January 18, 2015 - John 1.43-51

“The Intrusion of God”

John 1:43-51 and 1 Samuel 3:1-10

January 18, 2015


43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”


What does it mean to be called by God?  And how does that question apply to you?


When people ask me about my call from God, I usually tell them the story of sitting in the choir at a retreat, and being so overwhelmed with enthusiasm to “answer” God’s call on my life to be a minister, that I did not go down the row of the choir to the aisle to get to the front, but rather jumped through the two rows of seats in front of me to get down front.  That’s how I answered God’s call, publicly, to be a minister.  But there is a more fundamental call upon me, which I sometimes forget, and sometimes goes unnoticed by all of us.


As Christians, all of us are called by God to be just that – Christians. 


A call has been placed upon all of our lives, not just for those in the ministry, but for you where you are and who you are.  God desires to be in dialogue with you constantly, to constantly intrude upon your life, not just so God can know us and have fellowship with us, but so that our lives can have meaning and fulfillment.  The intrusion of God upon our lives is constantly calling us, questioning us, pulling us in directions unknown.


In our Old Testament text, God calls Samuel. (recount story)


In our New Testament text, Jesus calls Philip and Nathaniel.  (recount story)


All of the Gospels record Jesus calling his disciples. Jesus is walking along a road and sees a couple of fishermen bent over their nets. “Follow me!” he calls. Jesus intrudes into the counting house where he sees Matthew bent over his coins and calls “Follow me!”


Only in John’s Gospel do we get this account of some of Jesus’ disciples being called by other disciples. Which leads me to an insight: sometimes Jesus directly calls people to follow him; sometimes people call people to follow Jesus. 

Some of you are here this morning because the risen Christ appeared directly to you and dramatically, personally, directly called you. Rejoice! In my experience, not many become disciples that way. I almost envy your dramatic, personal, direct summons from Jesus.

I expect that more of you are here this morning because another disciples like Philip, like Andrew, called you to follow Jesus. Somebody told you the story or lived the story of Jesus before you in such a way that eventually led you to say, “Yes.” Jesus not only chooses to work through other people but Jesus also works through people to call other people.


Whatever it is that Jesus Christ wants to do for the world, he chooses not to do it alone. He invites a group of ordinary, everyday people (people like you, people like me) to do it with him. Jesus refuses to save the world by himself. 


Some of you think that you got out of bed on this cold January morning and came to church because you wanted to, you decided to, you are such a good, committed Christian person that you chose to come worship here this morning. Well, an implication of today’s Gospel is that you didn’t choose to come here; you were invited, summoned, called. Why you? Because that’s the way Jesus does business. 


All of us are Christians, not on the basis of something we decided but on the basis of an invitation that we received. Jesus doesn’t work alone. Thus all the Gospels begin the story of Jesus’ work by telling the story of Jesus’ calling of his disciples to work with him.


Karl Barth (great theologian) said that all human history begins in being addressed, that all human history begins with this intrusion of God upon our life.  “Adam, where are you?”  Later God asks, “Who told you to eat of the forbidden tree?”  Then later in that family history, “Where is your brother?” and finally “What have you done?”  From our beginnings, God has been calling to us with questions that change us.


We like to think of ourselves as people who call on God.  We don’t like so much the idea that God calls on us.  We would rather question God than realize that God questions us.  We prefer it when we are the ones doing the questioning in our relationship with God: “Do you exist?”  “Where are you?”  “Why is there so much suffering in the world?”  “Are you good?”  “What is the meaning of life?”


The Bible tells us (if we will read it) that our questions of God are not nearly as interesting or as important as God’s questions of us.  “Adam, where are you?”  “Do you want to be healed?”  “Peter, do you love me?”  “What right do you have to be angry, Jonah?”  “Woman, where are your accusers?”  “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  “Yes, but who do you say that I am?” 


Our whole lives are an attempt to find answers for ourselves.  But the constant call of God upon our lives is God’s attempt to ask us the questions that will give us the answers we so futilely seek otherwise.  It is not our questions we need to answer; it is God’s questions about us that need answering.  We have it backwards.  We constantly bombard God with questions, hoping God will answer.  But if we answer the questions that God asks us, the answers we find will be much more important, enlightening and satisfactory to us than our own questions ever could be. 


The Psalmist writes in Psalm 139 about how we can never be free of God’s presence.  Where God’s presence is, there is also God’s call upon us.  The Holy Spirit is always calling upon us, relentlessly, persistently, just as stubborn as God’s love for us is, so is his call upon you and me to be what it is God wants us to be.  Listen to these words from Psalm 139.


7 Where can I go from your spirit?

Or where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

9 If I take the wings of the morning

and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

10 even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light around me become night,”

12 even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day,

for darkness is as light to you. [1]


In the story of his calling, Nathaniel has a classic line that almost deserves a rim shot after it.  Philip tells him that he has found the Messiah and that he is from Nazareth.  “Nazareth?” Nathaniel exclaims, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  >rim shot<.  Imagine that someone tells you that the Messiah is coming and he is from Jamestown, and you get the idea. 


We are limited by our assumptions.  We are hindered by our own preoccupations.  We worrying about way too much, complain about way too much, spend too much time trying to fix things that cannot be fixed, asking questions to which there are no answers here on this earth.  If we would just focus our energies on Jesus Christ, then so much of what we yearn to know would be answered for us.  If the energy that we put into worrying, that we put into complaining, that we put into resisting the inevitable, that we put into seeking answers from God were instead put into answering God and answering the call of God, then not only would the majority of our individual problems and corporate problems be solved, all of our pews would be full, too.


I wish it were as simple to hear God for all of us as it was for Samuel.  But we have an advantage over Samuel.  We have the Bible.  Even better, we have Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Listen to the call of God.  Feel the tug of God’s Holy Spirit.  We have so many questions that cloud our mind, stress us out, give us ulcers, drive us to smother them in alcohol or some other substance, that we spend all of our time on our own questions and none on God’s questions of us.


What are you doing with the gifts you have been given?  With all the suffering in the world, how can you waste things on yourself, or better yet, how can you waste yourself?  How can you be the love of Christ to someone today?  Why are you holding back from me? 


We come to God seeking answers.  God comes to us seeking answers.  The only way we will find our answers is if we answer God’s questions.  In the answers to God’s questions of you lie all the answers you will ever need.



[1]The New Revised Standard Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1989.

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