FRANCIS ASBURY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Sunday, January 28, 2018
Reverend David Melville
Two encounters with Jesus as He began his public ministry concluded with this short but strong invitation: “Come and see.”
First, Philip, who had already accepted Jesus’ call to discipleship, invited his friend, Nathanael, to accept as well. When Nathanael questioned who this fellow Jesus was, Philip responded, “Come and see.” [John 1: 43-46]
And after the long conversation between a Samaritan woman and Jesus at a well, after the woman discovered who Jesus really was, and the living water He was offering, she didn’t keep it to herself, like Jonah wanted to do; she went to her neighbors and said, “Come see a man …” [John 4:28-29]
Did you know that this same invitation is still needed and is being extended today? As in Jesus’ day, some accept the invitation, some do not, resembling the king who threw a party and no one came. [Matthew 22: 1-3] As in Jesus’ day, some see Him in 2018, some do not. Some come to the banquet, some do not.
Last week I ended my message with the Great Commission Jesus gave us before He ascended into heaven: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” [Matthew 28:19-20] This is basically a world-wide invitation to come to a feast … to come see Jesus. Since we were together this past Sunday talking about that invitation, I learned of two persons to whom I need to practice what I preach and say, “Come, see a man.” We read the Bible on Sunday; real life happened on Monday.
One person I learned about this week is a husband – a good husband, like the ones all the lady contestants talk about on Wheel of Fortune — and his wife shared that he is not seeing Jesus right now. The other is a teenager, and it was his grandmother who shared that the young man had just received a used truck for his birthday (what a gift!), but had not yet received the gift of Jesus in his heart.
The response, or lack of response, by both people surprised me. I know both, and I had made certain assumptions about both.
I’d appreciate your indulging me this morning and permit me to share my thoughts with each man in the first person, as if they are in this room right now. I have thought and prayed this week about what I should or would say to each, given the opportunity. I’m not saying I will … as I acknowledged last Sunday when talking about carrying forth the Great Commission, I – like you – am a sinner. I ask God’s forgiveness for not personally inviting more lost strangers, family members and friends to “Come, see a man.”
I’m going to use fictitious names – let’s say, Robert and Jimmy – to protect the guilty … I mean the innocent … but I assure you, Jesus knows each one’s name and each one’s heart, as He knows yours.
Robert, I know that one of your stumbling blocks as a parent is a God – a heavenly Father – who permits suffering, or who apparently attempts to teach us lessons through suffering. Suffering builds character, right? This deity does not impress you as a loving God. And I know this is important to you, because you are, in my opinion, one of the best fathers and dads there could ever be. (Of course, I include Joaquin in that category!)
All I can suggest is that yes, God is like an earthly father in some ways, but He is different in even more ways. When we see Him only as our earthly father, we will be disappointed, as we often are disappointed in our own father. But God is so much stronger and wiser and unconditionally loving than our earthly parents, as only the original creator of us all can be.
We don’t go to church, we don’t believe in God in order to avoid suffering. And we can’t rely only upon ourselves to understand and accept our own suffering, or suffering in others … especially little, innocent children. In Dostoyevsky’s classic novel, The Brothers Karamazov, one of the brothers, Ivan, speaks for millions through history who have decided that suffering in general, and children’s suffering specifically, is the greatest argument against God’s existence.
I believe we see Jesus … we see God … when we see beyond suffering to beauty and peace. If we don’t see Jesus, we probably won’t see beyond our deepest sorrow and suffering. But we have to look and look closely for Jesus if we are to see Him, as Philip and his fellow disciples eventually did, and as the Samaritan woman saw Him right off the bat. We have to accept the invitation, “Come, see a man,” and most likely in a different light than we were raised. Why? Because we are raised by earthly parents, who, bless them, have their limitations.
Robert, I admire so much your empathy and compassion for those who suffer. I don’t proclaim that being a disciple of Jesus Christ will help you cope with suffering better or make sense of it; I do proclaim that being a disciple of Jesus Christ … which is a lifelong process – will help you see beyond suffering. And yes, before you interrupt, I have suffered. Being a disciple of Jesus — which is a daily walk, and not just the “rush” of baptism — will help you see things you otherwise would not see. That is my experience; that is what I want you to come and see. Jesus is not trying to offer you lessons through suffering; Jesus is trying to offer you life! Come see!
Jimmy, you’re a teenager who protests that you just don’t get it. You haven’t seen or felt what your sister, your girlfriend, and what your fellow athletes who participate in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes have seen or felt. Fair enough. You are not alone among teenagers; we all see at different times. But just because you have not seen Jesus does not mean He is not visible.
I urge you to keep or start looking. As you finish high school and hopefully go to college, look for Jesus as you seek and look for everything else in this big, wide, mysterious, curious world. Be curious about Christ! You say that you don’t understand “being saved” and “accepting Christ as your personal savior.” You just don’t get it. I hate to disappoint you, but you’re going to find that most of the best things in life … friendship, love, marriage, parenting, art, music, literature … are on many days impossible to figure out and understand. They are both magnificent and mysterious. But when you see them for what they are, oh, the vision!
Sometimes the best parts of life and the parts that endure the longest are those parts which you can’t always put your finger on … there’s something about them that you can’t wrap your mind around except through faith. Actually, you wrap your heart around them, rather than your mind. Faith is the best kind of glasses ever invented for seeing certain things. Jesus, Himself, never asked anything of us that He did not practice. Even Jesus had to have faith in His Father, in Himself, and in us. And if you don’t believe Jesus had faith in His Father, in Himself and in you and me, re-read His final prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his arrest. These prayers are found in the seventeenth chapter of John.
Maybe you are where you are in faith because of adults – both in the church and outside the church – who have disappointed you. Maybe I have disappointed you; I’ve been your life a little bit. But I’m only asking you to come see someone who is different than the adults who have taught you sports, have taught you how to kill and clean a deer, and who have given you a truck. I invite you to come and see someone who will teach you and give you much more … if you will look for and at Him.
For every good gift you have received from the world, you had to look for it, ask for it, and accept it, open it. It is no different with this mysterious man named Jesus. You’re looking for other things … you’re a teenager, for goodness sake! Look for Jesus too. You’re a good kid. You have lots of friends and family, who when possible, will give you lots of things. Jesus will give you life! Come and see!
I close by observing that accepting Jesus’ call and invitation is ultimately not an adventure we in the church own and control. We are not mere tour guides, showing you what we have found and seen; we remain the ones being led … the ones who stand in need of new eyes to see, day in and day out. New glasses.
The invitation to “come and see” is a call to surprises and to new possibilities … more surprises and possibilities than are known to mortal man and woman. Robert and Jimmy, I pray that each of you opens your eyes to such surprises and possibilities. Don’t look for Jesus in order to please family or others. Do it for yourself. You are the one Jesus died for, and you are the one Jesus loves.
Come and see Jesus as we sing our closing hymn, Just As I Am, #357.