Come and See
Today is one of those Sundays when the - how the Old Testament lesson fits with the Gospel lesson is really obvious since both deal with God’s calling men to serve within His Kingdom.
The reading from 1st Samuel tells us that the Lord came and stood, calling Samuel. That is the Son of God appeared to Samuel centuries before He took on flesh and blood. We often refer to such a visit as an epiphany of the pre-incarnate Christ. So, while He exists from eternity as spirit, the Second person of the Trinity did on occasion, reveal Himself to different people. Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Moses would be a few examples of those who saw the Christ before He was born of Mary.
In todays reading we heard that Jesus found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” This of course would be the incarnate God calling Philip that is the second person of the Trinity after He was born of Mary.
In either case it’s God who comes and calls. Samuel didn’t suddenly decide to be a prophet, nor did Philip just decide to become an apostle. It is God who called them. God worked through Samuel to call Eli and his sons back to Himself, and He worked through Philip to call Nathaniel. So whether God calls directly, as with Samuel and Philip, or indirectly as with Eli and Nathaniel, it is God who calls them to Himself, just as it is God who called you.
The message that God gave to Samuel it turns out was one about the death and destruction of Eli and his family. The problem was that Eli’s sons, who were priests at the tabernacle, were corrupt. The Scriptures describe Eli’s sons as worthless (or wicked) men. They were adulterers and they used the office of priest for their own gain and pleasure. How hard it must have been for Samuel to speak this message to the man who was his mentor … a man he loved and respected. But even after hearing the message Eli did not repent, nor did he discipline his sons.
Eli and his sons all worked in the tabernacle. They had access to the writings of Moses. They participated in the sacrificial system. They had every reason to fear God’s wrath and trust His promises. Yet they ignored both His written word and His word spoken by the mouth of Samuel. You see God wanted to show them mercy but they chose death instead.
One lesson we learn from the call of Samuel is that God calls men into the ministry to first proclaim a message of judgment, and that because it simply does no good to learn that Jesus forgives sin if you think you don’t have any. Jesus says the same thing when He says [Mark 2:17] It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. You see those who declare themselves to be righteous may not realize it, but by doing so, they by that act, are also saying they don’t need Jesus.
That’s why it really is important for you to actually think about your confession of sins as we begin each Divine Service. If you just go through the motions and don’t really mean or even think about what you’re saying, you are in effect saying to Jesus: I don’t really need You.
Samuel was afraid to share his vision to Eli … afraid really of hurting Eli. I don’t know about other pastors, but it gives me no joy to have to point out your sin. And ashamedly I have over the years failed to point it out to some as directly as I should have because I was afraid of hurting feelings. Forgive me my weakness and I am working on it because I have come learn that calling sin, sin is, in reality, an act of love, it’s just that sometimes loves does indeed hurt.
It’s along the line of just as there’s no joy for a doctor in telling someone about their cancer, there’s no joy for a pastor in telling God’s children about their sin. In the same way that the doctor informs you of your disease not to hurt you but so that you will understand your need for treatment, a pastor informs you of your sin not to hurt you but so that you will understand your need for the only treatment for sin that exist that is the blood of Jesus Christ.
Now unlike Samuel’s message of doom, Jesus gave Philip a message of joy to proclaim. 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. Both Philip and Nathaniel were ready for Jesus. Notice how Philip and Nathaniel knew about Moses and the prophets. That means they knew about their sins and about God’s promise to send a savior to free them from those sins. All Philip had to do was tell Nathaniel that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Savior.
But Nathaniel did have one problem … his preconceived notions about the Christ. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? When Nathaniel asked that question, he was saying that he wasn’t convinced. And yet, Jesus is God in the flesh, born of a virgin and laid in a manger. After living a couple years in Egypt His parents brought Him to Nazareth where he grew in wisdom and stature. Philip’s response was simple. Come and see.
Coming from Nazareth isn’t the strangest thing that Nathaniel will learn about Jesus. He will learn that this man about whom Isaiah said: he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him is the Son of God. He will be a witness to Jesus living under and keeping the law perfectly. He would see himself run away in terror with the others when the soldiers arrested Jesus. He would hide in fear as Jesus hung on the cross. He would stare in wonder as Jesus invited him to reach out and touch the wounds in His hands, feet, and side.
The truth is Jesus is the means or the way that God dwells with man in peace. As Jesus taught Nathaniel, portraying Himself in verse 51 as the fulfillment of Jacob’s vision of heaven with the ladder extending down from heaven with angels ascending and descending on it and God promising, in Genesis (28:15) Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.
And in our reading Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” That’s the message of Jacob’s vision … Jesus is the ladder that allows God to come and live with man in peace. That is if God were to come to man apart from Christ there would be only judgment and punishment, but in Christ there is mercy, forgiveness, joy and peace.
You see God calls men from every nation to proclaim His message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins found in His Son Jesus. The message of repentance, like the message God gave to Samuel, is a word that terrifies because we know our sin. And the message of forgiveness like the message God gave to Philip is a word that points us to God’s Son and our savior … Jesus of Nazareth … of the cross … of the empty tomb. Jesus, who comes to you again today through His Word and Sacrament. Come and see Jesus, your Lord and savior who still comes to set you free.
In His Name, Amen.