Bible Readings: John 1:35-51
Free Resources: What Do You See? (Kids 3rd-6th)
Unit Theme (December 31—January 21): Encountering the Messiah
We have at last entered the new year, and for many, this will be the first worship service (or other faith formation experience) in 2018. On the liturgical calendar, this is the day we celebrate the festival of the Baptism of the Lord. Congregations who do not have mid-week Epiphany services on January 6th also often celebrate Epiphany on this Sunday. Although the biblical events remembered in these two festivals are different, both share a common trait: they both contain a revelation about Jesus. Things are different in the Narrative Lectionary. As this is the year of the Gospel of John, there is no visit of the Magi nor baptism of Jesus (the character John recounts the descent of the Holy Spirit without mention of Jesus’ baptism). Instead we have the stories of the call for the first disciples, the invitation to “come and see.”
Come and See, Part 1
Our text (John 1:35-51) can be seen as two related stories, each beginning with “the next day.” In John 1:35-42, the setting is presumably near “Bethany across the Jordan,” as that is where John was earlier in this chapter. This passage takes place two days after the challenge of the Pharisees and one day after John’s clear declaration that Jesus is the Son of God (and the promised Messiah, though that is stated less directly). Here, Jesus invites two disciples of John to “come and see.”
Come and See, Part 2
The second story, found in John 1:43-51, is set “the next day” and the scene changes to Galilee. Jesus invites Philip along the way with a “follow me.” Philip finds Nathanael and offers him the invitation, “come and see.” Nathanael is a doubter. Jesus does not criticize his lack of faith, but instead compliments him on his honesty, a strange thing to do for someone you just met. Nathanael asks, “Do I know you?” and Jesus responds by describing a scene he was apparently not at. This convinces Nathanael and he responds with a declaration of faith.
Come and See What?
Sight plays a key role in these stories, as well as in the preceding story (John 1:29-34, which the author structured in the same manner). In fact, a variation of the word/concept, “to see” is repeated 13 times in the Greek (in three different verbs), and that’s not counting the preceding story. Repetition is a big, flashing sign with an arrow, “Pay attention to this!” But, what did they see? The first and second “come and see” (present tense) invitation and (past tense) response were related to where Jesus was staying. Huh? The second makes more sense. Philip is inviting his friend to “come and see” Jesus, the promised Messiah.
The soon-to-be disciples saw John pointing at Jesus and where Jesus was staying. The subject of most of the rest of the instances of “sight” is Jesus. Jesus saw the disciples following him. He looked at Simon Peter. He saw Nathanael, both in the present and the past. And then Jesus promised them that they would see “greater things than these.”
Jesus Sees, We See
What does Jesus see? Or, more to the point, what did he see in the disciples? What does Jesus see in us? I think Jesus see everything, both our sins and our beauty, our past and our potential. We stand by the promise that Jesus sees, and he loves us (not, but he loves us anyway).
What do we see? I look around and see beauty and ugliness, hope and fear, love and hate. Where is Jesus in all of this? I think there can be many answers, but one can be seen in the mirror. Jesus is in us. Jesus works through us. We are certainly faulty instruments, but we are here, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the work of Jesus in the world. That is the revelation of Jesus in the text this Sunday. The epiphany that Jesus sees us, Jesus loves us, and Jesus sends us to do his work in the world.
I want to be better at that. Now, there’s a New Year’s resolution.
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
Our free resource this week is an activity called “What Do You See?” that challenge kids (and adults) to pay attention. It comes from our Living the Word: Kids (3rd-6th) curriculum, but can be used in worship, as well as other intergenerational settings as well.
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!
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