Savior Found

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, He said to him, “Follow Me.”…
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “The One Moses wrote about in the Law, and about Whom the prophets also wrote – we have found Him: Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph!”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.        John 1:43,45-46

The tutor worked hard with the student to help him understand how to do a certain kind of  math problem.  Again and again, example after example was worked through to help the young mind grasp the concepts involved.  Finally, something clicked, and the look of discovery shone on the student’s face.  He had finally found the necessary principle of mathematics – or was it that the principle had found him?

Philip eagerly grabs Nathaniel by the elbow, excitedly telling him, “We found Him, the One Moses and the Law and the prophets all pointed to!”  Was that really what happened?  Or was it that Jesus had found them?  Perhaps the key is best to be seen in the opening verse of the Gospel: “The next day Jesus DECIDED to go to Galilee.  FINDING Philip, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.'”

This is important, because the air of discovery in Christianity runs far deeper and greater than merely that you and I have found something.  The power comes from when GOD says, “I have decided, and I have found.”

In this first verse is the capsule of the message of the whole Bible from Adam and Eve onward.  Remember how this first couple who now brought rebellion into the world ran to hide at the sound of God?  God had already decided to go to the Garden of Eden, to look for and find these sinners who had started down the long road of grief, pain and the destruction of God’s beloved creation.  Already back then He had come not to damn but to call to them as He did to Philip, “Come, follow Me.”

There in the Garden, He cursed not Adam and Eve, but the Serpent and the ground; yet He also applied DISCIPLINE to the humans, identifying that death was now a part of their existence, so that they might realize their need and its solution in God’s great Promise of the Savior to come.  From then on, in situation after situation, event after event down through the Bible, God by His deliberate act of will stepped into human life, to find and then to call mankind to follow Him.

There are some interesting responses to this call of God.  Philip was enthusiastic – but he missed the point.  This wasn’t happenstance, where he just happened to stumble upon Jesus, and like the old prospector discovering gold now pats himself on the back for having made such a good discovery.  No, this was no lucky find – this was by the deliberate act of God’s will and a very specific call from God.

Nathaniel, on the other hand, came with all kinds of prejudices in place.  Because Jesus did not fit the preconceived notion of what the Messiah should be like and how He should appear, Nathaniel was prepared to reject Jesus from the very beginning.  Jesus came from the wrong place and “the wrong side of the tracks.”

The Epistle from I Corinthians [6:12-20] also adds another response.  At first it may be hard to see any relationship between the Gospel and the Epistle, yet notice how the Epistle speaks of people who attempt to neatly divide the spiritual from the physical, the religious from life.

They are ready to follow Jesus ONLY if He does not intrude on certain areas of life.   They wanted to follow Jesus only when they come to church or do specific “churchy” things – but as soon as the church doors are closed for the week, so also is Jesus to be closed out of their lives.

What is going on behind all these responses is summed up very neatly in Philip’s “WE have found God.”  You see, if we have found God, then we are in control.  He is our discovery, to do with as we please.  He then becomes merely something that we fit into our lives only where He is convenient and useful.  We then can put Him aside and leave Him to some more convenient time and more convenient circumstance.  We don’t particularly owe Him anything.  After all, if anything, HE owes us for discovering HIM.
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So when the Lord comes and says “Follow Me!”, this joins a list of other things we have found in our life.  After all we may have found yoga as something useful for our life, or that following people on the internet is a pleasant occupation of our time.  We have found that certain recreation activities or sports make us feel good and so we follow after them.  There are programs on TV which are on our “must see” list and we will conform our activities so as to make ourselves available for those time slots.

So when the Lord comes and talks about obedience to His will, when He calls us to redeem our time, when He calls us to conform ourselves around His relationship to us, our reaction is that our lives are nobody’s business but our own.  God has no right insisting on anything from us.  After all, WE FOUND HIM and we basically choose how useful He could be to us.  In a sense, He is about as necessary as our car is, or as living room lamps are – true, they are very useful, and a great inconvenience when they don’t work as they should, but they don’t rule our lives, and if necessary we will simply replace them with a better fit to what we want.

Like the old native guide who said, “Me not lost, trail lost,” we don’t see ourselves as lost, we are right here making use of everything which we have “found.”  Any discomfort we have, well, we will look for something else which will probably fill what we want even better.  When it comes to our lives, our morals, our values (such as in the Epistle, which reveals God’s will in regard to marriage and sex); when it comes to our perspectives on the world and how we view each other; when it comes to our hard earned money, to our tightly packed time schedule, whatever on which our lives are focused – how dare anyone, even God, presume tell us what to do and be like?  What right has even Jesus to make claims on us, especially when it is we who found Him!

But what if the real story is that God has come searching for US and has found US?  That idea shifts our attitude toward Jesus: we are to be HIS possession, and then the call is that we are to follow Him.  IF we had to be found, then we really were lost, we were not in control, in fact, our situation was most desperate.  A person lost in the wilderness does not say he “found” his rescuers, but rather the opposite.  If we had to be found, then we owe God quite a lot – in fact, our lives – our whole existence.  A lot hinges upon the interpretation of Who found whom.

It does not take a very long time to realize that there is something terribly wrong in our personal worlds.  Even in our own lives are many things which elude our control.  We really are not as satisfied as we imagine those who are in complete control ought to be.  Even when we get away with something, we can feel a twinge where we realize that we have done wrong, perhaps even hurting someone, particularly someone who means something to us.  Like St Paul in Romans 7, we too can cry out in frustration:

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. … For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. … I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?    (vv 15, 18-19, 23-24)

If it is that we have “found Jesus,” it now becomes embarrassing and we find ourselves in awkward situations.  If we choose to keep Him around, then we may desperately hope He doesn’t notice some of what we do, because there are deeds and conversations of which even we are ashamed.  Perhaps hopefully He will just ignore us.  Although meant to be useful for us as a “fix-it” God, His being around creates embarrassment in us as well.

However, when we realize that it is Jesus Who has found us, we stand appalled.  Just as with Adam and Eve, what we desperately want to hide, not just from the Lord but also from everyone else, and in fact even ourselves, now are exposed to the God Who searches us out.  How scary it is to realize that Jesus finds us even in these places of our lives as well.  As Nathaniel realized, we are an open book: our every thought, every action, every attitude, everything about who and what we are are known by the One Who seeks us.  We think we are fooling Him, but not in the least.

Oh, but if only we would realize what it wholly means when it is Jesus Who finds us!   He does not hold us up to ridicule, but rather stretches out His hand to let us, who have been lost in the wilderness of our failures and inadequacies, know that we have indeed been found.  We are safe.  In His hands, we have a security which is not based on our inadequate ability to find the true Savior, but rather that Jesus seeks everywhere for us as His lost sheep, and He has committed Himself to His “found ones.”  In Baptism, He demonstrates that He binds Himself to us in an unbreakable Covenant, that is, as He proved in the history of Israel, He never stops looking for us and also looking out for us.

And then He stretches out His hands to be nailed to a cross to show that no matter what state we have been in in our lostness, there is no disillusionment in finding us in no matter how bad our situation may seem.  In His death He demonstrated how eager He is that as we confess our rebellions, our foolishness, and our vain attempts to try to be His superior, His keen interest is to pay for our shame and bring His blessing.  His resurrection guarantees His heart desire to bring newness in our coming days, and eternal life into our future which starts today and tomorrow.

The Holy Spirit comes so that we have an anchor in our lives which never lets us stray far from the ability to turn to the Lord and realize that He no longer has to find us but is now right in our midst.  And Jesus arrives, here again in His Sacrament, to be where we are, to give us powerful and physical proof that He will never desert His “found ones.”   And then as we look around at the Body of Christ, we realize that all the empowerment of fellow Christians is to demonstrate that you, me, and all believers have a home right here with the One Who has so loved us, Who has found us, Who has no intention that we should ever be lost again but Who earnestly desires us to be with Him forever.


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