A slight move away from Mark which we heard from last week and will hear next week from Simon, but a similar theme
We hear before these verses John’s declaration of Jesus being the lamb of God. A couple of John’s disciples follow Jesus and one of them, Andrew, goes and tells his brother Simon who we then find out would become Peter.
So far so good everything seems to be going to plan and then the very next day we hear about more disciples coming on board. Philip and also Nathaniel
Seems pretty reasonable to assume everything is going to plan. All seems to be as expected I guess. The earthly ministry of Jesus is getting underway. People are responding to his message and all is good. But nothing is ever quite as it seems.
God is mobile. He’s always on the move. Sometimes we might wish He wasn’t and that He would just stay still, be static. Or we may even believe He is “unmovable”. Now before we go any further the idea that God doesn’t change and is “unmovable” is very different to Him being mobile.
The first is about God’s character, faithfulness and permanence. That never changes. However the second is about His movement, His ability to be part of our world and God’s search, his desire, even hopefulness, of us responding to the message of His love. That love, remember, shown in allowing His character, faithfulness and permanence dwell with us in Jesus Christ. That act is very mobile indeed. The response to His love, to His movement does not end when we become a follower, no, God is mobile in our lives constantly and consistently after we come to faith.
These versus highlight that mobility and we are reminded of it at the very beginning. V 43 Jesus… Finding Philip… Jesus finds Philip. Notice it is not the other way round. (Although Philip thinks it was – He tells Natahniel that he found “the one”). And there is no finding without seeking. If I sat on my proverbial I’m never actually going to find anything (apart from a sweet i dropped down the back of the sofa). I may be found but there will be no finding from me. There is a sense of action so there is also no “come across by accident”, Jesus is seeking with purpose. We read in Luke 9 that that purpose was “to seek and to save the lost.”
Just as in the words from a well known hymn, an absolute classic, that I can guarantee you’ve sung endless times. “I once was lost, but now am found.” You know how the rest goes.
And it’s interesting to ponder the way the mobile God finds people who are not particularly in search of Him. I know that was very true for me, it may well be for you. That real sense that we did not go looking for God but God “so loved the world that He sent his only son” God does the seeking and the finding, we respond. And this is important because God has not stopped looking and finding those who least expect to be found. Sometimes that means those we least expect Him to find as well and we do have to be very careful not to put our expectations on to God. But more of that later.
What a mobile God does though, is accompany those who have responded as He looks for others. v45 then Philip “found” Nathanael. One of the ways God finds people is through God’s people—although notice again, Philip claims to have done the finding himself: “We have found him”. Philip found God? That’s not how it happened is it. Although what he may be saying to Nathaniel is “I’ve found what I didn’t know I was looking for” or “wasn’t expecting” Either way God is mobile in His seeking, finding and sharing His love with us. When we grasp that we can know that He is still sharing that love with us, even now, continually with the hope we might be the ones who like Philip “find others” to respond.
One of the problems with people is they have the unerring ability, and sometimes desire, to be comfortable and with that, they become static. Funny that always seems to apply to everyone else? It’s always the other that is in contrast with a mobile God. The question we have to ask is “can we get a little static” Static in our actions. Static in our attitudes and static in our expectations of others and more so our expectations of God?
I like Nathaniel – in contrast to Philip, who seems a little too eager, very open and convinced he has found (we know he’s the one who has been found) he has found the messiah? Nathaniel is, well, a little skeptical, slightly critical and a bit of a cynic. He’s presently sat doing nothing, static even?
Do we recognise any of those traits in others or more importantly do we recognise them in ourselves. There is that adage and this is a paraphrase of it, that if you don’t know who the annoying one is in your friendship group then you are probably the one. But that is not strictly true is it. I know there are traits of each of both Philip and Nathaniel in me, and mainly the annoying bits. No, no need to say “of course not you’re lovely” I know I’m not and I’m happy with that, “know thyself” is the beginning of change.
To change, needs us to recognise those things in the first place. Are we a little static, a little comfortable with how church is, who is there, where we are at the moment? And is there the danger that if you only hang around with people like yourself, you become superior in your place and ignorant of what needs changing.
Being static makes you fat, lethargic, and critical. I should know, I’ve got first hand experience of it. I’m sure I’ve shared this before but I had a chastening experience with a young lad I worked with. It was on the question of faith, action and what would Jesus do. I was a little fat and lethargic and very comfortable in the fact that all was right with me and God. I thought I had God all sorted and, well, static. The lad in question, with very little knowledge of Jesus, the bible and faith, said he thought Jesus would be in the bars and clubs in town of a night. I’m still embarrassed by my initial thoughts but he was absolutely right. We read so often of Jesus’s disregard for the static, comfortable theology of the religious leaders, the doctrine that protested them and their wants, needs, greed and position. So Jesus went to the sick, the outsider and hung around with tax collectors and those of disreputable reputations. The nightclubs and the bars?
And that way of thinking shows itself in this story. When Nathaniel was approached by Philip and hears his excitable friend say “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” He replies with those immortal words “WHAT GOOD CAN COME FROM GALILEE” Nathaniel had an idea of where Jesus came from, who God was and it wasn’t what Philip had told him.
Take a moment and think about these questions “Where is God now?” , “Where is God’s spirit working at the moment?” “Who is he likely to find?” It may be telling what the answers you come up with. WHAT GOOD CAN COME FROM…
We go to others, to those not really expecting us. And we find both Jesus and ourselves there. We can see the other as well “Other” lesser/to be avoided/WHAT GOOD CAN COME FROM GALILEE – *add as applicable*
And we might be feeling a little nervous now with where we might go and what we might say. Well let’s look again at Philip. He starts with his friend… We all have them, we all talk to them, we all love them. I don’t expect it was any different for Philip and his mate Nathaniel. Simple isn’t it? No marketing and focus group assessment of likelihood to respond. No concerted and advertised event to bring the punters in. Philip was found by Jesus and he simply went and found his friend.
He was not about to give Nathaniel a great treatise and expound on scripture He just says “Come and see” This is the one. Encouraging people to know Jesus is about simple saying this is what he means to me. It is a hopefulness in how we talk about Him. But it is also challenging both to us and to the other. It’s scary but also liberating and exciting.
Not too long ago I heard something I have never heard before, and remember I’ve been a chrsitian for 30 years so be encouraged that you can always learn something new. It was a minister talking about coming across someone (friend or acquaintance) who says “I do not believe in God…”. His suggestion was to ask the other person to describe that God that they do not believe in. Interesting idea? He said on every occasion after listening to the person’s description of the God they don’t believe in, he was able to start a conversation by saying “actually I don’t believe in that God either” “however I believe in…”
We can also speak in simple lives – A verse from one of my d=favourite hymns “Dear Lord and Father of mankind”
Drop your still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of your peace,
the beauty of your peace.
Living lives that are not cluttered and joyless but one’s that are open and welcoming. Not welcoming on our terms but as open to all as God’s love. Lives full of hope in a God who is ever present, open and welcoming. Now this is not as easy, I think, as the others, why? Well it’s about not allowing the world to dictate our response to situations. When we have little in the bank, not easy. When we are ill, not easy. When we are put upon, slandered and victimised. Not easy to respond well. When the world says “the only way you will feel worth anything and be valued is by having this or that”How do we respond? Not easy!
I can’t tell what it is that gets to you and strips you of your joy and peace but I can tell you others will notice if you still have joy and peace in those circumstances. I can’t tell you how to respond. You’ll have to work that out with God but be sure God is ready and willing to make the difference. His holy spirit ready to impart your worth to God, purely as you are not what you have, your worth is immeasurable. How do I know that? Well “…so loved the work that He gave His only son” That’s how much you are worth.
We can share this God in our simple faith in a Mobile God – The fact that this God we believe in is still seeking and finding. Still moving, directing and speaking, even through us
Finding a place in our lives, our loves, our work, our play. In our conversations, our care for others, in our acceptance of the other person who God is seeking out.
“under the fig tree” is a remarkable place to be. Jesus replied to Natahniel’s question “How do you know me?”, and I wonder if it was a question framed in wonder “How did you do that?” or was it skeptical “Ok where’s the stooge that set me up?” Which one it is can be important to us. If we are one or the other will determine how we respond to God at any time.
If we are inclined to doubt whether God is actually doing something, or present, or able, or willing “Ok where is the stooge?”. We might be less inclined to be as forthcoming with our joy in being found or open to see a mobile God at work in us and others.
However if we are expecting this same mobile God to continue to work in us and others then our response is likely to be the first “How did you know?” “ how did you do that?” I’m hoping I fall into the second category but I know in part that is not always the case. And God knows that because like Nathaniel He sees us “sitting under the fig tree”. We are Seen/heard/noticed and loved by God.
If we are sitting, at the moment, maybe this is a call from Philip to get up and come and see. To get up and experience a God who through His Spirit continues to work miracles in and through us. Because the promise to anyone who responds is “you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” The promise is you will see far greater things happening than God knowing who you are.