Series overview: Over the last year or so I have written a lot about Jesus-centeredness in general and Jesus-centred biblical interpretation in particular. In this latest series of posts I am taking a passage of scripture and demonstrating how these concepts work in practice. The text I have selected is from John chapter One.
I have just one more thing I would like to draw from the encounter between Nathanael and Jesus recorded in John Chapter One (see the first post in this series here). I started this series of posts with this portion of scripture so it is good to end there…. Jesus is first and last!.
When Nathanial responded to Phillips declaration about Jesus with the sceptical remark, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46), Phillip did something very wise; he refused to argue. Nathanael was a scholar and Phillip could so easily have tried to engage in an argument; “But Nat, Jesus comes from Nazareth, and you know that word is from Netzer, which means ‘branch’, and you also know that the Branch is a prophetic reference to the Messiah.” He could equally have debated the meaning of the words ‘Nazarite’ and ‘Nazarene’: we know that Matthew picked up on this when he wrote that Jesus ‘ lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene”’ (Matthew 2:23). But Phillip did not engage in any form of theological or philosophical argument. Instead he simple said, “come and see.”
In all my years as a Christian I have yet to successfully argue anyone into the Kingdom of Heaven. No amount of clever rhetoric of careful logic can save a person. Why not? Because salvation does not rest on how much one knows but on who one knows. Phillip invited Nathanael to come and meet Jesus and within minutes of encountering the Word of Life Nathanial was transformed from spiritual death to life. Just a few words from Jesus was all it took!
When I was invited to pastor the Village Church Lonehill there were only 17 people in the congregation. We needed to reach out and build the local church. I asked the people why they were not ‘evangelising’ and they said it was because they didn’t know how to; they needed training. So, I put together a comprehensive course and presented it over a three month period. The result was that not one person was brought into relationship with Jesus. Why not? Because evangelism is not a matter of knowledge and technique, but rather a heart-to-heart witness about our relationship with Jesus. The bottom line is this – if you are born again of the Spirit of God into a living relationship with Jesus then you know enough to introduce someone else to him. The primary evangelical message is, “come and see”.