Beloved, John 1:43-51 serves as our text for the Second Sunday after Epiphany.
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the first chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Jesus Calling His Disciples
Full of the Father’s delight and still dripping with the Spirit’s blessing Jesus steps out of the water and sets His heart towards fallen sinners in a broken, depraved world. Wherever He goes there goes the Gospel. Wherever He speaks, there speaks the heart and mind of the LORD. The movement of God’s heart and the intentions of His mind are made manifest most especially in His Son, the One born of Mary and baptized by John. For this is His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. The Lord delights to send Him for us, for you and me and the world. Sending His Son, our God bends low toward Humanity to save Humanity from the perils sin, certain death and eternal destruction.
With the stakes so high, the consequences so lasting, Jesus does not wait for the crowds to gather round about Him, for disciples to choose him – as was the custom of his day. No! Jesus isn’t hoping that fallen sinners see the light and make their decision to follow Him. He knows our condition. He knows the depravity of our souls. He knows that men cannot choose to be born again, that they cannot “be born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man.” Humanity is dead, dead to God and dead to one another. Jesus is life, alive to God and living for his neighbor. Therefore Jesus does not put on a show. He doesn’t make a splash in Jewish society. There’s no flashing lights, no dancing i-pads, no hip-hop introductions, nor any fireworks. Jesus isn’t accompanied by a fog machine with Philipp doing his best Ed McMahon impression, announcing “Heeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Jesus!”
There’s only the Father’s Voice from heaven, the Spirit’s descent like a dove, and John’s finger pointing out – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World.”
And then Jesus gets to work. Jesus does the calling. Jesus does the finding. Jesus does the discipling. The following day, Jesus finds Philipp. Philipp finds Nathanael. Nathanael finds One who knew Him before he saw Him.
Finding Jesus? Seeking Spiritual Truths in all the Wrong Places
There is much for us to glean from this text this morning. You can bet that many sermons throughout Christendom will make this text all about Philipp and the next great evangelism method. Such a sermon would miss the mark, because it would miss Jesus.
The gospel is always about Jesus and the work He does for us. It’s not about us and the work we do for Him. It’s not about us. That’s a confusion of Law and Gospel. And when there’s a confusion of Law and Gospel, the Law dominates and the Gospel gets lost. In other words, Jesus gets lost. Thus we see the problem when we set out to do the finding, or expect the unbelieving world to do the searching and the seeking.
We mustn’t forget that our default mode, our fallen nature, is always one of unbelief. We are constantly tugged away from the promises of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness and towards something, anything, else. This is where the world is in their unbelief. And this is where we are wont to go.
Wanting to go this way we all too often begin to seek and to search for Jesus where He has not promised to be for us. You see, the Gospel is Jesus for us. But this can only be known by faith which believes the Word. When we act according to our nature, according what seems right, what seems like the way we should go, then the question of certainty is forever before us. “How do I know for sure that I’ve found Jesus?” “How do I know for sure the Spirit is in this place?” “How do I know for sure that I sincerely invited Jesus into my heart?” And then we grasp anything but the right thing. We are compelled to look inward. I must be saved because: “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart.” Well, what about when you don’t feel so joyful? What then? “Well, that’s why I need to put more into my worship – I’ve got to find the joy again, get the joy back in my heart, get Jesus back in my life. So I’ve got do more for God, be a better me, the best me that I can be, live holier than the Pharisees, pray longer than anyone I know. I’ve got to be like Philipp and find as many Nathanael’s as possible. I’ve got to build the kingdom, glorify the Lord, praise His Name with all that I am. I’ve got to do my part!” Ah, but the question never goes away. “How do you know for sure?”
A life of doubt is a misguided life for it is not guided by Jesus and His Word. It is a life . . . under shadow of the law. It is a life . . . of unbelief. Unbelief does a lot of seeking and searching because it doesn’t do any finding. Be still! Stop! Repent, beloved! Repent and believe the gospel for you.
I See You, I Know You
The Gospel for you is Jesus. Jesus sees you like He sees Nathanael – sitting under a fig tree wondering if anything good can come from Nazareth. He sees your heart. He knows your mind. He knows what you’ve done and what you’ve left undone. He knows your hurts, your scars, your struggles, your trials and tribulations. He knows where you’ve been, what you’re planning, what you’re doing and where you’re going. And through His messenger He calls you out from under the fig tree.
As in the Garden, “Where are you? What have done?” is a plea from God to receive His salvation. The Lord calls you repentance and to faith, away from your sin and towards Jesus. He calls you. He initiates the conversation. He opens your ears. He quickens your heart. He enlightens your mind. He takes away your sins. All of that work is His work, not yours. It’s not even the messenger’s work.
Thus, doing His Work as Lamb of God, He takes your sins far, far away, as far as the east is from the west, as far as hell is from heaven, as far as death is from life. He takes them and crucifies them in His flesh. For the wages of sin is death and Jesus doesn’t want you or anyone else to suffer sin’s consequences. So He suffers it. He endures it. He sheds His blood. He surrenders His life. He is crucified, dead, and buried, and your sins go with Him. Three days later He rises from the dead, with no sin and never to die again, promising eternal life and forgiveness to all who believe on His name, to all who receive Him, all who are born, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, or the will of men, but born of God.”
Finding Jesus in Moses and the Prophets (The WORD)
Men, women, and children, even infants born of God are born of water and the Spirit, water and the Word. The water isn’t plain water when its water and the Word. When its water and the Word its Holy Water, Divine Water, Water full of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fullness of this water is given testimony by Moses and the Prophets, in the Psalms and from the Apostles. “This is one of Whom Moses and the Prophets wrote!”
Thus, Jesus finds sinners in the Water. He calls them by Name, called you by Name. He forgives sins, washes them away in a holy flood, drowns old Adam and raises up New Christians. Again, no flashy lights, no fog machines, no hip-hop introductions or I-pad dance sets. Just water and the Word of Jesus poured, splashed, or sprinkled over someone like you, or me, or a tiny baby, over sinners who are longing for something great to come out of Nazareth.
In this font is where Jesus saves. By this Water and His Word is how Jesus saves. He uses means. Through these means, the means He’s chosen to bless with His Word, He gives Himself to sinners that sinners be made saints.
He dies that you live again. He rises that you live forever in paradise. Weary souls, souls that have been burdened with the Law, hearts couched under the shadow of the fig tree, minds darkened with sin find rest in the promises of their baptism, the preaching of Jesus’ words and works, and the blessed supper of His Body and His Blood. No more seeking. No more searching. No more working. No more wondering. No more doubt, no more despair. All is well in Jesus’ hands. All is good in Jesus’ Word. And all the while, through all the means, as He forgives so also He says, “follow Me.”
Disciples seeing Greater Things than These
Beloved in the Lord, disciples of Jesus are found by Jesus and called by Jesus to “follow me.” We do the following by grace through faith. It is not for us to do the leading. When we lead where we ought to follow, we usually the follow the path that seems right to men. Don’t go down that path. Stop! Be Still! Hear the voice of Jesus in Moses and the Prophets the Psalms and the Apostles. Listen as Christ crucified is preached to you and for you! Remember your baptism into His death and resurrection. Feast on His Supper for the forgiveness of your sins. Rest in His grace given you on His Day in His house, the place that bears His Name. You will see great things, things Jacob dreamed of, things Nathanael longed for, things only seen by faith and not by works. “Come and See.” Angels are ascending and descending even now, even here. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
 John 1:12