(watch here: https://youtu.be/HTb_zLmEszo)
35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ 39He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).
43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ 46Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ 48Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ 49Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ 50Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
There’s an expression used by many people who are suspicious of what they’re being told: “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Perhaps you’ve used it once or twice when someone has told you something unusual or unbelievable. A child might tell you they’ll pick up their room before they head outside to play with friends. A parent might tell you they’ll reward you for your good grades in school. A co-worker might tell you they’ll put in a good word about you to your boss. A boss might tell you to expect a raise in your pay in a month or two. Now they may or may not actually do what they said they’d do but it only takes one person letting you down to make you all the more suspicious of such words. One person not doing what they said they’d do and you’re suspicious of not only their intentions but everyone else’s intentions too. Eventually we become so hardened and suspicious of each other’s words that we no longer believe them unless we can see the words do what they’re intended to do: “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Sadly, we live in a world in which people don’t do what they said they’d do. We live in a world that doesn’t hold people accountable for doing what they said they’d do. In short, we live in a world of sin. God created a world that allows us to not do what we said we’d do or, put a different way, doing what we said we wouldn’t do. God gave us free will and along with that free will came sin. The sin of the world is created by people doing what they shouldn’t be doing and not doing what they should be doing, or at least what they said they’d do. I can’t help but recall Paul’s confession in his letter to the Romans:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Rom. 7:15-20)
We all wrestle with doing what we should be doing…what we said we’d do. The sin within us, the sin of the world, keeps us from doing what we should be doing. The sin of the world keeps us suspicious of each other, of each other’s words. The sin within us keeps us saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
And yet it is this sinful world that Jesus comes to. Jesus comes to us as we are: as sinful, unrepentant children of God. Jesus comes knowing full well the burden we carry from our sin. He knows we wrestle with doing what we don’t want to do and not doing what we ought to do. Jesus knows our suspicions of each other and each other’s words and he throws it right back in our faces; he responds, “Come and see.” In our scripture reading, we heard how Jesus called his first disciples. He was simply minding his own business, lingering among a crowd of people, until he is seen by John the Baptist. John points Jesus out and boldly proclaims, “Look, here is the lamb of God!” Some followers are intrigued and began following Jesus around. Jesus turns around and asks them, “What are you looking for?” They respond by asking Jesus where he is staying. Instead of telling them, Jesus invites them to “come and see.” They do go and see and come back convinced that Jesus is the Messiah. They must have seen something pretty amazing to convince them of who Jesus is.
The next day Jesus met another disciple, Philip, who quickly realized who Jesus was as well. Philip shared his realization with Nathaniel who skeptically asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip uses Jesus’ response: “Come and see.” Twice in two days people encountered Jesus the Messiah and are suspicious of him. Rather than claim to be the Messiah, Jesus invited the nonbelievers to walk alongside him and come to their own decision about who Jesus was. Jesus knew their sin and suspicions. Jesus knew the only way he could convince them was by exposing them to his ministry and allowing them to come to their own conclusions. It’s as if he said, “I know you’re suspicious by nature. I know you’re sinful by nature. I’m not going to tell you who I am. You’re going to have to find out for yourself. You’re going to have to step out in faith and seek me.” When they stepped out and removed their suspicions, they could clearly see who Jesus is. Andrew said to Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah” and Nathaniel proclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Though our passage doesn’t directly convey it, we are celebrating the baptism of our Lord today. We celebrate our Lord’s baptism because it is the first time that Jesus was publicly revealed as the Messiah, the anointed, the Son of God. It was at our Lord’s baptism that his own baptizer, John, came to realize who Jesus is. John could proclaim to his disciples, “Look, here is the lamb of God,” as we heard in our scripture passage because it was revealed to him through Jesus’ baptism. The Messiah is revealed through both his baptism and his ministry.
Jesus knows we are sinners. Jesus knows we need to see it to believe it. And Jesus calls out to each of us, “Come and see.” Let go of suspicions and doubts and see firsthand how he transforms the lives of so many people. Walk alongside him in faith and be transformed! The invitation wasn’t just for his faithful disciples—the invitation is for you and me too! “Come and see!” Jesus is at work all around us…among us…within us…we must simply open our eyes! Let Jesus be revealed to us as he was revealed to John and his disciples. Let us trust him to free us from our bondage to sin. Let us believe in him whether we see him or not. In him, let us forget the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.