Any good?

He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus.

This scripture, taken from the first chapter of John’s gospel, concerns the gathering of the first disciples. The next verses following today’s gospel concern the calling of Phillip and his friend Nathanael. We all recall their exchange: Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Nathanael isn’t buying it. After all, can anything worthwhile come out of that place? Nathanial saw Nazareth as a downer, no good. We encounter people like that. We say something, and they naysay it. It may seem to us that they are glass half-empty people, yet there is something more there. Perhaps they are projecting their own sense of personal worthlessness in their reaction.

In our sinful and broken world, we ask the same question about ourselves. Can anything good come from my life, my family situation, my personality, from someone who looks like me, is as old or young as me, or who has made mistakes like I have?

How about you? How are you feeling this morning? What motivated you to come here this morning or to join us virtually? Are we all feeling good and inspired, or has the past week taken its toll on us and put us at the end of our ropes?

Perhaps this is how Nathanael was feeling as he listened to Phillip’s words. Perhaps, rather than Nazareth, he was thinking, “Nathanael! Can anything good come from me?”

There are times when we look at ourselves like that, perhaps because of a secret, an illness, trial, hurt, grief, or loneliness. Perhaps it is the state of our country, and we say it will never get any better. Nazareth, everything else, and me – Nothing is good!

When Jesus met the disciples, He met men who all felt small and were caught up in their own pasts. As with Nathanial, Jesus saw through that and said, “I see you and I know what you are like. I’ve got you all figured out. I know you better than you know yourself. Come follow Me.”

When someone sees you, welcomes you and believes in you, it is powerful, freeing, life-giving, and transformative.

Jesus knows us completely and all that troubles us. He understands our faults, failures and insecurities. He knows the things we’ve kept secret. Jesus isn’t shocked by anything about us and loves us no matter what. He died to set us free from all that and He has great plans for us. He says, Come, follow Me.

When we get up and go like those disciples we come to not only understanding and acceptance, but to love God and to a whole new way of seeing ourselves, everybody, and everything. We set aside the traps of anger, fear, prejudice, and self-centeredness.

Jesus saw something in the disciples that surprised them.  Instead of seeing rotten, no good sinners, people out of whom nothing good can come, Jesus saw people He loved and with a great future. Can anything good come from me? Yes! God has seen it and has said so. He has asked us in. Come, follow Me.

Worthy of the
call.

But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!

Jesus’ meeting with Zacchaeus is one of the most beautiful encounters in the gospel. It is beautiful and poignant because it speaks to us in the ways we fall short of the call we have received and the hope we have for coming to worthiness.

St. Paul tells the Thessalonians to be worthy of the call. Jesus reminds Zacchaeus to live up to his call.

Let’s take apart the words here.

First, Jesus had no intention of hanging out in Jericho. The gospel tells us “[He] intended to pass through the town.”

But… there was this man Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus the short, the tiny, the little. It wasn’t so much about Zacchaeus’ physical stature, but rather his spiritual standing.

God’s only Son, Jesus, passing through the town comes across one fallen, one with great spiritual and moral shortcomings. and stopped as Wisdom says God does. The Lover of souls takes time to call Zacchaeus down from his lofty position and back to the reality of one called, a son of Israel and child of God. Jesus’ presence calls Zacchaeus to abandon his former ways … and he does.

Notice, Zacchaeus stands, stands on his own feet to be seen and heard by all. He renounces his former life and in doing so finds salvation. And not just Zacchaeus, but salvation had come to his entire house. 

There is such hope here. There is such promise!

Zacchaeus, like we, was the holder of God’s promise. He was not an outsider, not a castaway, forgotten – and Jesus did not pass him by. Jesus passes no one by. The Holy Spirit’s call to faith echoes in each person’s ears. We are all called as is every human being. There is no ‘them’ in the promise of hope. 

The call rang out in Zacchaeus’ heart, come unto Jesus. So, he climbed. It has rung out in our hearts – it is why we are here. It is ringing in ears across this city, county, state, nation, and world. We must therefore live worthy of the call, using the grace and power given us to powerfully bring to fulfillment the good God asks of us, the effort of faith. Let us bring in of the harvest through the word of hope we hold, the example we offer.