Saturday, January 17, 2009


The Gospel according to John has stories of the calling of the first disciples of Jesus that are different from those we find in the synoptic Gospels and it is not a good idea to try to harmonize them. John's accounts continue two intriguing ideas - finding and being found by Jesus and coming to see.

The story of the calling of Philip begins with Jesus finding Philip. That poses questions about why Jesus was looking for Philip and what there was about Philip that moved Jesus to find him. We might also ask those questions about why Jesus went looking for and found any of us. Unless we are delusional, we know that our being sought and found is pure gift, not something we deserve, but something that God desires out of love.

After being found, Philip goes to find Nathanael and tells him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." Now, that's a very odd way to put it. Philip didn't find Jesus, Jesus found him. But perhaps we can be gentle with Philip and imagine that there was something in him that was ill at ease, that was yearning for something, probably without even being able to name the something. When Jesus finds him, Philip is surprised and realizes that in Jesus he has found and been found by the very something that his heart desired.

After Nathanael makes that blunt and honest statement about his own prejudice - "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" - Philip tells him to come and see. As we read the rest of the stories about these disciples in John's account of the Good News, we see that it takes them a long time to see the truth in Jesus. In fact, as Jesus himself tells them, they can't grasp the whole of that truth until after his death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is that way with us as well. Even though we have the Gospel accounts, it still takes more than a lifetime for us to see. As Paul tells us, "now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face."

Come and see is not only about seeing who Jesus is, but about seeing who we truly are. It is in our relationship with Jesus, within the community of faith, that we come to know ourselves. It is in following Jesus, in being his disciples, that we are freed from the false selves that the world, and we ourselves, have manufactured. We need not be hard on ourselves about those selves. Many of them were manufactured to protect us, we thought, in our often very difficult lives. Others were manufactured to win favor with others - our parents, our teachers, our employers. But as we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we come to see that we don't really need those false selves, that the love that Jesus has for us is enough.

I was stuck recently by what is not a linguistic connection, but a linguistic coincidence. Find is a word we get from Old English and found - as in the founding of this nation - is a word we get from Latin. But coincidences can often suggest truth to us. Our life in Christ is founded on our being found. It is only because God in Christ seeks us and finds us that we have this gift of abundant life. Our being found is the founding, the absolutely essential beginning, of that life.

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. (Philippians 3:9)

No comments: