September 6, 2014.
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
When I read through the opening of John’s gospel, I can’t help but get somewhat excited as he begins the story almost in novel form. His first sentence contains the main character, the Christ, the word, the Son of God, yet shrouded in beautiful metaphor and language. Then John the baptizer enters the scene, humble and focused on his main message “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (v. 23). The foundation is laid, the trumpet is sounded through John and then the Christ appears. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of this world!” What a statement!
For years the Israelites had been waiting on their Messiah who was to come and reconcile them to God. The anticipation must have been constantly growing as the situation for the children of Israel kept deteriorating. They had been in captivity after captivity, the world was being ruled by a pagan nation with a multiplicity of gods and it had been some 400 years since the last prophet had uttered the words of God, and even then their fathers had killed the prophets. There were different theories going around as to how the Messiah would come, such as the Pharisee’s belief that if the whole nation of Israel was righteous and holy for just one day, their salvation would come. The Prophets were read and taught thoroughly, and all eyes were waiting, longing to see Him. The Christ.
Then John heralded: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
He was here. The time had come.
“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.”
“Come and you will see.”Jesus didn’t seem to be in any rush throughout his ministry, especially at the beginning. Instead, the anticipation grew as word began to spread that the Christ had come. I like this phrase that is used a couple of times in John’s gospel, “Come and see,” because it is the promise of something more, yet by evidence and not flattering words. When Jesus began his ministry, it was a ministry of evidence, of power. Come and see. These were the ones who would bear his witness, being eye-witnesses to his glory. He had something to show them, and the people were willing to see.
“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Just imagine yourself in the shoes of Nathanael. A righteous man certainly educated the words of the prophets and waiting on his nation’s impending deliverance. Your brother comes to you and says, “We have found Him! The Messiah, the one spoken of by the prophets. He’s here- Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph’s son!” It must have been a shock to hear that the Christ was in Nazareth, a small village that was pretty insignificant in bible times. What good could come from there? There’s nothing there. It would be comparable to some small town in Kansas that no one has ever really heard of or has played no signifiant role outside of itself. The Messiah from Nazareth? “Come and see.”
“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him,“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Nathanael was willing to come and see, and that is just what he did. For Jesus recognized him immediately and made a prophetic insight into his life. Though this insight was minor. It was all Nathanael needed. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” I’ve sometimes wondered what Nathanael was doing under that tree that would convict him to this point almost immediately. But perhaps what is even more interesting is Jesus’ response to Nathanael. “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” Is this all you need to believe? You will see more. Jesus was not in the business of hiding his glory, at least not to those who he called. He did suppress his name somewhat in the beginning in some places, allegedly so as to keep his fame under control where He could actually work an effective ministry. He was the Messiah, after all, the one that the children of Israel had been waiting on since the fall of man in Genesis 3. And now he was here, needing no words to persuade men, but a call to “come and see.” Jesus told Nathanael that he would see greater things then these, and he delivered on that promise.
John begins his gospel with building suspense, not giving away everything right at the beginning, but giving enough to entice and speak interest in the Messiah. Then there is a humble bid, “come and see,” so as to invite us to hear more of the gospel and the ministry of Christ on this earth. That is his purpose for writing, that we might hear and believe in the one they call Jesus. That we might bid others to come and see the mighty works and sacrifice that he made for us. That we might call all who are willing come. John also ends with this purpose in mind, right after doubting Thomas had to see the marks on Jesus’ resurrected body to believe.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Though Jesus begins his ministry with “come and see,” he ends with “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Jn. 20:29).” He knew that he wasn’t going to be physically visible to see for all generations to come, yet he still required belief in him. And we are blessed by this belief, walking by faith, and not by sight. But He still bids us come, as He bids all mankind come. We have come, we have heard, we have believed. Now we must turn around and bid the invitation to all. Salvation has been brought to man! Why are we to be blessed alone, the gospel is for all.
Have you heard the invitation? Come and see.
“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”
Suggested Daily Reading: Isaiah 40, John 1-2, 20.
Blessed be his name.