Would You Follow Jesus?

I was born in a little town called, Salisbury – about an hour north of Charlotte.  About the time I began grade school, we moved to Charlotte.  I did most of my growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina.  If you are familiar with the area, you may know that Charlotte – on the south side sits on the state line of South Carolina.

In fact, there is an amusement park just off Interstate 77 where the State Line cuts through.  It was a big deal when I was a kid to be able to have one foot in North Carolina and one foot in South Carolina.

Then, when my husband and I first got married and opened our own business, he informed me that we would live in Rock Hill, South Carolina – just over the state line from North Carolina.  I was horrified!  What possibly of any good come from South Carolina?!  As a North Carolina girl – YOU just don’t do that!  I felt like a trader!  South Carolina versus North Carolina had a stigma for me and probably for any of us who were born and raised in North Carolina.

We see a similar thing in today’s reading…Philip runs to Nathaniel and tells him that he found the One that had been prophesized in Scriptures – You know…the One who is the son of Joseph from Nazareth!  And what is Nathaniel’s response?  “You have got to be kidding!  Nazareth?  That backward little town…Seriously, Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

I can relate to Nathaniel.  Nathaniel had a stigma and mis-conception about Nazareth – just as I did about South Carolina.  But, Philip insists and tells Nathaniel – You just need to “Come and See!  Come, check it out.”  So, Nathaniel goes with Philip and meets Jesus.  And, Jesus, of course, knows who Nathaniel is – and I can almost imagine Jesus’ sarcasm – Well, here is a TRUE Israelite – nothing fake about him!  He’s the real-deal.

Nathaniel responds: “How do you know?  You don’t know me!”

And, Jesus says… But, I do know you…I saw you sitting under the tree just before Philip went to call you to come and meet me.  And, that was enough to convince Nathaniel.  “Rabbi…You really are the Son of God, the King of Israel.”

And Jesus says, “You have become a believer simply because I said I saw you under the fig tree…but you haven’t seen anything yet…

Jesus, who is now been baptized and full of the Holy Spirit, is picking his disciples –

Just prior to Jesus choosing Philip who then chose Nathaniel, had been in Bethany.  When John the Baptized saw Jesus, he yelled out – “There He is!  There is the Son of God…the One who forgives sins.”  Andrew and Peter had been following Jesus when Jesus turned to them and said, “What are you looking for?”  They end up spending the day with Jesus.

It is the very next day – Jesus is on His mission to gather his disciples.

Follow me…Come and See…

I have wondered so often what was it about Jesus that these men dropped everything – leave their homes, their jobs, and their families to go and be with Jesus.

I want to share a story about someone I met not too long ago:

This man lives at an Assisted Living facility.  He is now 86 years old. He had married a Muslim woman and at the time was not a Christian.  In fact, he claims he was not anything.  He really had no belief system.  His mom was a Lutheran and his father a Methodist.  He says his parents wanted him to go to church and learn about God, but he never felt an interest for it.

His Muslim wife had an agenda.  She wanted to make him a Muslim.  So, in her efforts, she used Christianity as a way to prove her point why the Muslim faith was the way to go.  She told him things like, “God and Jesus are the same person.”  He wanted to prove her wrong…So, he began to read the Bible.  He began to realize that she knew more than he did.  And so, in order to prove her wrong on other issues, he kept reading the Bible.  He began to read the Bible every day.  And, every day, he became more and more drawn into God’s Word.

The more he read it, the more he wanted to read it.  And as he continued to read and study the Word of God, he began to change…things started happening…He began to know the TRUTH!  This God and this Jesus Christ were not only one in the same – but the realization that he could have the opportunity to be forgiven for all the years he had messed up – was overwhelming for him.

He began to see the world differently.  His opinions about Christianity changed.  He stated, “This scared my Muslim wife.”  I had become a Christian.  I eventually had to choose:  My wife and my marriage – or Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

He divorced his wife.  He chose Jesus Christ.

What is it about this man Jesus who is from the backwards little town of Nazareth?

Russel D. Moore writes, “For too long, we’ve called unbelievers to ‘invite Jesus into your life.’  Jesus doesn’t want to be in your life.  Your life’s a wreck.  Jesus calls you into his life.  And his life isn’t boring or purposeless or static.  It’s wild and exhilarating, and unpredictable.”

I think this writer had something here…Jesus doesn’t want to be in our messed up lives – He invites us into a NEW LIFE with Him!  Jesus’ life offers us peace, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Jesus already knows who we are!  Sinners!  Sinners who continually get our act together…Jesus said to Nathaniel – I saw you under the tree…I know exactly who you are…You may be an Israelite without a false bone in your body…

But, I am the Son of God!  I am the Messiah.  Just wait and see what is coming up next…

I wonder…Isn’t that what draws us in?  This Jesus who invites us into HIS life –

Just as He invited the man who married a Muslim wife…Because he will tell you…”It is a Magical Book.”  There is a God who loves us and draws us in to Follow Him…To be with Him…To “Come and See” – An invitation to leave our lives behind – to drop everything.

To “Come and See” is an opportunity to experience what is truly LIFE – To let go of all our hurt and pain, our frustrations, And most of all – To be forgiven.  Come and See is an opportunity to Experience Eternal Life!

I didn’t think anything good could come out of South Carolina.  But, boy was I wrong…All four of our beautiful children were born in South Carolina.

Nathaniel didn’t think anything good come out of Nazareth…But, boy was he wrong…Jesus Christ – the Son of God – the Messiah – Our Lord and Savior –

The One who invites us to bring our messed up, sinful selves – to come into HIS LIFE of Love and Grace.

Why wouldn’t you drop everything just to be with HIM?

Amen.

About pastorterrihttps://pastorterri.wordpress.comI serve as the pastor at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Augusta, GA.

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