Reflection on John 1:35-51 for second Sunday after Christmas

By Rev. Rick King

(Rev. Rick’s video message can be found below.)

Greetings this Season after Christmas from Falcon Heights Church!

Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided to cancel church this coming Sunday, Jan. 2, and move Communion to next week. Please keep our Music Director Adam Miller in your prayers; Adam’s roommate has tested positive for COVID-19, and Adam is awaiting his own COVID test results.

In lieu of worship this Sunday, I’m sending you this message as we reflect on the year that is passing and the one that lies ahead, amid all the uncertainty we face about COVID, and life in general. You probably have lots of questions about where we are in this pandemic, as I do: What is it safe to do, and what’s not? Where is it safe to go, or should we just stay home? Do we worry about Omicron now, or Delta? Do we still wear one mask, or two? Should we test or not, and if so, how often and under what circumstances? And, when will the vaccine be approved for children under 5? It can all get a little confusing!

The disciples that Jesus calls in the first chapter of John’s gospel also have a ton of questions. In fact, John’s story of the calling of the first disciples is different from the other three in pretty dramatic ways. In those other gospels, Jesus just simply says, “Follow me.” About the only thing John has in common with Matthew, Mark and Luke is that in all of them, the disciples eventually do follow Jesus!

Let me read you Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the story in The Message, John chapter one, verses 35-51:

35-36   The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb.”
37-38   The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39   He replied, “Come along and see for yourself.”
They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him for the day. It was late afternoon when this happened.
40-42   Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus.
Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”).
43-44   The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. When he got there, he ran across Philip and said, “Come, follow me.” (Philip’s hometown was Bethsaida, the same as Andrew and Peter.)
45-46   Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth!”
Nathanael said, “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding.”
But Philip said, “Come, see for yourself.”
47   When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he said, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.”
48   Nathanael said, “Where did you get that idea? You don’t know me.”
Jesus answered, “One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree.”
49   Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!”
50-51   Jesus said, “You’ve become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven’t seen anything yet! Before this is over, you’re going to see heaven open and God’s angels descending to the Son of Man and ascending again.”

* * *

So, it’s okay to have questions—even lots of them. It’s understandable to be confused, and want to clear up our confusion. I don’t know where that idea of “Don’t question!” in Christianity came from, but in our church we welcome questions, we don’t have all the answers, and in fact, our faith is one that actually lives the questions. Yes, we do arrive at answers to some of the questions, but often, that gives birth to new questions, and we can wrestle with those, too.

Asking questions, answering questions, dealing with questions is all part of having a spiritual life. And while getting accurate information about the coronavirus is a life-and-death matter so we can take precautions, the spiritual life is ever-evolving, full of surprises, and often just plain mystery. But we can embrace that mystery—in fact, Jesus invites us into the mystery of a life in relationship with himself when he says, “Come and see for yourself.”

Somewhere in the midst of this pandemic and life’s other challenges, God wants us to stay connected, not check out, and experience the peace of Christ when we discover where he is staying, where he dwells, where he abides. And abide with him, and each other. May your new year be filled with the hope of an abiding relationship with God. Thanks for listening!