Jesus, which is something we are all tempted to do. Instead, Philip simply said, 46 … “Come and see.”
Like Nathanael, your first impression and expectations of God need to be corrected. Relying on your own ideas or the ideas of others for who God is keeps you separated from God. Coming up with your own ideas for who God is would be like coming up with your own set of blueprints to a house that has already been built. God is the Creator, and he made the world for you. And when the world was broken by sin, God gave you his blueprints to take you out of this broken world and bring you to live with him in the new world, in heaven. Blueprints that point to Jesus.
Nathanael’s skepticism of Jesus was overcome by the Word of God. 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” It was a miracle that Jesus knew where Nathanael was before he and Jesus met. It revealed that Jesus knew things ordinary people did not know. It revealed that he was the one who he, Philip, and the other disciples had been looking for. Jesus was the one Israel had been looking for. Thousands of years of promises were now standing before him and Nathanael was hearing the Word of God from God himself.
The skepticism, wrong first impression and incorrect blueprints were all erased with Jesus’ words. 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” Jesus display of power to Nathanael was the first small glimpse of Jesus’ incredible power as the Son of God and true King of Israel. 51 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.” Jesus used another title for himself, the Son of Man, revealing his connection to all of humanity. In Genesis 28, Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, whose name was later changed to Israel, who had twelve sons who became the people of Israel, “12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” And, then God spoke from heaven, 14 … “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” The word offspring was singular, it was referring to the one man, Jesus. Through Jesus, the rightful King of Israel, the Son of God and Son of Man, all people on earth would be blessed for his saving work. Nathanael saw the smallest glimpse of Jesus’ power when he told him that he had been sitting under the fig tree. Nathanael would go on to see Jesus stop the wind and waves in a huge storm as he feared for his life. He would see Jesus walk on water, feed thousands with a few loaves and fish, heal blind, deaf, paralyzed, leprous, even raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet, even those were just a glimpse of Jesus purpose as the Son of Man. Not only God and King, but also the Man who would be taken captive and led off to die, the perfect sacrifice. Then, he would see the risen Savior! He would see the nail marks in those risen hands! He would hear Jesus say, “Peace be with you.” After having been buried three days. He would see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears. And yet there would be even greater things for Nathanael to see, for he would see heaven having reached the greatest sight of all, to be with God living without sin, pain or doubt, living in perfect, complete joy, peace and love.
Jesus has called you from skepticism, doubts and preconceived notions to the truth of who he is. Paul wrote these words to the followers, believers, disciples of Jesus in Thessalonica almost 2,000 years ago and the words are still true for you, 2 Thessalonians 2, 13 “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” You were chosen by God to believe in Jesus. The Holy Spirit saved you with the gift of faith when you heard the Word of God, the words recorded in letters passed down through the centuries. John wrote in his gospel, John 20, 31 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” We hold on to these words, to the Bible because they give us the first impression, the blueprints and the details of the greater things to come.
There was a young boy who 1 Samuel 3, 7 … “did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” God called out to him three times, and finally a priest named Eli who served in the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem 8 … “realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’” God knew Philip, Nathanael, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Samuel, and he called them to faith. God knows each of you by name and he has called you to be his own child. All the answers about who God is are in his Word. He is kind, loving, forgiving and the source of life. He has built a home for you that will last forever in heaven. And for those in your life who are lost in their own ideas of who God is, how life should be or what comes after death, you do not have to convince them of the truth with long detailed explanations. Simply say what Philip said to Nathanael, 46 … “Come and see.”
Blueprints are key for any successful building project. There are skeptics who have come up with other definitions for who God is, but they are all just words on paper. There is only one Son of God and Son of Man who was born, lived, died and rose. No one else has ever brought themselves back from the dead. There is only one Savior Jesus. And for now, you have great things from him in your baptism; the washing away of your sins, his Word and the gift of faith from the Holy Spirit, and his body and blood in the bread and wine for the forgiveness and strengthening of your faith, but the Word promises you will see greater things, one day you will see heaven, you will Philip, Nathanael, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, more that you will see the greatest thing, you will see the nail marks and the pierced side, you will see the face of your Savior Jesus. Amen.