Why? It’s a classic question. Anyone who has raised children knows the power of the “why.” They always want to know why, and we don’t grow out of it. So last week, when we looked at Jesus saying, “Follow me,” we looked at how his word gives us the power to do that. We never quite got around to asking that kindergarten question — Why?
Why would we want to follow him? Why should Philip want to give up his home and life and serve him? Why would we want to follow Jesus when we know that means a cross?
In our text from John 1:43-51, God’s word gives us the answer. While we see Philip jumping at the chance to follow him, his friend Nathanael slows us down and makes us deal with the “why.”
You see, Nathanael wasn’t so sure he wanted to follow Jesus. In verse 46, after Philip had told him all about Jesus and who he was, all we hear Nathanael say is, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
Nathanael needed to be convinced. Nathanael needed his questions answered, so Philip tells him just to come and see. Philip decided to let Jesus do the work instead of trying to take it on himself.
Then when Nathanael does come and see, Jesus shows him his power, to let him know he knew more about him than any human could.
Again the word worked, and in three short verses, Jesus takes Nathanael from scoffing at this Nazarene to calling him (Verse 49), “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Think about that confession. Those words would put Nathanael in some serious trouble with just about anyone around. The religious leaders would call him a blasphemer for saying, “Son of God,” which was punishable by death. The government would name him a traitor for that “King of Israel” bit. However, Nathanael freely confesses it. He was convinced.
Look what happened next, that’s the exciting part. Jesus says, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:50-51).
And we have seen those great things, haven’t we? Each of you has seen such value in God and his word that you took the time to read this article. If you are a member of a church, if it is anything like mine, you’ve made a solemn promise to be there to grow in it at worship and Bible study. Chances are you’ve even committed to supporting the work of that church through time, talent and treasure. You’ve seen that much value in it, and where that happens, great things are sure to follow.
And they do. Sure sometimes the temptation is to let them get lost in the business of church, but don’t let that fool you. Great things are going on. God’s word is preached, his promises are proclaimed and the believers are encouraged. Those are great things.
I don’t know what else you call something like a baptism, where heaven opens and that person receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins and the power for a new life. In baptism, God’s word accomplishes what it says as it names that person as God’s child. That is a great thing, greater than so many of the things we set our hearts on.
Or how about confirmations — where someone stands up in front of God and his congregation and makes a promise? Seeing someone at the point where they are ready to stand up for the truth and confess that they would rather die than fall away — that’s a serious thing. That is a great thing.
And just speaking for my home congregation, God has been showing us that again and again, blessing us with amazing growth, adding more and more people to this body of Christ, gathered to do God’s word and God’s will.
But even all those great things are just a foretaste. The fellowship we share as a congregation, the events we put on, the friendships we celebrate, the praise we sing and the truth we confess together, as amazing as all that is, it is just a foretaste, just a glimpse, just a shadow of what we will see.
Because Jesus’ word is powerful, and because he empowered you to hear that word, your sins are forgiven, and you are dressed in the robes of his perfection — the garments of heaven. Because Jesus said, “Follow Me,” you get to see Him forever.
Because Jesus said, “Follow Me,” you get to celebrate with these believers you see around you here forever and ever in heaven.
You think you’ve seen something special at church? We ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Heaven is open to us. We have a feast and fellowship waiting for us that we can’t even fully comprehend.
So let’s follow him.
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.