Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about– Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael replied, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip replied, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and exclaimed, "Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael asked him, "How do you know me?" Jesus replied, "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 said to him, "Because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these." He continued, "I tell all of you the solemn truth– you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (John 1:45-51)So how did you come to the faith? Last week, some members of our congregation came together to tell our stories about how we got here. Each of us had a chance to tell our "spiritual biography" - a 5-8 minute story on how our journey of faith had brought us to this point in our lives. Everyone had a different path, marked with high points and low valleys. But the "red thread" which ran through each story was the importance of relationships.
Nobody is in a vacuum, we all live as part of a larger community and environment. Those of us who are connected to a faith community didn't get there because of our own volition. We didn't just wake up one morning and say, "Hey! I think I'll go to church. I've never been to church before, don't have a clue what it is, but I really need to go to one right now!" It just doesn't work that way.
If you think about your own faith life, you will see that there are key people who have influenced you and nurtured your faith journey. For me, it was my parents. For my father, it was my mother who brought him to the faith. For my mom, it was a girlfriend in high school who invited her to a youth outing (which happened to be Billy Graham's first Crusade in San Diego back in the 1950's). What's clear is nobody comes to Christ outside relationships.
That's why I love the story of the call of Nathanael in John's Gospel. Philip, Nathanael's friend, "found" him. Philip went looking for his friend and then told him about Jesus. Nathanael, urbane guy that he was, says, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Rather than be intimidated by Nathanael's sarcastic response, Philip replies, "Come and see." Philip does not engage Nathanael in an argument, nor does he chide Nathanael for his cynicism. He just says, "Come and see." When Jesus encounters Nathanael, his cynicism is replaced by trust in who Jesus is and what it means for Israel.
Nathanael only appears one more time in the New Testament - in John 21:2: "Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together." This is the beginning of the story where Jesus appears on the beach at the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection. Once again, Jesus comes to Nathanael within the context of being with his friends. And that is how Jesus comes to us too. Through our relationships, Jesus comes to us and offers us new life.