How Do You Know Me?

(John 1: 35-51)

Back when I was the Drug Court prosecutor for Jefferson County, we had admitted a young man whose family was well known to the criminal justice system, and he was in the process of building a pretty impressive criminal resume’ of his own.  After becoming the prosecutor, I made the decision to admit more “high-risk” offenders into Drug Court.  Not high risk as in the probability of committing more crimes if not locked up, but high risk as in an increased probability of relapsing and testing positive for drugs.  The theory being if we could change the drug-seeking behavior of these “high risk” offenders everyone benefited, and crime might actually go down.  One of the things we encouraged our participants to do was to go out and get a job, any job.  He initially protested, claiming that because of his well-known family name nobody would hire him.  We told him to apply and not to forget to mention during the job interview that he was an addict and was actively working a program of recovery.  He came in the following Thursday and reported with astonishment that he had gotten a job and that when he mentioned he was an addict in a court supervised program the interviewer told him that he too was a recovering addict.  I knew him by reputation before he had even met me, but I had already made my mind up that he was worth giving a shot at a clean and sober life.

And it’s Christ’s knowing us before we even meet him that is at the heart of our scripture lesson for today.  The Apostle John is chronicling Jesus’ selection of his core team of disciples as he prepares to put his earthly ministry into action.  Now he doesn’t just pick disciples out of a crowd, ask for volunteers, or conducts interviews to see who might be the best fit for the job of bringing the lost to God through him.  Because he is the Christ, he already knows who he wants.  He is aware of what they can bring to the table and how it will qualify them for the tasks to which they will be assigned.

John, the Apostle, starts out by stating: The next day John (the Baptist) was standing again with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus walking along he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard what the Baptist said and began walking along behind Jesus.  When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked: What are you looking for? They asked: Rabbi, where are you staying?  To which Jesus replied: Come and see.  So they went and saw where he was staying and they remained with him for the rest of the day.  The Apostle tells us that one of the disciples who had heard what John the Baptist said and followed Jesus was named Andrew who was the brother of Simon Peter.  Andrew went and found his brother telling him that they have found the Messiah and led him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said: You are Simon, son of John.  You will be called Cephas, which when translated means Peter.

The Apostle tells us that the next day Jesus wanted to go into Galilee where he found Philip who was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter and said to him: Follow me.  Philip was so excited to meet the Messiah and be chosen as one of his inner circle that he sought out his friend Nathanael and said to him: We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.  Now, we don’t know what was going on with Nathanael at the time, but he didn’t respond with excitement or curiosity asking to know more.  Instead, he sarcastically responded:  Can anything from Nazareth be good?  Nazareth at the time was an out-of-the-way city nobody gave much thought to and in addition to being a Roman garrison it didn’t have much, if anything, to offer.  Undeterred, Philip said: Come and see.  As they were approaching Jesus saw them coming and said: Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.  Astonished, Nathanael asked: How do you know me?  Jesus answered: Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree, to which Nathanael replied, Rabbi you are God’s Son.  You are the king of Israel.  Jesus responded: Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?  You will see greater things than these!  I assure you that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up to heaven and down to earth on the Human One. 

We don’t know what Nathanael was doing under the fig tree but the mini-series I am watching, The Chosen, has him sitting under a fig tree questioning God after suffering a professional setback and wondering just what it is that God wants him to do.  Conversations we’ve no doubt had ourselves.  Jesus obviously sees him and knows the time is right to put him to work for the kingdom.

And that’s the whole point about being called to serve Jesus.  He sees us and knows what we are capable of and, when the time is right, he will call us into his service whether it’s simply leading a life worthy of a Follower of the Way of Jesus Christ, or in being a somebody who righteously does something in his name.  Jesus knew what his early disciples were capable of doing and, as they got to know him better, their appreciation of him and his earthly mission grew.  And likewise, the more time we spend getting to know Christ, the more we will understand and appreciate who he is and what he means to our daily walk.  But as the early disciples learned, making that verbal acknowledgement to follow Jesus was just the beginning.  They would not fully understand Jesus as their Messiah until three years later when the full impact of what he had come to earth to accomplish came to fruition in his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.  What they so easily professed before they knew what they were getting into had to be worked out through their experiences of service.  And just like the disciples, we may find that words of faith come easily, but that deeper appreciation for Christ comes through our living by faith and the lessons we learn through service to others.

The ironic thing about who Jesus called as his early disciples is that they weren’t learned religious scholars or people of influence and importance.  They were everyday people just like you and me.  Some with a past that they would like to put behind them and not have revealed to everyone else, some who had more failures than successes, and some who were just hard-working people trying to get by and support themselves and their families.  Jesus can see things in us that neither we nor anyone else can see.  He knows what we are capable of and will not ask us to do anything beyond our abilities.  We may think it is a bit much and maybe question as to whether or not he’s gotten us confused with someone else, but he knows us better than we know ourselves.  We just have to be honest with ourselves and accept who we are, and then and only then will we feel comfortable with the thought that Jesus knows us through and through and has faith in our ability to serve him.  Just as Jesus knew about Nathanael before the two ever met, Jesus also knows what you are really like and what you can do once given the resources and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  He knows the real you and wants you to follow him wherever he leads.  So, are you ready, really ready to follow him?

Let us pray.

Here I am, Lord.  Is it I, Lord?  I have heard you calling in the night.  I will go, Lord, if you lead me.  I will hold your people in my heart.  Yes Lord, we are here ready and willing to do your work and your will in any way in which you feel we are capable.  Remove our doubts and instill in us the desire and the courage to take on those tasks, both great and small, that brings the light of your Son’s love to more and more people each day.  Move us as a congregation to be the church you need right here and right now.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.


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