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There once was a young man who had spent months and months looking for work. He finally found some working in a car dealership. It was his new job to sell a very high-end automobile. This was a real performance machine. The young man knew first-hand that jobs were hard to come by so he was determined to make this one work. For the first while he was there he did nothing but memorize all the information there was to know about this car. There was nothing about this car that this young man couldn’t tell you about. Parts, mileage, efficiency, owner expectations, reviews, warranties; you name it he knew it. But the young man went even farther. He learned everything there was to know about every other car in its class, and how each one compared to the one he was selling. The more he learned about this car the more amazed he became. He was honestly beginning to believe that this was the best car that had ever been built. Every one should have this car and he was just the man to sell it to them.
The day finally came when he was allowed to try and sell the car on his own. He hadn’t been this excited in a long time. Today, he thought to himself, I am going to make a lot of people happy, and earn a nice bit of money at the same time. Well, he got his first customer. Quickly he went into his rehearsed speech on the virtues of the car. No matter what line of reasoning he followed she still didn’t look convinced. Eventually she left without buying the car. Nothing he had said had changed her mind.
This scene was repeated time and time again that day. By the end of it he could no longer keep track of all the people who had rejected him. As he was watching the last of his failed attempts walk away, a senior salesman came back to the show room. He had a big grin on his face. “I just sold my third car of the day” he beamed. The young man was flabbergasted. “How do you keep doing that?” he asked. “Nothing I say has gotten anyone to even think twice about buying!” It’s easy the other replied, “All I have to say is two words … ‘TEST DRIVE?’ Once they get in the car it sells itself. All I do is sit back and enjoy the ride.” Needless to say, from that day on the young man did a lot less talking and a lot more selling. Knowing about the product hadn’t been enough. He needed faith in it as well.
In many ways we Christians are like the young man in the story I just told you. We have been given the awesome responsibility to share the Gospel message with others. This is our job: To proclaim Jesus Christ, baptize, and teach – the great commission. For a Christian it should be as much a part of life as eating, sleeping and breathing. The season of Epiphany should be as much about evangelism as it is about the revealed Christ. In Epiphany Jesus is revealed to us as the Messiah, the Christ. We in turn are then to reveal Him as such to those around us.
At first glance this doesn’t seem like it should be so hard. We have all recommended products or services to our friends and relatives before. If I asked you for a good brand brand of detergent or a particularly nice restaurant, not one of you would hesitate with a recommendation. If I asked any one of you which was the best, which I should use, you would have some name to give me. You could do so because you have faith in the cleaning power of the detergent; you have faith in the quality of the food and service. As Christians, however, we often act as if we don’t have any faith in Christ. We often don’t tell others about our Saviour Jesus Christ when we are given the opportunity. And we almost never make such an opportunity ourselves. Why not?
When confronted with their lack of zeal for the great commission the answers people give will vary. Some may truthfully answer, “I just don’t get around to it” For others it is a matter of not liking confrontations. Still others will say, “I am not a very good speaker, I don’t know how to persuade people” And many will answer by saying that they don’t know the Bible nearly well enough to give an answer to all the objections others might have. Believe it or not, God has heard all of these excuses before; most of them by people in the Bible. It is nothing new to Him.
At the time of the Gospel reading Jesus had been in the wilderness by the Jordan with, or near, John the Baptist for four days. He was about to leave to make his way back to Galilee. He had already called Andrew, Peter, and John. He now went and sought out Philip. Finding Philip He said to him “Follow me.” Philip did. Now remember, at most, Philip had known about this Jesus for no more than four days. Maybe he had been talking to Andrew and Peter, who were from his home town, maybe not. Whatever the case, we know that he immediately believed. He was moved by Jesus words. He was so moved in fact that he had to go right out and tell someone else.
The person he ran to tell was none other than his friend Nathanael, also called Bartholomew. Here is an important lesson for any who would be better witnesses of Christ. Start with people you know. This means friends, relatives, co-workers, classmates, teammates. These are all people with whom you have some connection. It gives you a place to start from, and allows you the benefit of the doubt. You may be surprised, but nearly everyone who comes to a church later in life, does so because of a friend or acquaintance, not because of some profound search for doctrinal truths (that comes later).
When Philip got to Nathanael he said, “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.” He got right to the point, I have found the Saviour. Nathanael responds in typical fashion: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” His response is nothing to be surprised at. It is one that witnesses today will also face. People will always have some reason for not already being a Christian. Many will be rather tame, some will be argumentative, still others will be down right nasty. Note here Philips response: “Come and see.” That’s it. That was the crux of his sales pitch. “Come and see.” Philip could have gone into a lengthy discourse with his friend about the proofs of Jesus’ stature and calling. He could have gone into the scriptural proof texts. He could have debated with his friend until he was blue in the face. He did not. All he said was “Come and see.”
Knowing the bible inside out and backwards is good, but it will not help us get someone else to believe in Christ. Only Christ can do that. Witnessing is not about our skills as an orator, our abilities as a debater. We are not salesmen of the Gospel message, only witnesses. It is not our job to make others believe, only hear. What a great burden this takes from our shoulders. In the face of this insight, any excuse not to witness seems rather pale.
We see from the rest of the text the validity of Philip’s approach. His openness and honesty do their part in convincing Nathanael that it couldn’t hurt to at least look. Once he goes with Philip Jesus does the rest. Jesus is the power behind any successful witness. He is indeed the revealed Son of God. Jesus is the one who fulfilled the scriptures: right from the third chapter of Genesis, where it was foretold he would crush the head of Satan; all the way through to Isaiah, where it was foretold that he would be the suffering servant. All of Scripture points to this one figure, this saviour of all mankind. All of scripture, is witness to the glorious work that Christ performed upon the cross to redeem his people. The limitless love of Christ, shown in that final act of mercy is the power behind the Christian witness. This Gospel has the power to change people and bring them to faith.
Today, I invite you dear friends, first to once again “Come and see the Son of God” Hear again what He has done for you, how He has made you His own, how He promises to work with you to bring others to Himself. Then and only then, I put this task before you: in this season of Epiphany, witness to the people around you. It is not a matter of eloquence. It is not the pursuit of scholars. It can be as simple as “Come and see!”