Wednesday, January 25, 2012

“Out of Nazareth? Out of Nazareth!!!” (John 1:45-46)

S-1291 2SAE/3B 1/08/12 Hymns: (O) #5; (S) #421; (C) #400

Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-10; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

Theme: “Out of Nazareth? Out of Nazareth!!!” (John 1:45-46)

Question: “Is there a town you don’t want to raise your family in?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Baptism of Christ is from the Epistle Lesson: “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 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 1:43-46).

Dear brothers in Christ listen closely to this conversation between two friends. “You got to be kidding! No way! You are not serious! Did you lose your mind—out of Nazareth?” That town that is no good for nothing, do you really expect the Messiah to come from? You can’t be serious Philip, can you?

What we know for certain is this: Nathanael was skeptical. When Philip announced that there was someone from Nazareth who might be the Messiah, Nathanael famously replied, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Why such disdain for Nazareth? It appears that Nazareth seemed to have had the worst reputation of any town in Galilee; the name “Nazareth” was not respectable, admirable, or honorable. It was spoken with disgust it wasn’t the ideal vacation spot, a good place for starting a new business, a nice community to move the family into. Nazareth was an isolated city, did not take in many visitors, had the worst cultural habits in Galilee, had a bad name among neighboring towns perhaps due to lack of religious adherence and low morals; surely the Messiah would not come from such an unlikely place.

Perhaps Nathanael was skeptical, but maybe he was also pretty smart. Nathanael may have known the scriptures; Nathanael may have known that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, to the south, not from Nazareth, of all places. Whether that is the reason he stated it, we don’t know. But we know that he spoke and Philip affirms that he heard his friend’s statement and encourages him to “come and see!”

Nathanael was skeptical of Jesus. Nonetheless, Philip persuaded him — and went to see Jesus. And as soon as Jesus sees Nathanael coming, Jesus says, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Its high praise indeed for Nathanael, especially coming from someone Nathanael has only just met. This probably just increased Nathanael’s skepticism, thinking that Jesus was trying to soften him up with flattery. But then Jesus explains, “I saw you under the fig tree.”

Yet, the Messiah, the Rabbi, standing before these two men confirms that He saw Nathanael. And with that statement, Nathanael speaks these words: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

How quickly skepticism turns into sincerity, how quickly doubts turns into delight in confessing that this is no mere Man, but the Son of God—the TRUE King of Israel. How awesome it is to see the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who meet Jesus. That He is more than just a man; but God’s Man for the Mission of saving the world from burning in Hell. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, it appears that an important character is overlooked in this account—Philip. It seems as if Philip takes second fiddle. Nathanael attracts the attention, with his skepticism, with his sarcastic comment about Nazareth, and finally with his declaration of Jesus as “the Son of God.” Even Jesus seems to make a much bigger deal about Nathanael: “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

And so Philip quickly fades to the background. But notice this, in verse 43: “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’Jesus found Philip. It sounds as though Jesus was specifically searching for Philip, as though Jesus specifically wanted Philip to be one of His disciples. What this shows us even today, that whether you are a skeptic or one who is actively working for the Lord, YOU ARE SPECIAL. You are special because and specifically, on account of the statement: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And the answer to that is indeed yes—out of Nazareth.

God brought something good out of Nazareth - Jesus Christ, His own Son, the Messiah; the long expected Savior promised to Adam and Eve when they brought shame and death upon them and their offspring’s. Jesus changed the reputation of Nazareth. Demon spirits began to recognize “Jesus of Nazareth” - Mark 1:23-24. Sick people began to call on “Jesus of Nazareth” - Mark 10:47. God’s anointing flowed through “Jesus of Nazareth” - Acts 10:38. The Apostle’s ministered in the name of “Jesus of Nazareth” - Acts 3:6. And People were saved in the name of “Jesus of Nazareth” - Acts 22:8.

Today, as we gather in our own small town of Armour and the beloved community of Redeemer, we are reminded that indeed out of Nazareth comes the Rabbi with His mission of mercy and grace. Jesus came specifically because people needed Him. Jesus’ ministry was focused on people with a “Nazareth” reputation—the woman at the well in Samaria, the woman caught in adultery, Mary Magdalene, Matthew, - lepers, blind, deaf, and lame. Let me say it clearly. There are a lot of people around us and some of us here gathered today, who have a “Nazareth” reputation. PAUSE.

Will anything good ever come from them, they are looked down on, held in ill repute, the mention of their name brings unpleasant thoughts to mind, you don’t want to be around them or even be associated with them—they seem so unusable, but you never know when God is going to transform a “Nazareth” person into a pastor, evangelist, youth minister, missionary, Sunday school teacher, church worker. My own life’s transformation is a testimony to God’s goodness to another man from Nazareth. I don’t not say this to bring attention to myself, but only to point to the power of the Gospel at work in the lives of people, when it touches them. The Man from Nazareth touched me, and for the past 18 years I have been privileged as a man from Nazareth to speak about the Man from Nazareth. He has also touched Nathanael, Philip and…YOU

Today, I challenge you by the power of the Holy Spirit to hear the Man from Nazareth calling you to follow Him as other disciples throughout the centuries have done and continue to do. We live in a skeptical age. Many voices call us to follow—endless salespeople, TV evangelists, political leaders, etc. Generally we tune out the voices and follow the line of least resistance. Year after year we keep the same job, live in the same home, and observe the same traditions. PAUSE.

In the motion picture The Hiding Place, while the Ten Boom family decides to follow Jesus at great risk, the local pastor vis­its them and wrestles with the moral choices involved. He questions. Finally, out of fear he decides not to get involved. This is neither following or faithful!

When the Man from Galilee visits you and says, “Follow Me,” how do you, and how will you respond? Turn His voice off as one more sales pitch? Listen halfheartedly and respond with a polite affirma­tive to get rid of Him? Agree to follow Him when it seems con­venient? Who is He? With what authority does He speak? This call to follow may take you into leadership in Christ‘s church. Maybe that means serving as an elder, a trustee, or a Sunday school teacher. But still others may see this as something not for them. Because of the Gospel‘s work in your life, the Holy Spirit calls you to follow. The answer is where. Maybe it is helping the hungry and homeless. Perhaps it is serving in civil affairs. There are many ways that you are called to follow. But inactivity is NOT one of them! The prayer that falls from faithful lips today is this: Lord, You have called ME to follow. Where will you have ME follow you today?

Our following however is still clouded by sin. Admitting our lethargy and rebellion, we meet face-to-face Jesus the Savior of the world. We cannot follow on our own. But He has blazed the path of personal self-giving and death on a cross to pay for our sins. His call to follow carries with it the power for us to leave our nets and follow Him.

The adventure begins loving Him, fishing for others to fol­low Him as well, finding new meaning and sparkle in our daily routines, living and loving with purpose and joy. Troubles and persecution may lie ahead. Temptations will abound. Other voices will try to lead us astray. But the forgiv­ing, loving, empowering Man from Galilee continues to sound the gentle, life-changing call, “FOLLOW ME!” And by grace alone we say with Nathanael, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”O Man of Nazareth, I am with you till the end of my life”. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


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