Found by Christ to Follow in Faith
In John 1:43-51, you see men following Jesus as his disciples. What moved these disciples to leave behind their comfortable lives to follow Jesus? They were “found by Christ to follow him in faith.” We’ll see how that works in your life and what it is that you follow.
I happened to be on YouTube recently and a featured video caught my attention. It was called “Top 100 Viral Videos of the Year 2017.” I thought, “What videos were millions of people interested in this past year?” I watched some of it, not all 100; I think I made it to somewhere around 50. The viral videos included a guy riding a bicycle high up on the ledge of skyscrapers, a woman with her tongue stuck to a popsicle like the boy who had his tongue stuck to a flag pole in the movie, “Christmas Story,” a little boy falling and stumbling around after spinning around on a merry-go-round, a dancing baby, cats dinging a bell to get a treat, and so on with many other silly videos.
However, one video jumped out at me as I was thinking about today’s gospel. There was a man who was driving down the street and came upon a group of very young ducklings in the middle of the road. He stopped his car, got out, and started recording the ducklings. The ducklings started following him wherever he went. This phenomenon, common in birds, is called imprinting. Those ducklings saw the man, this bigger creature, and connected that this must be their parent. So, they followed him, much like you would see a line of ducklings following the mother duck.
In today’s gospel, you see men starting to line up and follow Jesus as his disciples. What moved these disciples to leave behind their regular, familiar, comfortable lives to follow Jesus? They were found by Christ to follow him in faith. We’ll see how that works in your life and what it is that you follow.
People were coming from all around to the wilderness area of the Jordan River to listen to a peculiar preacher named John the Baptist. John the Baptist was proclaiming that the Messiah, the Lord’s promised Savior for the world, was near. This is what the people of Israel had been waiting for. I’m sure that others had made similar claims in the past, but John the Baptist was unlike any other. So, people came from all over to hear and to see. That included men like Andrew, John, Peter, and Philip. These men from the town of Bethsaida, a seaside town along the Sea of Galilee. These men who were longing for the promised Messiah spoken of by the prophets. They came searching, but the Savior found them.
Jesus had already found John, Andrew, and Peter in the verses and day just prior to the action in today’s reading. Now, it was Philip’s turn. The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Jesus personally reached out to Philip, singling him out to follow him. I’m sure that there was more to the conversation that we’re not privy to. I’m certain that this wasn’t an out of the blue invitation from a stranger that Philip knew nothing about. Philip most likely new something about Jesus and surely the basics that John the Baptist pointed out that this is the promised Savior. The Lord had already found Philip’s heart through the promises of the Old Testament proclaimed by the prophets. Now Jesus found him and invited him to see for himself that Jesus was indeed the promised Savior. Philip found it to be true. He followed Jesus in faith.
Philip couldn’t keep this to himself. He had to share the good news. So, he went and found his friend Nathanael. “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Now Nathan was a bit more skeptical, wasn’t he? This didn’t fit the image that Nathan had in mind for the promised Savior. From the Galilean city of Nazareth? Nope. An earthly father? Nope. A simple, normal, humble looking guy? Nope. That this could happen in his lifetime? Nope. Whatever was going through Nathanael’s mind, it kept him from believing Philip. However, instead of arguing or trying to convince him, Philip simply invited him to come and see for himself. Come and witness Jesus.
When Nathanael came to meet Jesus, Jesus already knew him. Jesus had seen him sitting under the fig tree before Philip had tracked him down. How could that be? Jesus wasn’t actually there. Nathanael could only conclude one thing, Philip was right; this was the Messiah, his Savior. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus found another disciple and Nathanael followed in faith.
There’s a phenomenon at work here, a miracle really. Jesus appeared to lost sinners and showed himself to be the Savior, the one who would rescue sinners by bridging the gap between God and man. The Holy Spirit imprinted on the hearts and minds of those first disciples that Jesus was their Savior. They lined up to follow Jesus in faith.
God works that miracle in your life too. Jesus still finds you and invites you to follow him. Jesus has to find you because you naturally line up and follow the wrong things in life. Those ducklings in the viral video that I saw latched on to the wrong thing. But you can get why. They saw a creature that was bigger than them, that paid attention to them, that seemed to want to help them. So, they followed. But that man wasn’t what they really needed. He didn’t have interest in caring for them long term. He didn’t know what they needed. It was a fun video, but that was all. Those ducklings needed a real parent to follow, a duck like them.
What is it that you are following? Often you can be just as lost as those ducklings and find yourself following the wrong things. Chasing after wealth, or a career. Hooking yourself up to churches and preachers that tell you what you want to hear. Rationalizing the way you live your life in spite of the Lord’s will. You find yourself following these big, enticing, ideas and ways thinking that this is what you need, this is what matters, but you’re lining up to follow the wrong things. They may be fun to follow for some time, but they don’t lead you to eternal life with God.
But Jesus sees you. He saw you long before you ever knew him. He saw you in your lost and stumbling ways. That’s why he came for you, to save you.
Jesus finds you through his Word. He finds you by showing you who he really is. In God’s Word, the truth is all revealed. The truth that you and I are lost sinners separated from the Holy creator God. There you see the promises that God would send a Savior, the perfect kind of Savior that we need, to rescue us by overcoming sin and death in our place. There shines the great news of the promise fulfilled in Jesus who throughout his life, as recorded for us in God’s Word, Jesus is shown time and time again to be the Lord and the Savior for you. Through that Word, God the Holy Spirit imprints on your heart a faith that sees that Jesus is the Lord, a faith that moves you to line up behind the real Savior and follow him in your life. We heard this described in the second reading from 2 Thessalonians, “God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:13-14).
Have you ever thought about why Jesus started his ministry by finding disciples to follow him? Those disciples spent a lot of time with Jesus. They lived life with him. They had an intimate relationship with Jesus. They saw. They listened. They learned. They believed. They were witnesses of everything that Jesus did and who he was. Those disciples would take those teachings and their personal experiences into the world to find and invite many others to know Jesus too as the Lord as and Savior and to know the life they could live with Jesus in this world and forever.
Follow Jesus in the same way. Live life with him. Spend time with Jesus in his Word and in prayer. Listen, learn, believe. You have an intimate relationship with the Lord through Jesus. Live in that relationship and let that relationship shine for others to see.
I know you can be just as skeptical about Jesus as Nathanael was. Maybe you are living in that skepticism right now or have these in and out moments of doubt. Really, Jesus is better than any other religion? Really, the way I’m living is that bad? Really, I’m forgiven without doing anything but trusting Jesus? Really, I need this? The way to overcome this is what Nathanael did. See Jesus. See what Jesus has to show you. See it often. Let him speak to you through his word and listen.
God uses preachers, like he did with John the Baptist, to point you to the Lamb of God. God uses friends and family, just like Andrew and Philip, to come and see the Lord your Savior. Think about who God used to find you, a parent who brought you to meet Jesus at the baptismal font, a pastor who showed you Jesus on the pages of Scripture, a friend who loved you enough to tell you about the Savior. Thank God for that and think about who God can use you to show Jesus to in your life. Consider and pray for opportunities that allows Jesus to find people in your life that they may follow him in faith too.
There are no YouTube videos of Jesus and his ministry. Philip didn’t pull out his smartphone to record Nathanael’s reaction to Jesus. But you don’t need that. You have the viral message of God’s Word that shows you who Jesus is. Through that Word, you are found by Christ to follow him in faith throughout your life. Amen.