Come and See

We’re in the season of Epiphany, which is the time when the church celebrates that God is made manifest in the human person of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. In our passage from the gospel of John, John the Baptist testified to what took place during Jesus’ baptism.

The man Jesus would rename as Peter and his brother Andrew were already John’s disciples. They were hanging out with John when he pointed Jesus out to them and described how the Holy Spirit come down onto Jesus, proving his identity as the Chosen One. John was the first evangelist.

The next day, Peter and Andrew walked away from John to follow Jesus instead.  

Then Jesus turned, saw them following, and asked them, “What are you looking for?”

It seems to me that the disciples were a bit flustered by the question. After all, they were meeting someone they’d heard about all their lives as the one who would save Israel, in a way the ultimate celebrity. They didn’t answer him directly, but instead asked Jesus where he was staying. They wanted to be with him, but didn’t know what to say. Jesus said, “Come and see.”

There are four parts to this story.  

The first is that someone the two disciples trusted pointed Jesus out as the Messiah. Most everyone who has never met Jesus personally needs another person to show the way to Him, someone to suggest and recommend Him. That can happen through an individual in a personal conversation, or in someone’s writings as in the Bible, or in songs, stories, or sermons.  

Here's an example. Bart Millard had an abusive father who beat him regularly with a belt. Bart became a Christian while he was away at summer camp. After he grew up and left home, he and his band called Mercy Me became famous for their Christian songs, including one you may have heard, I Can Only Imagine. When he visited his father years later seeking reconciliation, he found a changed man. His father had listened to Christian radio to stay connected to his son by listening to Bart’s songs and found Christ in what he heard.

The second part of the story from John is that the disciples had to think about what John told them. They didn’t act until John pointed Jesus out again the next day. I’m guessing they did a lot of talking among themselves about the idea of following someone else, perhaps asking other people what they knew about Jesus.

The third part is that Jesus asked them what they were looking for. They called him Rabbi, which means teacher, so we know they wanted to learn from him.  They also wanted to see for themselves whether he really was the Messiah, someone so long awaited as to seem too good to be true.

The fourth part is Jesus’ simple welcome, his offer that they “come and see” for themselves. Even though they hesitated, couldn’t really say what they wanted, he invited them to join him. He didn’t ask them about their background. He didn’t ask them more questions to see whether they were qualified or good enough to follow him. There was no job interview and no compulsion. This was the radical love and acceptance of Christ shining through. He invited them into something deeper, to help them discover exactly what they were longing for, what would fill the God-shaped hole in their hearts.

Think about this for a moment. If you weren’t already a Christian, what would you be looking for? According to Wikipedia, 61% of Americans identify themselves as Protestant or Catholic. 29% are unaffiliated, up from 26% in just three years since 2019. The younger ones often describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” What are they looking for? They can often find secular ways to meet their need for meaning, connection, purpose and belonging, especially through the technology of cell phones and the internet. In the past, these needs were met by going to the local church. Sadly, the word “evangelism” has become associated with people who approach strangers and ask them whether they’ve been saved, or preach on TV in expensive suits while asking for money. Our story from John shows that people listen best to the good news about Jesus from someone they know and trust.

When folks look for a church now, the denomination is not nearly as much of a factor as what the church is offering them and their families. They search with a consumer mentality. Does that church have plenty of five star ratings on the internet?

God knows we’re all struggling, as churches and as individuals, to exercise our faith amid the distractions of modern life. The invitation from Jesus is to “come and see,” staying open to God and to others around us, living in the present moment. This call to be a disciple is an offer to experience redemption and peace for yourself, to stay curious and follow Christ. The disciples followed, worked, and also told others about their personal experiences with Jesus. Like Jesus, they invited others to “come and see.” We need to follow their example, pointing people to Christ, then bringing them to church or Bible study to “come and see.”  

How can we help others understand the joy we find in our faith?

Here we are, on one of the busiest corners in town, and some people go by and wonder whether we’re still open. It’s not for lack of signs. Our lighted sign is great, and Greg keeps the verbiage on it fresh. Our new sign and banner by the parking lot are good, too.  

When people visit on Sunday, we make sure they feel welcome. If they give us their contact information, we send them a welcome letter. While we’re here in the building, we’re doing all we can to gain members.

The challenge, it seems to me, is what we’re doing - or not doing - the rest of the week. How much energy are we putting into helping the people we interact with outside of the church meet our wonderful savior? We think we can just let our actions speak louder than our words, witnessing through our works. But are we proclaiming the reason why we do what we do, why we support the missions and work of Christ’s church in this place and around the world?  

Before you can share the Christian faith with others, you must have it yourself. Seems obvious, but researcher George Barna and his team have studied this for years and found that, on average, about half of church attendees have never truly trusted Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. Ask yourself if your faith is as strong as it could be. Only through a close relationship with God through the Holy Spirit can you be ready to witness to those around you. In Psalm 73, David said “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, to tell of all Your works.” Are you excited about the idea that Jesus loved you enough to suffer and die on a cross, even if you were the only one he saved? If you’re jaded in your faith, what can you do to refill your tank? Prayer and Bible study are a great start. I invite you to join our after-church adult group and/or use the Upper Room devotions we provide in the narthex. I’ve also seen Koinonia retreat weekends revitalize people’s faith. David and I will be part of one in the May, and you’re invited. Clarke and Pat Vestal can also tell you more about them.  

You don’t have to be a minister, a pastor, or a Bible scholar to share the Gospel. Don’t wait until you’re sure you have your act together. Our best approach is a personal one, telling stories of how God, Christ and the Holy Spirit have changed our lives, then inviting that person to worship with us, to come and see.  

We need to share our genuine excitement in a way that will make those who don’t know Christ want what we have. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. Look for opportunities to talk about Jesus with someone who needs to hear it. This is God’s mission, and God will work through you, in spite of nerves, self-consciousness and feelings of inadequacy. If they don’t respond well, don’t take it personally. You’ve planted a seed. Someone else may have to water it.

In our passage from 1st Corinthians, Paul opened his letter by talking less about the church to whom he was writing and more about how God is working in and through them. When the gospel is proclaimed, the subject matter is who God is, God’s character and activities, not what we’ve done. Paul said twice just in verse 2 that God called Jesus’ friends and made them holy, sanctified them. He thanked God for working through the Corinthians, faithfully giving them strength and other gifts to keep them working in the faith, not for the work they did in and of themselves. It was God’s power and love pouring through them that made them strong, just as God will work through us. Our job is to stay open, stay receptive to the Holy Spirit.  

Be prepared to share something personal about what God is doing for you and how God called you to “come and see.”  Talk about what your faith means to you. Talk to your friends about God’s grace and love, the forgiveness of your sins that frees you from regret and heartache over things you can’t change in your past, making sure that what you say reflects God’s Word. You don’t have to make a list of your failures. You can simply say that your know you’re far from perfect, and it gives you joy and peace to know that God will forgive you when you fall short and love you no matter what. Give people time to think about what you’ve told them, as Peter and Andrew did, before they respond with faith. Expect them to have questions and doubts along the way. Treat them with open love, as Christ did. Jesus is the one who came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) Get your ego out of the way, let go and let God do the work.  

The first step is someone pointing to Jesus, trusting God to help in the process. The second is being patient, allowing time for the idea to take hold in their heart and mind, which can take months, even years. The third step, which happens during this time, is to ask what they’re looking for and teach them, nurturing the seedling of the gospel in their heart. And the fourth step, no matter how clumsily they ask for it, is to be ready to invite them to come and see.  


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