August 24, 2008 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church - Mechanicsburg, PA
Nathanael said: “Can anything good come out of
On this day, we commemorate the Apostle Bartholomew, one of the Twelve whom Jesus called to be a witness of His ministry, death, and resurrection. Bartholomew is named in the lists of apostles given by the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In each of these lists, Bartholomew is connected to Philip, following him in order. But as was heard in today’s Gospel, there is this man Nathanael connected to Philip. In
Now what is much more important than first and last names is the incident that involves this Nathanael Bartholomew. You heard first the call of Philip to be a disciple: “Jesus found Philip and said to him: ‘Follow
But what about Nathanael? How does he become part of the Twelve? He is brought to Jesus: “Philip found Nathanael and said to him: ‘We have found Him of whom Moses wrote in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of
So after being told about Jesus by Philip, Nathanael immediately got up and eagerly went with him to see this remarkable figure from Nazareth . . . or not. The Gospel record is just the opposite: “Nathanael said to him: ‘Can anything good come out of
Nathanael can’t believe it. He doubts the veracity of what Philip says. But Philip answers in the only way he can: “Come and see.” Just see the Man. Hear what He has to say. Andrew and Peter are already following Him, and they’re from
As the Gospel reading recorded, Nathanael did go and see. And when Jesus identifies him as “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” and says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Nathanael is convinced about Jesus’ identity. He is made a disciple through the confession: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of
The call of Nathanael Bartholomew to discipleship really is not very different than what happens among you. You don’t have Jesus-in-the-flesh walking and finding people to make His disciples. Yet, He does continue His work and calls new people to be believers and witnesses to His ministry, death, and resurrection through means that He chooses. There are many “come and see” events taking place around the world and even here, just like
But very often, the reaction is exactly like Nathanael’s: “Can anything good come out of
Today, there is similar doubt. But it goes to both the message and the packaging. Most Americans say they believe in a god or Supreme Being. But to say that Jesus is God and the only way to salvation, and that His message and work are only found in the Church that baptizes, confesses sins, communes, and teaches all that He commanded: then we won’t see 9 out of 10 say they believe that sort of God. The question is often asked: “Can anything good come out of that place?”
These are the questions that sin-corrupted minds ask, questions that exhibit unbelief. Can anything good come out of teaching about millennia-old commandments and sin and depravity and corruption of humanity? Can anything good come out of denying the full freedom of thought and self-determination? Can anything good come out of a group that clings to the rituals and myths of the past and doesn’t exhibit a miraculous, dazzling power and ability? Can anything good come out of humbling yourself and confessing a need for a Savior and even when you do follow Him, your life isn’t great and perfect?
Aren’t these the thoughts asked by those around you, perhaps even the thoughts that you have asked with your own minds and tongues? Can anything good come out of Mechanicsburg and what goes on at
The packaging of Christ’s message may not be grand. In fact, His disciples are told that it won’t be. That’s what the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians, as you heard: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” Can anything good come out of that?
Certainly it can. For in such things is your salvation found. In such things, which Jesus Himself endured, you find eternal deliverance. This is what Moses and the Prophets wrote. “Come and see.” See Him who was persecuted like Jeremiah, sold like Joseph, who suffered and died just as Isaiah described, but was buried and resurrected like Jonah. “Come and see” if anything good can come out of that humbleness and then exaltation: for that is the way the Serpent’s head is crushed and death is swallowed up and the gates to
Remember what Jesus told Nathanael: “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these. . . .Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of
You are called to see what is enclosed in the “jars of clay,” to look beyond the packaging with the eyes of faith. Jesus grants you the ability to see and believe what is beyond the veil. He is the Suffering Savior who dies and yet delivers from death. Christ places His authority to forgive sins in sinful humans. He veils His words with resurrecting power for body and soul in tap water. Jesus places eternal life in bread and wine what would not even feed someone for a day. Your Lord makes divine declarations that no human ear should ever hear into simple English words. None of it is impressive to the eye. The packaging doesn’t dazzle or amaze. It all suffers from the
But the answer is yes. That is what Philip was given to know and believe. And it was extended to Nathanael as the invitation was given to him: “Come and see.” Jesus grants Bartholomew faith as He calls him to apostleship. Where doubt once ruled, belief was given its place. Faith saw the heavenly veiled within the earthly, the grand hidden in the humble. For this is how the Lord God chooses to work, as you can see in Jesus’ life and throughout the Scriptures. It is what He chooses to make you partakers of. And He even gives you the privilege to say: “Come and see.” Through such invitation given to those you encounter, whether your family or fellow townspeople, the Holy Spirit may bring others into discipleship. “Come and see” is the invitation for others to become part of the good thing that your Lord Jesus Christ has here in Mechanicsburg.
The promise is meant for all whom Christ calls by the Holy Spirit through the Church. You have the heavenly here “in jars of clay,” so that “the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies.” It will be manifested imperfectly and in part by what you do, by your acts of service in your vocations. But what you also know and believe is that this “life of Jesus” will be revealed for all to see as it truly is. Like Nathanael Bartholomew, “you will see greater things than these,” on the day when “heaven is opened, and the angels ascend and descend on the Son of
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.