Read John 1:43-51 and you’ll discover how Jesus gathered his earliest disciples. It’s not surprising that Jesus needed followers. Founders of successful sects must have a dedicated cadre of supporters to firmly establishment their movement.
In today’s verses, Jesus begins by calling Philip, who then went to find Nathanael and rally him to Jesus of Nazareth. Philip was convinced that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah. Duly excited, Philip rushed to Nathanael, whose skeptical reply questioned Jesus’ origins. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Cynicism is not new, and whether ancient or modern, a jaded attitude can cloud peoples’ perceptions.
Then something unexpected happened. Jesus praised Nathanael. It’s as rare as hen’s teeth for Jesus to offer praise, and yet the Lord’s words do precisely this: “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47b). Perhaps Nathanael’s attitude hadn’t turned sour after all. Yet the strange encounter isn’t over. An odd tidbit emerges when Jesus miraculously saw Nathanael under a fig tree before the pair met. Nathanael’s response indicates that he was open to Jesus’ divine nature and that he was willing to become on of Jesus’ closest followers.
What does all of this talk of Nathanael do for us today, right now? For one, we can obtain a boost from the excitement of being recruited into divine service. As intentional Christians we are both privileged and obligated to respond to God’s invitation. Another worthy consideration is our spiritual status. So ask yourself this: Are you a disciple of Christ? We may be uncertain or even skeptical as we seek direction (as Nathanael was at first), but if we remain open we can accept God’s call. We need to generate encouragement to live in such a way as to become disciples in word and deed.
Is this all for today’s message? Not quite. Look around and who do you see? Or, who is it that you don’t see? If our church is to continue our positive momentum then we need to do what Philip did and invite people, again and again if necessary. Outreach isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Let’s not forget the story: Jesus called Philip, Philip called Nathanael, and Nathanael did his part to continue the process. This outreach pattern continued until Christianity became what it is today. This simple yet magnificent pattern of outreach remains as powerful as ever. Jesus still calls us; Jesus calls you and me. And Jesus will call those whose names we don’t yet know. Our part in this? Listen. Be aware and awake. Say “Yes!” as the Spirit stirs you to share your faith. It could be that any empty space in the pew next to you will be filled because someone you invite will sit there and connect with God.