Good morning. If you have your Bibles, go ahead and grab those. John, chapter 1. We will, six weeks into our study of John, finish chapter 1. You don’t need to panic about that. There are only 21 chapters, so around 2022 or 2023 we should wrap this up. Actually, it will speed up. You have to spend a lot of time laying this Christocentric base so we can understand Christ all the more clearly.
In Genesis, chapter 3, we see what the church and what theologians have called for a long time now the fall. The fall is when humankind decided to rebel against their Creator and in so doing fracture the universe as God had designed it to operate and be. If you’ve been around as we’ve walked through the first chapter of John, you’ve seen all the collateral damage of that rebellion.
If it is true that we have been made by Jesus for Jesus, then that move isolated us from the thing we needed most. On top of that, if, as we saw earlier in this passage, we only know who we are and who we are not by beholding the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, then this isolating moment, this rebellion against God, has now taken us out of what we most need to be alive as humans and has also made it impossible to define who we are, which leads to all kinds of projection and all kinds of shame.
In that space where humankind has gone, “Forget you, the Creator; I think I’d be better at this myself,” God’s response is a stunning one, and it reveals to us how he’s going to operate with us from the moment that our relationship with him is fractured right up until this very moment. This is what the Bible says: when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, now, outside of their designed purpose, unable to define themselves, relationships horizontally and vertically fractured, they hear God in the garden walking toward them, and they hide.
Then there’s this crazy question that God asks, and it’s in the question that I think you begin to see how God is going to operate in his relationship with rebellious humankind moving forward. In the garden, God’s voice says, “Where are you?” Now let me tell you why that’s significant: because God doesn’t need to know stuff. In what universe does God not know where Adam and Eve are? Even if you think about the foolishness of the hiding place…
You have Adam and Eve who know God, who have walked with God, who are in the midst of God’s creation, who realize they are naked for the first time. That word naked isn’t just a physical nakedness. It’s the idea of shame and guilt. They realize, “Oh my gosh! We are guilty. Oh no. What have we done?” Have you ever had that question enter your conscience? “What have I done?” Well, God shows up. “What have I done? Quick! Get some leaves!” and they jump into the bushes.
God says, “Hey, where are you?” God knows where they are. It’s not that God doesn’t see them, but when you’re small, sometimes you think in ways that aren’t the ways things are. If you’ve had children or been around children, I think you see this. There’s this time period in which a kid in the game hide-and-go-seek thinks that if they can’t see you you can’t see them, so their hiding places are terrible. It’s like lying on the living room floor with their hand…
You’re like, “What? Do I need to get help for you? This is not a hiding place. You’re just lying on the floor. You’re just under the covers. I can see your body in the covers.” This is Adam and Eve trying to hide from God, but God shows up and says, “Where are you?” I don’t know what kind of home you grew up in. The most terrifying sentence my mother could ever utter was “Wait till your dad gets home,” because Mom could whip me, but she couldn’t hurt me. I think that’s universal. I think Mom can give you a decent whipping, and then you hit this age where you’re like Pow! “All right.”
Then the dreaded, “Wait till your daddy gets home,” because Daddy, regardless of age, has man strength. He’s got some velocity that Mama ain’t got. What we see happening in this text is the rebellion of God’s creation against the Creator, and our heavenly Father steps into the garden… He doesn’t kick open the garden and go, “Where are you? You’re not going to believe what the Holy Spirit just told me about you.” The Father shows up and says, “Hey, where are you?”
“Well, we felt guilt and shame, so we hid.”
“Who told you you were naked? Did you do what I told you not to do?”
“Yeah, we did.”
“Okay. Well, let me make clothes for you, because the leaves aren’t going to cut it.”
God clothes them. The rhythm you see established that I’ve tried to press into our guts for 16 years is that God is an initiating God. He pursues us. He chases us regardless of our rebellion. This is what’s happening in the book of Exodus, as we walked through that. God among us is what we see as the prophets herald. God keeps moving toward us, and in Christ, in the incarnation of the Son of God, coeternal with the Father, do we not see the ultimate moving toward? As we covered several weeks ago, God put on flesh and moved into the neighborhood.
In fact, the writers of the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, would record Jesus himself saying this as his mission statement: “The Son of Man comes to seek and save the lost.” Not that he shows up like, “You’re a bunch of screwups. I’m going to burn it to the ground.” He didn’t show up with tablets with more rules. He came to seek and save the lost, and that’s what we’re about to look at even again today as Jesus begins to call his disciples. Let’s look at this together. John, chapter 1. We’re going to pick it up in verse 35.
“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples,and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ’Behold,the Lamb of God!’The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them,’What are you seeking?’And they said to him,’Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ’where are you staying?’ He said to them,’Come and you will see.’
So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesuswas Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ’We have foundthe Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said,’You are Simon the son ofJohn. You shall be calledCephas’(which meansPeter).
The next day Jesus decidedto go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him,’Follow me.’NowPhilip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.Philip foundNathanael and said to him, ’We have found him of whomMoses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesusof Nazareth,the son of Joseph.’Nathanael said to him,’Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ’Come and see.’
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,’Behold,an Israelite indeed,in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to him, ’Howdo you know me?’ Jesus answered him,’Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered him,’Rabbi,you are the Son of God! You are theKing of Israel!’ Jesus answered him,’Because I said to you, ”I saw you under the fig tree,“ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him,’Truly, truly, I say to you,you will seeheaven opened, andthe angels of God ascending and descending onthe Son of Man.’”
What we see happening in this text is Jesus beginning to do what Jesus does: seek and save the lost, call unto himself men and women to follow him. He’s doing this same thing right now even unto this day. Jesus, even in this moment, is walking by and calling to himself those who would follow him. We even see in this text the ways in which he goes about doing that even unto this day.
Look back at the top of our text. I want to read a few verses and then kind of explain it. “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples,and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ’Behold,the Lamb of God!’” That’s the same message he preached last week. The brother didn’t even throw in a new illustration. Word for word what he said last week. “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Look at me. It’s the only message we have.
It’s not that the gospel doesn’t speak to other political issues or doesn’t speak to other social issues. It’s the vivifying center of the church or she has no center. It is the gospel and its implications. It is never anything other than the gospel. A church filled with good works that is without the gospel is a church without the power of the Holy Spirit. We have one message: Christ and him crucified.
It might be helpful for us to note that what’s happening in John the Baptist’s ministry is that a revival has broken out. If you just read it in pieces you kind of miss it, but if you read the Synoptics and came here to John, John the Baptist actually starts preaching outside of town. The Holy Ghost starts moving, and people start coming out to the wilderness to hear. They’re being baptized and repenting of their sins. He’s old-school revival.
If you go read John’s sermons, they read something like this: “Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand.” Tell me that isn’t old school. “Repent!” Some stuff about vipers. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” These are John’s sermons, and it’s resonating. People are going, “I want to repent. I want to turn.” They’re being baptized and are following John. This revival has gotten so big that people of real influence in the social order of the day are coming out just to check it out.
John, with one message, keeps preaching the same thing: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” More come out. “Hey, behold, the Lamb of God!” He does this in all sorts of different ways. “There’s one coming, and I’m not worthy to untie his shoes. There’s one coming, and I’m not worthy to be considered anywhere near him. There’s one coming who was before me, even though I’m older than him.” “Behold, the Lamb of God” is his only message.
What we see happening on this day is that John the Baptist has brought two of these disciples who are following him. We don’t know why these two, other than the providence of God. I’m not doing a lot of language work today, but they intentionally stand where they know Jesus is going to walk by. As Jesus walks by, he says, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” He yet again proclaims the Word of God, and these brothers hear it, they understand it, and they follow him.
To this day, Jesus gathers to himself men and women to follow him through the proclamation of his Word. Where it is proclaimed and people hear it and understand it, they will follow him. This actually becomes a pattern in the New Testament: gospel proclamation that sees men and women come to follow Jesus Christ.
Here’s what I want to do. We’re going to do something a little bit different today. I want to introduce you to Jeff Haley. I’ve known Jeff Haley for a long time. He’s an elder who’s happily retired. This brother has the story that he heard the Word of God proclaimed, and the scales fell off his eyes and his heart of stone was softened into a heart of flesh, and he has followed the Lord ever since. So let me introduce you to Jeff Haley. Will you come tell them your story, Doc? Thank you.
Jeff Haley: It’s an honor to be here this morning. My name is Jeff Haley, as Matt said. I’m an elder here at The Village Church. I’ve been attending here since 2011, and I am very happily retired. That is the truth. I have my little guide here, because Matt said, “You have three to five minutes,” and if I don’t finish he’ll come drag me off this stage, so I’m going to be careful.
My parents had a very difficult relationship. As a matter of fact, I might even classify their relationship as hostile. They tried a lot of different things in order to repair that relationship. Finally, kind of as a last-ditch effort, they decided they would start attending church. So, at about 9 years of age, my mom and dad dragged me and my brother and sister to church. Unfortunately, we were taken to a church where that denomination taught on the wrath of God and emphasized legalism as a means to salvation.
The whole time I was there, I never remember hearing a message on grace, on mercy, or love, but I do remember one particular message that had a profound impact on me. The message the preacher taught was out of James, chapter 2, where James talks about works and faith. The message that I clearly heard from the preacher that morning was that a person would be judged worthy of going to heaven based on how little he sinned and on how much he did to please God.
Even at 9 years old, I recognized that there was nothing in me that was ever going to be worthy enough to go to heaven, so I pushed religion out of my life. That was the end of it for me. My heart was hardened toward the things of God. I lived the next 25 years totally apart from the Lord. In those 25 years, I wrecked my life. It was wrought with sin. It was wrought with brokenness. It was wrought with failure.
By the mercy and grace of God, just a “God only” story that I can’t go into right now, I found myself, 25 years later, sitting in a church listening to a sermon, and the preacher opens up his Bible and says, “I’m going to preach a message today on James, chapter 2.” When that preacher opened his mouth, what he taught from James, chapter 2, was on the grace and the mercy and the love of God. He taught beautifully and whimsically about the power of the Holy Spirit to enter into a person’s life and change them.
He shared the gospel out of James, chapter 2. What happened when he did that was that wall of resistance, that hard heart of mine melted before the Lord, and in an instant, from that sermon, my entire life was changed. Two weeks later, I went to a men’s retreat, and I expressed verbally to some men who were showing great love to me what God had done in my heart, and I submitted my life, my energy, my passions, my will to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Everything changed. The result of that is my entire family got saved. My mom got saved. My brother got saved. My sister got saved. My nieces and my nephews got saved because of a sermon that a preacher was faithful to preach on the gospel of Jesus Christ. So I thank God for that sermon. Amen.
Matt: I wanted to do this as a way of encouraging you. If that’s your story… Maybe there were other people involved, but you were sitting in a chair like this, and somebody opened up the Book and started to preach it, and something broke loose in you. Scales fell off. Something changed. If that’s your testimony, would you do me a favor and just stand up where you are, even if you’re in Southlake or Plano or Fort Worth? Go ahead and stand up and say, “I was listening to a sermon, and Jesus wrecked my life in a good way.” If that was you, praise God.
Let me talk to you for a second. What happened in that moment is God yet again asked the question, “Where are you?” but he asked that question for you, not for him. He opened up your eyes to see, and he gave you a new heart, and the Bible says he transferred you out of the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of his beloved Son.
I want you to remember again today that he saw you and he loved you and he came and found you. You were a lot more of a mess back then than you are right now. I don’t want you to doubt his love for you. He began the work. He’ll be faithful to complete the work. It’s not up to you to complete the work. He’s going to complete the work. I want you to breathe and remember that he saw you, he found you, and he saved you, and he’s not going to let go of you. Praise God. What we see in the text is this isn’t the only way Jesus walks by. The next way you can see is in verse 40.
“One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesuswas Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ’We have foundthe Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said,’You are Simon the son ofJohn. You shall be calledCephas’(which meansPeter).”
I love this. You have Jesus, who gives this offer to Andrew. “Come, and you will see.” What does Andrew do? He’s like, “Man, I have to tell my brother about this.” We know Peter. He’s kind of a “wheels off” madman, and God is going to use him in powerful ways after he takes 50 years to humble him, amen. Thank God that God is in it for the long game. Andrew runs, and it’s the invitation to me that, as I thought about it this week, really reminded me, stirred up my affections in some pretty keen ways toward the Lord.
He says, “Hey, we found the Messiah. We found him!” For us, yeah, okay, Messiah, the Christ, but if you remember back to week one when we were saying that in him was light and that light is the life of man; it shone in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it… What Andrew is saying to his brother is far more significant than just “He’s the Messiah.” If you remember, the light shining in the darkness is Jesus’ victory over sin, over guilt, over shame.
So when Andrew runs up to Peter and says, “Hey, I’ve found the Messiah,” he’s saying, “Hey, that shame, that guilt…” You’re going to learn about Peter, after he meets Jesus and after he sees miracles, that he’s a numbskull, a moron, that we wouldn’t hire him on our staff here. He’s so brash and arrogant. We’d be like, “Yeah, bro. You need to go somewhere else first, and then when you get some temperament, you can come back.”
He’s coming and going, “Hey, man, all that guilt, all that shame, all of our mistakes… We found the Messiah. You have to come check this out, Peter. It’s the Messiah.” If you think about supernatural, dark spiritual bondage, “We found the Messiah. That’s over.” If you want to talk about oppression, “We found the Messiah. Oppression is over.” I think the one I want to spend my time on, because I am hemmed in here a bit… I’m ready at 45 to say every man and every woman I have ever met deep inside of them continues to ask the question, “Am I good enough?” It’s a haunting reality.
As a mom or as a dad, as a man, as a woman, “Am I good enough?” Maybe the question is, “Am I enough? Can I just be me?” When Andrew runs up to Peter and says, “I found the Messiah,” he’s laying before Peter, and as Jesus walks in front of us today the offer laid before us is, “You get to be you. You don’t have to be this person. You get to be you.” That’s not only enough for God, but God rejoices in that and celebrates that, because he’s the one who made you for himself and has given you the giftedness to operate in that giftedness.
Really, what you’re seeing in this situation is not just people coming to Jesus because of the proclamation of the Word but people coming to Jesus because of the faithfulness of their families. What we see in this text is, honestly, families of faith, a brother going to a brother that leads to homes that are built upon beholding the Lamb. Let me tell you why that’s significant. Not perfect homes, because there are no perfect homes. Not perfect parents, because there are no perfect parents. Homes that, by the grace of God, as best they know how, are trying to behold the Lamb of God.
In that environment, homes that are built on beholding the Lamb become like the Lamb: more interested in the heart than they are moral action. Pause. Asterisk. Footnote: children need rules and the law or they’ll burn down the Western hemisphere, but they also need moms and dads who go after their hearts, not just snap at their behavior. To go after the heart of your child is far more difficult than dispensing discipline because they didn’t do what you said, although I believe in discipline.
When you behold the Lamb you become like the Lamb. Homes built on beholding the Lamb become an environment where a child can figure out who they are and be okay with that. Why? Because you’re beholding the Lamb. When you’re beholding the Lamb, now that brokenness in you that wants to protect them from being like you because you hate yourself starts to dissipate, and you’re able to just speak…
I have a really, really tender son, and I’m able to just call that. “Hey, you be tender, man. Don’t make your friends make you choose between being ferocious and being tender. You be loving and kind and sweet. That’s masculine, bro. That’s not feminine. So you be sweet and kind, and then if you’re on the field, pop them in the mouth. You can be both of those. It’s what it means to be a man: to be ferocious and kind. Be both.”
I can say to my oldest daughter, “Hey, you don’t have to wear a bunch of makeup and lashes that go to Jesus. You can ride a horse.” No offense. If I offended, it wasn’t intended. Paint the house. If the house needs painted, paint it. But my girl wants to wear boots and be on her horse and fire a couple of rounds in the air.
I want to come alongside of her and go, “You go get that. God has made you like that. That’s a beautiful thing for you to be fierce. I want you to be as smart as you can… Don’t act dumb for some stupid boy. You be brilliant and godly, and you make them come to you. You don’t come down to them.” I want to be able to speak that into her. Not “Do all this” but “Be you. Be who God has made you to be.”
Homes that behold the Lamb have that as a possibility. Not as a guarantee but as a possibility. If you’re not beholding the Lamb, then think on the weight that’s on you and on your kids to perform, to be something that everything in their universe is telling them they must be, which leads to men who are projecting a faux strength that’s not there, who actually are more heart-level guys and not mind-level guys who pretend to be mind-level guys because they’ve been shamed at their base instinctual level, which is “I’m a lover and I’m kind and I’m gentle.”
Our society goes, “You can’t be that and be a man. You’d better grow some chest hair.” The Word of God would say, “No, no, no. You be you. God made you. God designed you for you to be you.” It’s by beholding the Lamb that we’re freed up to finally be who we are. Not only is that okay, but God rejoices in that.
I want to introduce you to Jasien Swords. I love Jasien. He’s a “below the line” guy. That’s what I’d call him. He feels deeply, but he also has a bit of warrior in him. That’s my kind of guy. He grew up in a home that constantly was saying, “Hey, look at Jesus. Hey, how amazing is Jesus? Hey, look at Jesus.” So y’all welcome Jasien.
Jasien Swords: Good morning. As Matt said, my name is Jasien Swords. I serve as a Flower Mound elder here at this campus. I also serve as a central elder. I’ve actually been coming to The Village now for 14 years. I was raised in a household of faith, which was a complete blessing to my life. My parents were not raised in the church. They didn’t have that experience, so as they were raising my sister and me, they were very intentional with pointing us to the gospel and to a Savior.
This started out, for me, when I was 6 years old when I was supposed to go into one of my first days of school. I was afraid. I just didn’t want to go in. I didn’t want my mom to leave me. I didn’t want to feel alone. My mom took that opportunity to say, “Baby, God doesn’t want you to be afraid. That’s not how he operates. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to pray with you about feeling afraid.
I just want to tell you about Jesus, because God wants to have a personal relationship with you, and in order to do that… Because we’re sinners, we need a Savior, and that’s Jesus. Jesus came to earth. He was not a sinner. He died for us, and because of that we get access to God in that personal relationship. Does that sound like something you would want? If you want that, you’re never going to feel alone.”
In that moment I said, “Yes, that’s what I want. I don’t want to feel alone.” So she prayed that prayer with me. I prayed that prayer with her, and I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I went right into school confidently, believing that I was never going to be alone. From that moment, that opened up the door for my mom and my dad and my sister, for us all to have these gospel conversations.
There were decisions made in my home, where they chose to put us into a small Bible-teaching school in the heart of East Texas. This school was taught by global missionaries coming in, and we would invite those missionaries over to our house, and I’d get to hear their stories. It just showcased to me that, “Oh my gosh! God is a personal God. He’s a global God.” That was an amazing thing to see in my home.
My parents also chose to pick up and move out of our house and get rid of some creature comforts and take us into a life of ministry for a season. That didn’t seem weird to me, because all along the way they were talking to me about their personal relationship with God. So that was something they continued to water, continued to shepherd in my own heart. They cultivated this household of conversations that were about the Lord.
I still had moments in high school and in college where I tested the personal relationship I had with the Lord. There were moments where I definitely was interested in exploring more about what I wanted to explore than what God wanted to explore. What was amazing about that is that my parents didn’t panic. They didn’t go, “Oh, we’ve got to do something different.” They just continued to model what it was like to live in a relationship with the Lord.
When my dad messed up, he would tell me, “It’s okay, Jasien. There is a better Father than me.” He kept pointing to him. As I got out of college and continued to think on the words my parents had been pumping into me for a good 20 years… At 25, I was doing ministry down in Lima, Peru, and because God is good, I got asked would I like to be baptized, which was strange, because I didn’t invite that. I had been sprinkled as a child, and that was what I thought I needed to do.
In that moment, I heard God saying, “I’m a jealous God, and I’m not playing around. I’ve had a relationship with you. I want more of it, and I want all of it.” At 25, I just said, “Yes. Where can I get baptized?” and I was baptized in a public pool somewhere in Lima. It was this moment that I was allowed to think back over the faithfulness of my mom and my dad and how good that was and how I want to do that. I want to be a man like that. I want to be a parent like that.
I’ve met my wife through this church. We have three amazing, beautiful boys, and I’m trying to do that. I’m trying to do that every day. I just want to tell you, if that’s your story or if that’s your children’s story, then be encouraged, because that’s an awesome story. I hope we can talk about that more and that you guys do feel encouraged by that, because God is good through the faithfulness of families. Thank you.
Matt: How many of you your story is, “By the grace of God, I was born into a home where I heard about Jesus. I hardly remember what it was like to not understand that he loved me and he was after me”? If that’s you, would you stand up? We don’t raise our hands right now. We raise our hands when we sing. Right now we’re standing. Look at me. You do not have a boring testimony.
You have the testimony that we all want for our children and our friends and our family, that Jesus walked by you by his grace, through no act of your own, through faithful, imperfect mamas and daddies who did the best they could with where they were. God saw you and walked by you through the failures and the faithfulness of your mamas and daddies, and you’re here today because Jesus saw fit to grace you with that. He has not forgotten about you, and you are in his sight to this day. God’s plan is to continue that line of faithfulness through your imperfection until he returns. Praise God.
The third way we see Jesus walking by people in the text… Look at verse 43. “The next day Jesus decidedto go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him,’Follow me.’NowPhilip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.Philip foundNathanael and said to him, ’We have found him of whomMoses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesusof Nazareth,the son of Joseph.’Nathanael said to him,’Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ’Come and see.’” That is the best line ever to a skeptic. “Great question. I don’t know. Come and see.”
“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,’Behold,an Israelite indeed,in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to him, ’Howdo you know me?’ Jesus answered him,’Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered him,’Rabbi,you are the Son of God! You are theKing of Israel!’ Jesus answered him,’Because I said to you, ”I saw you under the fig tree,“ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him,’Truly, truly, I say to you,you will seeheaven opened, andthe angels of God ascending and descending onthe Son of Man.’”
Now I’m going to set my Bible over here, and I’m just going to walk over here for a second. Are you with me? Word of God; some questions. We don’t know how Jesus knows Philip or came across Philip. All the text lets us know is that he’s from the same city as the other two disciples. My conjecture, I think strong conjecture, is that Andrew and Peter are like, “Man, we have a good friend in our hometown. He is ripe for this, bro. He has been wanting and longing for the Messiah to come.
We should go grab him. He’s not even going to ask a lot of questions, man. He’s going to come quickly. You could probably just say, ’Hey, follow me,’ and he would be like, ’Okay’ and he’d follow you. So can we go get him?” All that’s conjecture. Back to the text. So, Jesus walks into town, walks right up to Philip, and says, “Follow me.” That’s a very different invitation than “Come and see.” That’s a very different invitation than, “We found the Messiah.”
You have two friends saying, “Man, we have a high school buddy. He’s still back home. Can we go grab him? He’s going to want to be a part of this. He might not even know he wants to be a part, but he’s going to want to be a part. Can we go grab him?” So these two brothers go and find their high school friend. (Let me stand farther over here.) “This thing has happened to us. We have found the Messiah. Come and see.”
Jesus says, because it’s Jesus’ invitation to give, “Follow me,” and what does he do? Well, he has to go grab his boy Nathanael, but he comes a lot different at Nathanael. Nathanael is a little bit of a theologian. He knows about the law of Moses. He knows what the prophets say. Notice that in each of these there’s this different invitation extended, but it’s all the same invitation. He meets us where we are. He comes at us where we are, like we are.
Some of us are naturally skeptical or maybe there have been some things in our lives that have created a skepticism in us, so maybe God comes toward us with some apologetics. I’ve met people who have a hard time coming and seeing, following Jesus, even as he walks by, because something really dark has happened to them or somebody they loved. They don’t know how to reconcile God’s goodness with that act of brokenness. I don’t know if you’ve ever met anybody like that. They’re not terrible people. They just don’t know how to reconcile it.
What we see here in the invitation, it’s different than anybody else’s. It’s, “Hey, what Moses said, what the prophets said, it’s true. Here he is.” Even then, he needed something supernatural. Even then, he shows up at the church all skeptical. “Weirdoes.” Then what happens? Well, Jesus reads his mail. When Jesus gets involved, how quickly was that shifting? Like, “Hey, come meet Jesus. He’s the fulfillment of all that Moses and the prophets said.”
He’s like, “Nazareth? Oh man. There ain’t nothin’ good in Nazareth.” This is like El Paso. This is like sunsets…maybe. Sunsets and maybe the occasional whitetail. What else is out there? He’s like, “Well, just come and check it out.” He walks up, and Jesus is like, “I know who you are. In fact, I saw you while you were…” He’s like, “Whoa, what was that?”
Now all of a sudden, Nathanael immediately goes from “Nothing good comes from Nazareth” to “You are the Son of God, the King of Israel. I’m going to follow you wherever.” Jesus is like, “Really? I just said I saw you napping before I got there. You’re going to see far greater things than these.” But I’m off point and going long.
The other way Jesus walks by… Through the proclamation of the Word of God, through families of faith, and via faithful friends. What we see in this text is two brothers go and share with their friend who goes and grabs another friend. This is one of the ways Jesus walks by. So will you welcome Stin Mathai? I love Stin. He’s one of our elders, a godly man, great sense of humor.
Stinson Mathai: Hi, my name is Stinson Mathai. My wife and my three kids attend church here. We’ve been going here for eight years. My vocation… I work at Hewlett-Packard. I’m a chief technologist there. That just translates to me being a nerd. That says a lot about who I am and how I was created.
My story involves friends who came alongside me and pointed me to God. It involves a pretty girl and a guy named Tom. I grew up in the Indian Orthodox Church. It’s very cultural for us to go to church on Sundays, much like here in Texas. That’s what you do. It’s not just a place of worship; it’s a place for community. We break bread there. I have fond memories of my life there.
At this place, I met a 13-year-old pretty girl. I didn’t know then that I was going to marry her, we were going to live in Flower Mound, and have three kids. We started dating in freshman year of college. In her school a revival broke out, and she was saved in this process. As Matt says, robust conversations started between us during that time. I wanted nothing to do with Christ. I didn’t like Christians. I found all of y’all to be hypocrites and “say one thing, do the other thing” kind of people. I found fault in everything.
She at one point said the Bible says we needed to be yoked if we were going to be married. I had no idea why the inside of an egg had anything to do with me or my relationship with her. I later learned it was an agricultural analogy. She pushed me to consider Jesus, because she’s a very important part of my life. Then I met a guy named Tom. Tom is the kind of guy who if you meet him, 30 seconds later he will tell you about Jesus and everything about Jesus.
He told me to come to dinner one night, and that usually meant I knew what was coming. Tom at dinner asked me a question that changed my life. He said, “Do you know what it means to be a Christian?” If you’re a nonbeliever, that is a very tough question to answer. I told him, “Why don’t you tell me?” and then I was ready to rip him apart. He answered the question in a very different way than I’ve heard anybody answer it.
He said, “I believe in a God who will give you whatever you ask for in faith.” Now before your mind goes to prosperity gospel, let me clarify. He was saying that he believed in a God who said and promised, “Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened.” He was hoping I would knock on that door. That night, out of character, I prayed. I prayed a very particular prayer, which we can’t get into here because we have no time. That answer to that prayer still has a profound effect on my life today.
That’s how God presented me with friends through that early part of my life. In summary, a pretty girl softened my heart toward Christ, a friend planted a seed, and God blew it all up. I’ll leave you with a thought that C.S. Lewis says about how I feel about Christianity, but anything he says is inherently more intelligent than anything I have to say. He says it like this, and I truly believe it. He basically says, “I believe in Christianity as much as I believe in the rising sun, not because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” I hope you’re encouraged.
Matt: Stin is standing up here today because someone risked rejection, which is a pretty easy thing to risk, in order that Stin might believe. Surely that friend was rejected on more than one occasion, yet in this place we have an elder and a friend and a leader of our church who is here with us because someone just took the step of faith.
Jesus continues to walk by, and the sermon from friends and families and faithful preachers is still the same: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” I want to end our time today with the same question God asked in the garden…Where are you? Most of the time when God is pursuing us we’re not even aware he’s pursuing us. As a faithful friend, I’ve been saying to you, “Come and see,” and for whatever reason, you just keep coming and seeing.
To you, you haven’t put it together, like, “I’m not sure I believe this, but why do I keep coming?” Or are you haunted by the faithfulness of Mom and Dad? One of my favorite parts of Jasien’s testimony is that you had this faithful Mom and Dad, and it was at 25. Isn’t that encouraging? If you have a high school kid right now and you’re like, “Oh my gosh. I don’t know. I’m hoping…” Right?
I don’t know where you are. If you know, “I was listening to this sermon. It was in this season. It was because of faithful friends. I have a lineage of faith in my life,” then praise God. He sees you. He knows you. He loves you. He began the work. He cannot fail. He will complete the work. But if you’re here and you haven’t said, “Yes. Oh my gosh, I’ll come and see. I’ll follow you…”
Jesus never says, “Hey, know about me.” He says, “Follow me.” It’s not the same thing. Cursory knowledge of the person and work of Jesus is not the same thing as saying, “Yes” to his lordship in our lives. Still, he walks by us this morning, saying, “What do you seek? Come, and you will see.” Let’s pray.
Father, thank you for my brothers and sisters in this room. I thank you for those who will be my brothers and sisters and may not know it yet. I just ask that you would open eyes, that you’d let scales fall off, that you would encourage hearts. I pray for my brothers and sisters. Build them up in love. Remind them of your faithfulness. Remind them of your goodness and grace on their lives.
Let us leave emboldened as we remember, as we have been re-immersed in what is true about the gospel today. Father, for those blind to see, heart hardened, God, I just ask for the merciful gift of salvation. I ask that you get involved, Jesus. Help us. We need you. It’s for your beautiful name I pray, amen.