43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown.
45 Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.
47 As they approached, Jesus said, “Look, here is a genuine son of Israel — a man of complete integrity.”
48 “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.”
49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
There is a lot of seeing in this passage. I underlined all the verbs relating to seeing to draw your attention to them (I could say “look at them” but that seems a bit cheesy). The point is quite direct and simple. Even here in John, the loftiest of the Gospels, the one making the clearest claim that Jesus is God, this is not a matter of making statements unsupported by evidence, of only waxing eloquent where words have no meaning, no tether to reality. This first chapter of John can sound so self-referential, as if groundless claims are being made and faith is regarded as mental assent to some fanciful tale. I made the point last week that John does not understand faith this way, instead faith is trust expressed in action.
The focus on seeing adds an important layer to this understanding, because faith is not self-referential. As a virtue, faith exists between the vices of skepticism and gullibility. A person who will never believe anything, even when confronted with evidence suffers from a lack of faith. A person who believes for the sake of belief, who refuses to engage in critical thinking and subject the content of faith to serious inquiry suffers from over-faith and is likely to fall prey to charlatans and hucksters peddling cheap religious trinkets.
This is not at all what John is about. This is the same guy who says in 1 John 1.1: “We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.” What is true of John must also be true of us. John is not saying, ‘hey, trust me, I saw him, I touched him.’ No. He is saying, “Come and see for yourself.” Check this dude out. He might heal you. He might say something that applies so specifically to you it’s like he’s reading your mind. He might transform your life so much that you wind up inspired and following him and then saying to everyone else you meet, “Come see for yourself.”
This should be our mantra. This should be our own evangelistic invitation ever. I know this guy. Come see for yourself. Don’t let the pretty prose and philosophical echoes fool you. Despite John’s eagle status, his Gospel is as grounded in real world experience and full on humanity as anything we have read all year. If you don’t believe me, come see for yourself.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.