The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”
John 1: 43-51 (Gospel from the First Sunday of Lent)
In John 1: 35-39, we hear of the call of the first Disciples:
The next day, again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them “What do you seek?” And they said to Him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day.”
The first call of Jesus to the men who would be His Disciples was to “come and see,” to come and “be” with Jesus. It wasn’t a call to come and do something, but rather a call to come and BE something. In the world today, we all DO things—we work at jobs, we volunteer coach our children’s teams, etc. These are hats we wear and we take off. There are very few things that we ARE. One of those things is to BE a Christian, and all that it entails—to BE a person of dignity, to BE a person of value, to BE a person of integrity, to BE a person of faith.
The identity of the disciple is to BE a follower of Jesus. The work of the disciple is DO something, and that something is to bring others to know Jesus as well. Thus, in the verses that immediately follow the call of the first disciples, we see that Jesus found Philip and said “follow Me.” (John 1: 43) Immediately, Philip found Nathanael and told him to come and to be with Jesus.
Nathanael answered in the way many react to the call of Christ, with cynicism. When told by Philip “We have found Him of Whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,” (1:45) Nathanael asked “Can anything good come out of Nazareth.” (1:46) Philip was not deterred by Nathanael’s cynicism. Rather, with confidence, Philip said to Nathanael “come and see.” (1:46) And after seeing, Nathanael said “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (1:49) This would not have happened without the call of Philip. Even though faith is ultimately a personal choice, the encouragement of others plays a very important role in people coming to the faith.
Part of our Christian journey is to accept the call to follow Christ and then to spread the word to others, to “come and see.” However, we must be careful about what we are inviting people to come and see. Are they coming to see Christian communities that are alive and vibrant, or dull and dying? Are they coming to see centers of spiritual formation and worship, or culture clubs or social groups? Are they coming to see churches that are ready to go out and do significant ministries in the world, or churches that can barely hold up their roofs?
Below this reflection is the Synodikon, which will be read in all Orthodox Churches on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. It is either a statement of conviction or hypocrisy. If we are convicted in our faith, and ready to live it and share it, it really is a faith that can change the world. If we are not ready to live it and share it, our “faith” is limited to icons on walls and words on paper. Can a small group change the world? Well, Christ and His disciples did. And even if we can’t change the whole world, as they did, each of us is capable of significantly affecting our individual corners of it.
As the prophets beheld, as the apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the teachers have declared, as the world has agreed, as grace has shown forth, as truth has been revealed, as falsehood has been dispelled, as wisdom has become manifest, as Christ awarded; Thus we declare; thus we affirm; thus we proclaim Christ our true God, and honor His saints in words, writings, thoughts, sacrifices, churches and holy icons; on the one hand worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord, and on the other, honoring the saints as true servants of the same Lord of all, and offering them proper veneration.
This is the faith of the apostles. This is the faith of the fathers. This is the faith of the Orthodox. This is the faith on which the world is established.
Therefore with fraternal and filial love we praise the heralds of the faith, those who with glory and honor have struggled for the faith, and we say: to the champions of Orthodoxy, faithful emperors, most-holy patriarchs, hierarchs, teachers, martyrs and confessors: May your memory be eternal!
Let us beseech God that we may be instructed and strengthened by the trials and struggles of these saints, which they endured for the faith even unto death, and by their teachings, entreating that we may to the end imitate their Godly life. May we be deemed worthy of obtaining our requests through the mercy and grace of the Great and First Hierarch, Christ our God, through the intercession of our glorious Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, the divine angels and all the Saints. Amen.
Come and see! Come and BE! Invite others to do the same! And do your part to present a church that can change the world!