35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “we have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are the Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip 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.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, hesaid of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under thefig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And 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.”
So, here is the story of Jesus gathering his disciples: Andrew, Peter, Philip, and then Nathanael.
Again, it was Jesus who asked the question first to the potential disciples: “What are you looking for?”
Andrew and Peter asked him back, “Where are you staying?” Another translation would be, “Where are you abiding?” In order to find what they are looking for, they must learn where this what comes from — its origin, its identity, its relationship.
Jesus responded, “Come and see.”
We don’t know what they saw after following him to his place, but Andrew first said to his brother, “We have found the Messiah” and then brought his brother to Jesus. There, Jesus told his brother that his new name is now Peter.
The next day, Jesus found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” And he did.
Then, it is Philip who found Nathanael and told him about Jesus. Nathanael asked him back, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” This question echoes what the brothers asked Jesus earlier, “Where are you staying? (Where are you abiding?)” In order to find what they are looking for, they must learn where this what comes from — its origin, its identity, its relationship. And from Nathanael’s preconception, Nazareth wasn’t the answer.
To this question, Philip did not give a 30-second elevator pitch or a Shark Tank pitch. Rather, Philip answered the same way Jesus answered to Andrew and Peter: “Come and see.”
These words invite you to come and see for yourself. It invites you to experience something, to witness something, and to partake in something.
These words are both simple and warm, issuing an invitation not only to see something, but also to join a community. To come along and be part of something.
What such an invitation of “come and see” leads to is the word “epiphany.” Epiphany can be defined as “an immediate and meaningful understanding of something.” When we find and discover what this something actually is for ourselves, that’s when we have our epiphany moment. As a literary term, epiphany is that “aha!” moment when a character is suddenly struck with a life-changing realization which changes the rest of the story.
If you are familiar with a church tradition, then you may know “epiphany” as a church holiday. Epiphany is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God Incarnate as Jesus Christ; and more specifically, the arrival of the three magi where the presence of the newborn baby Jesus was revealed to them. It happens 12 days after Christmas, which is January 6. And the Epiphany season ends on Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent.
The reason why I’m sharing this is because I was in New Orleans last week and learned something cool there. I got to try this thing called king cake.
King cake is eaten on January 6 in honor of Epiphany. The three magi in the bible are also known as the three kings. So, since the Middle Ages, Christians celebrated the day by making and eating this delicious king cake and the tradition evolved ever since.
What’s also interesting about this evolved version of king cake is that you can find a plastic baby either in the cake or on the cake. This baby, of course, represents the baby Jesus, whom the three magi visit in Bethlehem.
Outside the fact that the king cake I tried in New Orleans was delicious, what I want to get at is this idea of finding Jesus on the cake.
"Come and see" is an invitation to come and see Jesus for yourself. It is an invitation to find Jesus which leads to epiphany.
When Jesus invited Andrew and Peter to “come and see,” the result was Andrew professing Jesus is the messiah he’s been looking for. “We have found the Messiah!”
When Philip invited Nathanael to “come and see,” the result was Nathanael professing Jesus is “the Son of God and the King of Israel.”
Their lives are now changed drastically after their epiphany moments, as they now become Jesus’ first disciples. And we are left to wonder what they have found and what they have discovered after accepting the invitation to “come and see.”
What we know is this: that this epiphany is a two-way street. It’s a relationship. And what they have found is not only Jesus, but their relationship with Jesus. And this relationship is worded in a way where not only the disciples find Jesus, but Jesus also found them, discovered them, and knew them.
Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. And Jesus knew him well enough to give him a new name, Cephas, or what we know as Peter.
Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus. And Jesus told him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael, perplexed, or perhaps offended, responded to Jesus, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus responded, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Not only they found Jesus, but Jesus also found them. Epiphany works both ways. The question of “what are you looking for?” perhaps hints at this relationship they are about to have. The invitation of “come and see” perhaps hints at the same thing. What they witnessed after accepting the invite is the relationship. What they learned was “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, andthe Word was God.” Thus, they proclaimed soon after that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Israel.
When Philip found Nathanael, he said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Here, the verb tense used by Philip is in the perfect tense. Finding Jesus is not a singular occurrence but having found him means an ongoing relationship. What these disciples entered into was an ongoing two-way relationship that will forever change their life story.
“Come and see.” Whether you knew it or not, or you care or not, we are in the Epiphany season. And my invitation to read the Gospel of John together as a church is my invitation of "come and see." Come and see for yourself. Come and see to find and to be found. Come and see to have this ongoing relationship. Come and see.
Just as people find this baby Jesus while eating a king cake on Epiphany, my prayer is that we will find Jesus while reading the Gospel of John together during this Epiphany season together. Let us pray.