Psalm 36 v 5-9
Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast in the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
Let us come before God with our prayers of adoration and confession:
Lord God, you are mighty and holy, loving and just, gentle and powerful. You are our creator and through your breath you sustain us. Throughout history you have delivered your people from troubled times. You brought the Israelites out of Egypt and you showed your power, you saved your people time after time throughout the Old Testament even when they rebelled against you because you loved them. Then you sent your dear Son, Jesus, to deliver us from our sins so we can come into your presence. It is by Jesus’ blood that we are saved, not by our own works. It was by Jesus’ terrible sacrifice on the cross that you showed your immense love for us.
As we come before you, we are mindful that we have sinned and not lived up to your standards. We have found short cuts when we should have done things properly. We have been distracted by earthly concerns and pleasures which have taken us away from your righteous path. We have put our own concerns before the needs of other people. We failed to give you the respect which you deserve. In all these, we are truly sorry. Forgive us all that we have done in the past and help us to live lives, guided by your Holy Spirit, which are pleasing to you and worthy of your gospel.
We will now say the Lord’s prayer:
Hymn: Praise My Soul the King of Heaven
Reading: John 1 v 35 – 51
John’s disciples follow Jesus
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning round, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’
They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘Teacher’), ‘where are you staying?’
‘Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see.’
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Cephas (Aramaic) and Peter (Greek) both mean rock.).
Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’
‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.
‘Come and see,’ said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’
‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig-tree before Philip called you.’ Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.’
Jesus said, ‘You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig-tree. You will see greater things than that.’ 51He then added, ‘Very truly I tell you, you will see “heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on” the Son of Man.’
Come and see Jesus and you will be comforted.
We have so many distractions which can dominate our minds at the moment. There seems to be so much uncertainty around: worries about money, families, jobs, when we might get the vaccine or even how effective it might be for us. We can get absorbed into following news items about the NHS, the developments of vaccines and we can worry over the daily statistics. But through all this Jesus calls us to Him and He will be a comfort to us. Our passage in John’s gospel shows us Jesus calling His team together. They were just ordinary men, people like all of us. They all dropped their old lives and distractions to follow Jesus. What Jesus offered them was far greater than what they left behind and as we draw closer to Jesus, we can receive more of what Jesus offers us, especially his peace and comfort.
Firstly, coming to know Jesus and who he really is, was an important attraction for the disciples and for us today. The whole point of John’s gospel, as John says in chapter 20 verse 31 is so ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ John the Baptist, just before this reading, deflected all the attention away from himself and onto Jesus, even telling his own disciples to follow him. Who Jesus is really matters to us and the writer John gives us seven titles or descriptions to show us why following him is important. In chapter 1 verse 26 Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God’ which means he was the sin sacrifice to save us all from our sins; in verse 38 he is Rabbi or Teacher; in verse 41 he is the Messiah and Christ; in verse 45 he is the one who Moses spoke about; in verse 49 he is the Son of God and the King of Israel and in verse 51 he is the Son of Man. This last title shows he was more than just human as it refers to the Son of Man in Daniel chapter 7 verses 13 and 14 where the Son of Man comes in glory to reign over the whole world. Jesus was so much more than a great philosopher or a religious leader, he was and is someone really worth knowing. By coming to know Jesus and reflecting on who he is, we begin to understand how much greater Jesus is than our concerns around us. Not only that, but we have a relationship with the God of the universe. As we dwell on who Christ is, we worship him and move our focus away from ourselves and onto something, someone far greater. As we worship Jesus, he gives us his comfort.
Jesus knew all about Nathanael in verse 47. Nathanael shows himself to be quite cynical in verse 46 when he says, ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ But his attitude completely changes when Jesus reveals what He knows about him. The words in the passage don’t seem like much of an insight to us but Nathanael recognised that Jesus had seen something in him and he was filled with joy. Nathanel had been sitting under a palm tree and that may have meant he was thinking about something. He could have been mulling over a passage of scripture, perhaps the Jacob’s Ladder passage in Genesis 28. Verse 12 of chapter 28 says ‘He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.’ It seems very likely that Jesus knew what Nathanael was contemplating and alludes to it in chapter 1 verse 51 when Jesus says, ‘Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’ Nathanael was drawn to Jesus because Jesus knew him. And when we spend time praying with Jesus we know that he knows us, everything about us, in an intimate way. Jesus is our loving companion and we can trust him. He still loves us despite all of our failings.
The Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4 had many failing but when Jesus talks to her about them, she is not crushed, judged or humiliated. Instead she rushes back into the village and tells everyone in, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done,’ (verse 29). She is excited by her meeting with Jesus and the fact that she is completely known and understood by him. She had been released from her burdens of sin and knowing Jesus and being known by him was life changing. So when we come to Jesus, we may come with humility and regret because of our failings, but we can be assured that he will understand us and love us without judging us. Jesus is full of of grace and is not put off by our sins.
Thirdly, being with Jesus transforms our lives. Nathanael was transformed from a cynic to a believer. In verse 38 Jesus asked the disciples who were following Him, ‘What do you want?’ Jesus wanted the disciples to know that he was going to introduce them to a transformed life which was going to be focused on spiritual goals rather than earthly objectives. Jesus also changes Simon’s name to Peter (verse 42) which means ‘rock’. This name change was the sign of a transformed life and was a name which Peter would eventually live up to. When we see God transforming our lives we are reminded that he loves us and changes us for the better. He is preparing us for his eternal kingdom and they are great opportunities for us to thank and praise God
When we see God at work in our lives, it is natural that we will want to share what we have found. It’s a bit like when we move house or get a new car, we become like a child with a new toy. We want to share it with all our friends because we are excited about it. Andrew and Philip show that same excitement when they invite Simon and Nathanael to meet Jesus. They did not use any clever words or salesman tactics, they just said, ‘Come and see.’
In times of uncertainty, we have a relationship with Jesus who is greater than the earthly concerns we have. When we think on who Jesus is we come to know for ourselves that he is greater than all our worries. When we spend time in prayer, we realise how much he knows us, loves us and accepts us. When we think over how he has worked in our lives we can show our gratitude and thank him and he will comfort us. And as our lives are touched by Jesus we will want to share this more and more with those around us.
Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus for comforting us when we turn our minds towards you. Help us to grow closer to you and transform our hearts so we can serve and worship you with faithful hearts. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession:
Father God, we thank you for all our families and friends and for those around us who care. Help us to look out for our neighbours as we go through further lockdown restrictions. Help us to share our lives in whatever ways we can within the guidelines of keeping safe from Covid 19. Help us to share and live out your gospel with those around us and open our eyes to see you at work so that we may thank and praise you.
We pray for those who are lonely and isolated at this time. Help us to recognise people’s needs and bring your comfort to them.
We pray for those people who are hit with financial problems due to the virus. Give them hope, wisdom and comfort during these troubled times.
We thank you for all the work our NHS and research teams are doing at this time. Keep them safe and grant them all the wisdom and strength they need through these hard times to save lives.
We pray for other key workers, especially those who work alongside others like shop workers and the police. Protect them in their duties and comfort them in times of worry.
We pray for governments and medical teams administering the vaccines.We pray that the vaccines will be distributed fairly and quickly to save lives. Please help the governments across the world to receive and distribute vaccines to their people quickly and fairly too.
Father God, we pray that through all these difficult times, people will turn to you for help and thanksgiving and that they may receive your love and mercy.
We ask all these prayers in Jesus’ name.
Hymn: Oh Worship the King!
May grace, mercy and peace, from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, rest and remain on each one of us, now and always. Amen.