“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."”
(John 1:45-46 ESV)
As a congregation, and along with other churches in our community, Prince of Peace is being encouraged to read through the gospel of John between today and Easter Sunday. This means reading one chapter each day. I hope you’ll join us in this endeavor. And I thought I might share with you some thoughts along the way.
The first chapter of John contains many wonderful insights. If I were to preach on this chapter, I could do so for weeks on end. However, I’ll share just one with you today.
After being called by Jesus, Philip finds Nathanael, telling him that they’d found the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote. He then specifically identifies the Messiah as Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
Nathanael is skeptical when he hears this news. He responds, flippantly, asking if anything good can come out of Nazareth. He likely responded in this way knowing that Nazareth was an insignificant little town.
Philip didn’t try to convince Nathanael. He didn’t become defensive, as his statement is dismissed. He simply encourages Nathanael to come and see.
I think that we can learn a great deal from Philip. As we reach out to others, we often receive the same response. Our words are dismissed. They are disregarded. They are ridiculed.
When this happens, we often respond in one of two ways. One of these ways is to simply shut down. We say no more and we discontinue our efforts to reach them.
Our other response is to try to convince them. We try to persuade them that the message we’re bringing to them is reasonable. We do everything we can to defend our message, not wanting it to be maligned.
I’m not suggesting that apologetics is bad. I’m not saying that our desire to see God’s Word honored is misplaced. However, I believe we would do better if we simply responded like Philip.
We would do better to simply invite them to see for themselves. We would do better to say, like Philip, “Come and see.” In this way, our effort at outreach doesn’t turn into an argument. But, at the same time, we are not backing away from our message. Knowing it’s truthfulness, we are simply asking them to look into it further.
We will never argue anyone into faith. Faith is not something that we can impart. It’s something that God creates through his Word and Spirit. They can certainly resist. However, as we share with them the Word of God, it’s his role to create faith.
And by backing off completely, we allow them to dismiss us. We allow them to believe that their objection is valid. They see our lack of initiative as further evidence that our message is untrue.
As we’ve been called to share the gospel, I encourage you to continue in these efforts. Point people to Jesus, who is the Savior. And, if they disregard us, simply invite them to come and see.
Invite them to church or to a Bible study. If that’s too much, invite them to read and study Scripture with you. Perhaps you can even invite them to join us in this journey through the gospel of John. Don’t seek to convince them by your own wisdom and knowledge. Simply trust that, as we’re given the opportunity to share further, God’s Word and Spirit will do their work.