Philip Finding Nathanael
( Originally Published 1895 )
"Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see." —John i. 45, 46.
ONE by one through several days we have been studying these special calls coming to individuals through different sources. First there was the call of John the Baptist—at first when preaching to the great congregation, but afterward in what seemed to be a far more effective way, when he had two men alone together and pointing them toward Christ said, " Behold the Lamb of God," which immediately resulted in their following Jesus and becoming his disciples. One of these, Andrew, at once bethought himself of his brother Simon, and going after him, was able to bring him also to Christ. Then we have found Jesus going himself in search of Philip; coming to him with his kindly but clear-cut invitation, "Follow me," which was at once heeded. Tonight we see Philip, who has so recently come to know the Lord himself, going in search of his friend Nathanael. Perhaps in his first joy and gladness in becoming acquainted with Christ as the Messiah and coming to believe in him surely as the one to whom all that blazing path of light throughout the prophecies pointed, he thought within himself, Who among the circle of my friends and acquaintances would best enjoy knowing the Lord? And at once he thought of Nathanael, an earnest, sincere man, a thoughtful man, one who would be greatly interested in any-thing that was good, and one who had specially studied the prophecies with reference to the Messiah. And so without delay he hurried away to seek Nathanael, and said, " We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
I think that which impresses us first of all must be the readiness with which Philip apprehends the very essence of what it is to be a Christian. He at once sets himself to doing the work of Jesus Christ. Christ is seeking after men to win them to the truth, and so at once Philip himself becomes a seeker of men. Oh, that we might learn that lesson ! We are here in this world as Christ's ambassadors. Every Christian is here in , Christ's stead; to stand in his place, to bear witness and testimony to him. We put ourselves to school to him. Conversion is an entrance into Christ's school. To be a Christian is to be like Christ, to endeavor to do what he would do if he were here in our place. I cannot conceive how it is possible to be a Christian, in any true sense, unless we are striving with humble and honest hearts to do what Jesus would do, if he lived here in our place.
Mr. W. T. Stead, of London, sets this forth very clearly in a remarkable incident which he relates concerning his Christmas in 1885. t was at the time when he was carrying on that memorable fight for social purity in England,, which attracted the attention of the whole civilized world and worked with great force for righteousness, though the heroic worker was at that time in jail, suffering imprisonment brought about by the machinations of the titled criminals he had sought to unearth. On that Christmas afternoon Mr. Stead says that he had been writing a letter to a poor girl who had been struggling, against great temptation, to regain a better life. Although it was a better life, it was for the time being much duller, and the poor girl was sorely tempted to go back to the old license. Some of Mr. Stead's friends, who knew her, suggested that he might help her failing resolution if he wrote to her from the jail. He had begun the letter and was trying his best to say what he thought would help her, when there came to him as it were a voice, which said with great emphasis, " Why are you asking that girl to be a Christian? Never say to any one any more `Be a Christian;' always say `Be a Christ.' "
He meditated somewhat, wondering and marveling not a little at the apparent blasphemy of the exhortation; but again the impression came to his mind with all the clearness of a speaking voice : " Do not be a Christian ever any more, for a Christian has come to be a mere label, but say to every one, `Be a Christ.' "
It was a new thought to him, and his first impression about it was distinctly unfavorable. t seemed to him blasphemous, or if not blasphemous at least exceedingly presumptuous, and he recoiled from using the formula which had been given to him in such a striking manner. But as he thought of it, the truth of it gradually dawned upon his mind, and he accepted it. He finished his letter in harmony with his new thought. Then he sat down and wrote letters to Cardinal Manning, Canon Liddon, General Booth of the Salvation Army, Benjamin Waugh, Hugh Price Hughes, and many other distinguished Christian men, representing every branch of Christian faith, saying to them all what strange words had sounded in his ear that Christmas day, and asking them what they thought of it. From one and all he received the most encouraging response. Instead of being offended, they all united in declaring that it was the very essence of the gospel message. And yet I fear that many of us have not so learned Christ. How many things we have done which we would not have done if at the time we had stopped to say, " I am here to represent Jesus Christ. I am not to follow my own inclinations, but I am to find out what Jesus would do in this case, and by his help that must I do." t seems to me Philip was simply following out that thought. Christ had found him and brought to him the great joy of salvation, and now he goes and finds Nathanael and brings him to share in the joy of the Master's love. Brothers and sisters, be a Christ, do the Master's work, share the Master's cross, and thus you shall here on earth share his joy, which no man or no circumstance can take away from you, and after a while you shall share his glory forever.
The other thought which I wish to impress this evening is this : Personal contact with Jesus is able to break down all prejudice. Nathanael was prejudiced against Nazareth, and so, incredulously, he asks of Philip, " Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip's answer is a model for us every one. He did not undertake to argue with him at all. He did not even enter into a discussion of the prophecies to show that they were all fulfilled in Christ. He simply said to his friend, " Come and see." One hour's personal contact with Christ is worth ten years' studying into evidences of Christianity. t is like arguing with a man who has been hidden away in a cave and never known the light or heat of the great king of day, that there is such a thing as the sun. Bring the poor blanched-faced skeptic out into the sunshine, let it not only dazzle his eyes but warm him through and through, until the blood comes to his cheeks and leaps in his veins, and he will not need argument. Brother, bring your friend to Jesus Christ. Personal contact with him will break down all barriers. There is no ignorance so dense, there is no sin so dark or stubborn, but personal contact with Jesus can dispel it.
Any one here to-night who has never known Jesus Christ as a personal friend and Savior, I invite you now: Come and see. No matter how discouraged you are, or how skeptical you have been, or how completely your sins have mastered you, if you really come to Jesus in obedience and humility and repentance, he is able to save you from them all.
Mr. A. W. Hawkes tells a very interesting story of a picture which hung on the wall of a hospital ward. It was not a fine work of art; any severe critic would have pronounced it a daub. It did not cost much money, and the frame was of plain, uncarved wood. But the picture told a story, and told it well.
The background of the picture was a rough stone wall, above it a leaden sky; in the foreground a pale, sad-eyed, weary-looking girl had fallen on a stone bench, and in her arms she held a sick boy, with a white band tied around his forehead just above the sunken, faded eyes. And just in front of them the Christ stood, the patient, long-suffering, ever-loving Christ, and his hands, not yet pierced, rested upon the head of the sick boy, and his eyes, full of unspeakable tenderness, caught the up-turned eyes of the boy, and in the faded eyes of the poor, sick little fellow the light was beginning to come back.
The picture hung in the hospital on the bare, whitewashed walls. And on the bed directly opposite the picture, tossing in fever, wild with delirium, was a homeless boy from the slums. Born of rum-cursed parents, nursed at a rum-scented breast, and tossed in the nervous arms of a drunken mother, the boy had been born to a heritage of woe. He knew nothing of what the word father meant. He knew the old man" well enough to keep out of his way when he could, for he carried marks of his brutal beatings on his face. When the fever came on, he had been found by a policeman, alone in the straw on the damp floor of his cellar.
They brought him to the hospital, and hands soft and delicate ministered to him, while the white-souled nurse trembled in terror at his fearful oaths. Finally he grew better, and the doctor said he would pull through.
One morning when the nurse came, and, pulling up the blind, let the light fall upon his face, she said :
" Shall I read to you?"
" No," said the boy, and his eyes sought the picture. " No, tell me about that picture; who is he?"
" He is the Christ," she said, and then with a prayer in her heart she told the story of his life to the boy, and as she closed she said, "Do you believe in Him?"
"I believe in you," said the boy, and the next morning he said to the nurse, " Tell me more about Him."
The nurse was very glad to tell about Christ. Her life had been one of trial, but now she was anchored in the haven of rest and the Savior's voice had brought a calm to the troubled waters of her life.
As she told the old, old story, the boy said : " You know Him, don't you?"
"Yes," she said, "thank God, I do."
" And does He love boys?"
" He loves everybody."
" Rough boys like me?"
And so it went on, day by day. She talked of Him, and at last there came a time when she said again :
"Do you believe in Him?"
And the boy said, "I believe."
And two faces bathed in tears of rapturous joy were lifted up to the picture.
And so the boy who came into that hospital with a moral disease more deadly and terrible than the fever which was consuming his wasted frame, went away renewed not only in body but in soul. Next his heart he carried a small Bible. In his heart he carried the Christ.
That is what the Christ can do. He can do it for you as well as for anybody else in the world. I come to you with the simple message that Philip brought to Nathanael—" Come and see."