At the beginning of the year, I was blessed with the gift of several days to retreat and spend time with God. During these days I felt the compelling invitation to jump back into the Gospel of John, to read again the great story of Jesus. I must confess that after only a few verses, I got stuck.
As so often happens, a few verses leaped off the page at me and I was fascinated by a part of the story that I have so often passed by. John 1: 44-50 is the encounter where Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael to be disciples. I normally read thru this story with little attachment to the drama and significance, but this time I was struck with the way in which the story unfolds.
Jesus begins by calling Philip. In a state of wonder at the discovery of Jesus, Philip enthusiastically finds and grabs hold of his friend Nathanael and reveals Jesus.
Nathanael responds with very little enthusiasm. Philip then leaves Nathanael with this one-line response that took my breath away, “Come and see.” As a pastor, I am always looking for ways in which to draw people into a deeper relationship and encounters with Jesus. I am a Jesus addict. I can't ever get enough of Him and there is nothing I want more than to see others find the wonder and glory that I have discovered in Him. I think in this story I might easily be Philip.
Our Sacred Duty
Like Philip, pastors are called to enthusiastically and dramatically speak to others about Jesus. It is our call and our sacred duty. At the same time, I can easily find myself trying to do more than what is needed. I take on more responsibility and I quickly assume that the revelation of Jesus all rests on my shoulders. With that line of thinking I tend to try too hard, become overworked, and demand too much of myself. This leads me into a trap of thinking too much of myself and actually getting my eyes off Jesus! Is it enough to challenge people with a “come and see?” Is it enough to trust Jesus to show himself true and do the heavy lifting himself? Absolutely!
Setting People Up for Spiritual Victory
When we say come and look for yourself, following in the footsteps of Philip, we set people up for spiritual victory. “Come and see” keeps all the attention on Jesus. This is obviously where people need to be directed in order to keep their focus. In our day, there are way too many believers who find themselves disappointed and losing faith because their eyes have been on a leader and not on the Savior. As leaders get out of the way and invite followers to see for themselves what Jesus is doing and saying, they are setting followers on a path of spiritual success.
When men and women encounter Jesus directly they will learn that Jesus is always the first direction they should look. What a great foundation for a new believer! Nathanael built a solid foundation for his spiritual journey when he moved beyond Philip’s testimony and into a first-hand encounter with Jesus. When I live out of a "come and see" leadership paradigm, I keep myself aligned with the Holy Spirit's work to keep Jesus central. In this way, Jesus remains in the hero's spotlight. This allows me the privilege to simply watch and see what Jesus does and be a witness, not a source of spiritual activity. It is a safety net to keep me from falling into the demands of others.
Living in Redding, I frequently make the long drive to central California on highway interstate 5. When heading home I am always watching the signs that tell me how much further I have to go. These signposts speak to me…they give me encouragement and they point the way home. As I point the way to others and encourage them to “come and see” Jesus for themselves, I am just like the road signs pointing them in the right direction.
This is a much easier job description than the one I fall into when left to my own devices. Inviting them to experience the wonder of His work is my role. When I keep myself centered in this truth, my work is easy and my burdens much lighter. In fact, Jesus does a really great job revealing Himself. He actually is very good at drawing people to Himself.
May You Be Free
My friends, may you be free from overburdening yourself. May you find liberty today to be responsible for the clear invitation to come and see Jesus. May you find the great joy of being a witness to His work and His ways. I pray for refreshment for you and freedom from unnecessary demands and expectations. Celebrate that you are not the savior and at the end of the day your noble task is "simply be" a clear witness to the great King Jesus.