2nd Sunday after Epiphany (B)
January 17, 2021
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel from St. John.
Ten years ago, I was the Sac City Circuit’s delegate to the National Convention of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. It was an important one; lots of decisions were made regarding the structure and the future of the synod. It was also a long one, I think I was gone nine days. With two days to go, the newly elected President, Rev. Matthew Harrison hosted a party at a church in Houston. Everyone was invited, but wanting some quiet time alone, I skipped it. From all the reports, I missed a fantastic event with all you could eat Texas BBQ, an endless supply of beer, and free books. If I had known about all this, I would’ve accepted the invitation, instead I missed out. That’s the thing about invitations, sometimes you miss out. There’s another invitation that’s been extended, and it’s far better than free beer and BBQ, and it’s one that shouldn’t be declined. It’s from Jesus who says to you, “Follow Me”.
You may remember that the first invitation to see Jesus came from the Christmas angels; thirty years later, the invitation came from John the Baptist. When Andrew and John heard the Baptist’s invitation and went after Jesus, He invited them to spend the day with Him. The next day, Jesus found Philip and said, “Follow me”, and Philip too was led to accept the invitation. Jesus invited these men to be part of the salvation story, to have a front row seat to everything He would do as the Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the world. These men are amazing; they accepted the invitation of Jesus with no clue what it would mean for the rest of their lives.
You have an advantage over those disciples, you’re invited to follow Jesus already knowing what He’s inviting you to. You do realize what the invitation is for, don’t you? Do you realize that His invitation to follow Him is unlike any other, that nothing can compare to what He has done for you? He’s inviting you follow Him and be forgiven. He’s inviting you to follow Him and one day see all the glories of Heaven. He invited Andrew, Peter, John, and now you: “Follow Me”.
Or are you like Nathaniel, a bit skeptical, maybe a little cynical. When Philip finds Nathaniel he says, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” What joy Philip shares with Nathaniel! We’ve found the Savior! And Nathaniel may have believed Philip until he heard the word Nazareth: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel couldn’t believe the Savior would come from such a place. He almost let his skepticism keep him from accepting the invitation. You know where He comes from, but does your cynicism make you sometimes wonder if His invitation is for you? You ever find yourself thinking, “How could Jesus forgive me? Of all people, why would God forgive me? Jesus isn’t inviting me, I’m not good enough. I’m not the right kind of person.”
When Nathaniel revealed his skepticism, Philip didn’t argue with him. He just said, “Come and see”. I know that sometimes you’re skeptical, maybe you are right now. I’m not going to argue with you, instead I invite you to come and see. Come see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and not just in some general way either. He has come to take your sin away. He’s personally inviting you to follow Him to the cross where He reveals the body that bears the punishment your sins deserve. He’s inviting you to stand at that the foot of the cross and see His forgiving blood flowing down. He’s inviting you to His resurrection, to stand outside the empty tomb and see Him standing triumphantly over Death. Do you hear His invitation to follow Him and be forgiven, freed from the chains that bound you to Satan? Come and see with your eyes of faith, the glories of Heaven that await you. For what Jesus says to Nathaniel, He also says to you: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The invitation to follow Jesus isn’t just about the forgiveness of sins and going to Heaven. It’s also an invitation to radically change your life. Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathaniel, and the rest left everything behind to follow Jesus. They didn’t know what was coming, but they trusted Him. We don’t know what’s coming either, still we trust Him as well. We leave behind our earthly sins and worldly desires for something greater, an invitation to follow the Savior all the days of our lives.
When Philip met Jesus, he immediately went to find Nathaniel. We don’t know why, except that Philip couldn’t help himself, he was completely overwhelmed by Jesus’ invitation. The invitation to follow Jesus is literally a life transforming event and none of you are like you were before you were saved. You too should be completely overwhelmed by what Jesus has done. You’re saved from Hell, your sins are forgiven, you’ll one day live with God forever, all because Jesus said to you, “Follow me.” How can we keep this incredible invitation to ourselves? You’ve been blessed to see your salvation, now you’re blessed to invite others to come and see Jesus, who is their salvation as well. To sit on what we’ve experienced, to keep it to ourselves is to be the opposite of Philip. It’s to deprive others of Jesus. If they don’t know about Him, if they’re not invited to meet Him, they might be lost forever. Let’s not ever doubt that Jesus wants us to share this invitation. This is the greatest news in the history of the world. There’s literally nothing more important than inviting others to come and see the Lamb of God who takes away their Sin. There’s nothing better than to see someone brought to faith as they’ve heard Jesus say, “Follow Me.”
This world is full of skeptics and cynics; men and women and children who see no reason, logic, or purpose in hearing the invitation of Jesus. They don’t see anything good coming out of the Church or any reason whatsoever to believe in God. You know these people: spouse, child, grandchild, the clerk at the grocery store, the teller at the bank, a co-worker, a hunting buddy, a best friend. Every single one of them needs you to invite them to come and see Jesus. Don’t argue with them or berate them. Simply tell them about Jesus, invite them to be introduced to Him, and let Him do the work. You’ve received the greatest invitation ever, share it so that others may likewise know what you know about the man from Nazareth.
“Come, see, and follow me.” Jesus calls you to follow Him, let Him dispel your cynicism, receive the forgiveness of your sins. Not some of them, all of them. He’s invited you to a life and an afterlife unlike anything else. This is the greatest invitation ever, how can you keep it to yourself? You can’t! You never know if someone is going to say yes or no. Nathaniel could’ve gone either way, still Philip went. The joy of Christ’s invitation changed Him. It changes you. It changes everyone who follows Jesus through this life into the one to come.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen