When God called us we had an epiphany, a theophany, a revelation, an appearing of our Savior in our daily lives. It may have been as simple as a manifestation of God in our conscience or as great as a vision from God. In some way God revealed himself to us. That was just the beginning.
Let us understand a little of how God reveals himself to us.
We will look at the call of Philip and Nathaniel in John 1:43-51 and compare that to our call.
Philip, Peter and Andrew from Bethsaida
Each came to Jesus, our Provider
Philip found Nathanael and told him
We found the one of whom it’s written
Jesus of Nazareth I declare
Can anything good come from there!
Philip said to just come and see
Jesus saw in Nate no hypocrisy
He saw Nate sitting under a tree
Nate saw in Jesus divinity
A man of faith and great devotion
Who would soon see heaven open
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. He witnessed John the Baptist call Jesus the Lamb of God. A day after Peter was called, Jesus called Philip who invited Nathaniel to come and see (John 1:43-51). Philip’s name is included in the three lists of Apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:13-16). John records three incidents involving Philip (John 6:5-7; 12:21-23; 14:8-9), one regarding the insufficiency of bread to feed the multitude, a second reporting some gentiles’ wish to see Jesus, and third in his desire to see the Father. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes Philip as “a naïve, somewhat shy, sober-minded man.” He is mentioned in Acts 1:13 as part of the eleven remaining Apostles. He possibly preached in places from Greece to Syria.
Nathaniel was one of the first disciples of Jesus. He was born at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus turned the water into wine. He was invited to see Jesus by his friend Philip (John 1:43-51). Most scholars believe that Nathanael is the first name of the Apostle Bartholomew of Matthew, Mark and Luke. They do not mention Nathaniel, but include Bartholomew among the twelve. Bartholomew means in Aramaic Bar-Talmay (son of Talmay) and was thus probably Nathaniel’s family name or his father’s occupation, a plowman. The world’s oldest national church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, claims Bartholomew and Thaddeus as its co-founders. Bartholomew is believed to have been martyred in Armenia, crucified upside down and decapitated. Ancient histories also record him preaching in parts of India, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Lycaonia, Phrygia and on the shores of the Black Sea.
When Philip invited Nathaniel to come and see Jesus (John 1:43-51), his encounter was a life-changing epiphany. Jesus revealed something simple about his previous activity and immediately Nathaniel realized that he was talking to the Son of God, the king of Israel. Those illuminating moments of the divine are magnificent. Many people encounter God in everyday events, but quickly pick themselves up, dust themselves off and move on as if nothing happened. However, God-moments are important experiences not to be so easily dismissed. It is precisely at those times that we realize what are the deeper, important things of life, and the nature of reality beyond what our physical senses perceive. An epiphany is like when the background noise of this world’s distractions suddenly fades to nothing and the only sound left is the still, quiet voice of God.
When Philip told Nathanael that they had found the one Moses wrote about in the law (John 1:43-51), Nathaniel’s initial reaction was disbelief. We may react in similar fashion today. Can anything good come out of Mexico, Maine or Mumbai? Our prejudices blind us to finding Jesus. It may not be geographical prejudice. It may be linguistic, someone with a different accent or grammar. It may be racial, someone of a different ethnic group or skin color. It may be denominational, someone of a different church background. It may be educational, someone of a different educational level or field. Bigotry is not logical, but it is built within all of us, and it prevents us from finding Jesus. Mother Teresa once said that the dying, the cripple, the mental, the unwanted, the unloved they are Jesus in disguise. [http://www.servelec.net/mothertheresa.htm]
When Jesus found Philip he had a simple message (John 1:43-51), “Follow me!” That is the same message that Jesus gives to us today. The Christian journey is filled with mixed messages: “Follow a man! Follow a woman! Follow the rules! Follow the traditions! Follow the discipline! Follow the confession! Follow the whims! Follow the fads!” Yet none of those things defines Christianity. When we find Jesus, we are not satisfied with following him. So, we invent rules that neither Jesus nor the Apostles did and we ignore the things that Jesus taught. We follow our egos and worship our own ideas instead of the Christianity of Jesus. This passage contains one of the simplest and most profound definitions of what Christianity is all about. Let’s remember those important words that Jesus said when he found Philip, “Follow me!”
Not Finding Jesus
When Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses, God was very angry with them (Numbers 12:1-9). Blinded by their criticisms, they failed to find God behind his servant. When David had the opportunity to avenge himself against Saul’s persecution, he refused because he found God in the picture. He said that he would not lift his hand against God’s anointed (1 Samuel 26:22-24). When Ananias and Sapphira lied to church leaders about their offering, they only saw people (Acts 5:1-10). They did not find Jesus in the picture. When people killed Jesus and the prophets, they did not acknowledge the presence of God (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). Philip found Jesus (John 1:43-51) and became a true disciple. Like Nathanial, have we found the Son of God, the king of Israel, or have we only found faulty people?
Come and See Jesus
When Philip found Jesus (John 1:43-51) he told Nathanael who initially scoffed. Philip then invited him to come and see. When we tell people about our faith they sometimes scoff. Philip set a good example. He did not try to argue with Nathanael, but simply invited him to come and see for himself. That’s a great way to handle scoffers. Ultimately people must see Jesus to come to faith. Our local church has strengths. We are a praying, compassionate and giving church. We put on great pot luck meals. But, ultimately unless people find Jesus among us, they have not found the purpose behind it all. Like Nathanael, when people come and see Jesus in our midst, then they find faith. That’s the same invitation that Jesus also made to two disciples of John the baptizer, come and see.
A Non-Threatening Invitation
The invitation to come and see (John 1:43-51) is non-threatening. It is not an argument. It is not applying pressure or any kind of manipulation. Why are so many of us afraid to offer such a simple invitation? When people are tired of this world and its false advertising, let’s invite them to come and see Jesus. When people are weary and heavily laden with the consequences of wrong decisions, let’s invite them to come and see Jesus. When people are beset with every kind of worry and anxiety, let’s invite them to come and see Jesus. When people are tired of false religion, let’s invite them to come and see Jesus. Not once did Jesus’ disciples ask if others had given their heart to the Lord or where they would spend eternity. They simply made a non-threatening invitation.
Jesus Made No Altar Calls
Jesus and his disciples did not make altar calls. Charles Finney popularized them in the 1800’s. In Defense of the Altar Call Steve Deneff quoted Charles Spurgeon, who did not use altar calls. He criticized churches which no longer have altar calls as watering down the Gospel. Does he promote human techniques and also criticize Jesus? Deneff claims that altar calls build an accountable community via testimony and confession. Are we more righteous than Jesus? Why not follow Jesus’ example? Altar calls are not a condition of salvation. They can cause false confessions manipulated by hype. They can be misused to promote a preacher more than Jesus. They are something seen, but faith is the evidence of things not seen. What did Jesus' disciples do? They often issued a simple invitation to come and see Jesus (John 1:43-51).
Jesus’ Second Coming will be an epiphany, just as his first coming was. Jesus also comes to us every day. He is the needy person we feed, the stranger we invite, the sick we visit, the widow and orphan we help. Pure religion is about learning to experience him and respond to his call everyday.