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Second Sunday after Epiphany

1 Samuel 3:1–20; John 1:43–51

James T. Batchelor

Epiphany 2, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jan 18, 2015 

This is one of those Sundays when the chosen reading from the Old Testament goes along very well with the reading from the Gospel.  In both cases the Lord is calling men into the ministry.

The reading from the Old Testament informs us that the Lord came and stood, calling Samuel.  This would be an epiphany of the Son of God appearing to Samuel many centuries before He took on flesh and blood in the womb of the Virgin.  We often refer to such epiphanies as appearances of the pre-incarnate Son of God.  Although He exists from eternity as spirit, the Son of God would, from time-to-time, reveal Himself in physical form to select people at special times.  Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Moses would be a few examples of other people who saw an epiphany of the Son of God before He was born of Mary.

The reading we recently heard from the Gospel according to John informs us that [Jesus] found Philip and said to him, Follow me. Obviously, this would be the Son of God calling Philip after He took on human flesh and was born of Mary.  This is more or less the way that He called all the men who would later become His apostles.

Notice that it is always God who comes and calls.  Samuel didnt suddenly decide to be a prophet on his own, nor did Philip decide on his own to become an apostle.  It is God who called them.  In turn, God worked through Samuel to call Eli and his sons back to Him, and He worked through Philip to call Nathaniel.  Whether God calls directly as with Samuel and Philip or indirectly as with Eli and Nathaniel, it is always God who calls people to Himself.  It is God who calls you.

The message that God gave to Samuel was frightening.  Eli and his sons were priests at the tabernacle.  Eli was the high priest and his sons served under him.  The problem was that Elis sons were very corrupt.  The Bible describes Elis sons as worthless men.  They were adulterers and they abused the office of priest for their own gain and pleasure (1 Samuel 2:1225).  Gods patience had run out and He was about to destroy Eli and his sons.  The Lord said to Samuel, I am about to punish [Elis] house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.  Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Elis house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever. What a sad and terrifying thing it must have been for Samuel to proclaim this message to the man who was his mentor the man who trained him in the ways of the tabernacle a man that he probably loved and respected.

In spite of this terrible message of judgment, Eli did not repent, nor did he discipline his sons.  He became an accomplice with them because he did not punish them.  Elis sons died in battle.  When Eli heard the news, he fell and broke his neck.  When Elis daughter-in-law heard, she went into labor and died in childbirth.  The baby survived and they named him Ichabod which means the glory has departed.

Eli and his sons were a terrible tragedy.  They all worked in the tabernacle.  They had access to the writings of Moses.  They participated in the sacrificial system.  They had every reason to fear Gods wrath and trust His promises.  Never the less, they ignored Gods written word and they ignored the word of God from the mouth of Samuel.  God wanted to give them life and they chose death.

One of the many things that the call of Samuel teaches is that God calls men into the ministry in order to proclaim a message of judgment.  Judgment always has to come first.  It does no good to learn that Jesus forgives sins if a person doesnt think they have any sins.  What good is a savior if you dont think you need saving?  Jesus Himself said, [Mark 2:17] Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. People who insist that they are righteous in themselves may not realize it, but they are also insisting that they do not need Jesus.  That is why God calls men to proclaim judgment and repentance.  Eli and his sons would have been much better off if they had listened to Samuel and repented. 

That is why it is so important for you to meditate on your confession at the beginning of the service: I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment.  If you just mouth these words and dont really mean them, you are telling Jesus that you dont need Him.

Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.  I dont know about other pastors, but it gives me no joy to have to tell you about your sin.  For one thing, I am fond of you and I care about you and I dont enjoy hurting your feelings.  That being said, it is, in fact, an act of love for me to tell you about your sins.  For only those who know their sins also know their need for Jesus.  Just as it gives a doctor no great pleasure to tell people about their cancer, it gives a pastor no great joy to tell people about sin.  At the same time, it is necessary for the doctor to inform you of your disease so that you will understand your need for the treatment.  In the same way, it is necessary to inform you of your sin so that you will understand your need for the treatment, Jesus Christ.

In contrast to the terrifying message that God gave to Samuel, Jesus gave Philip a proclamation of joy.  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Both Philip and Nathaniel were ready for Jesus.  Notice how Philip assumed that Nathaniel knew about Moses and the prophets.  This meant that they knew about their sins and they also knew about Gods promise of a savior from those sins.  All Philip had to do was tell Nathaniel that Jesus of Nazareth is the savior of promise.  This is great news.  This is news of salvation.

Nathaniel did have one problem.  He had preconceived notions about the savior.  Can anything good come out of Nazareth? When Nathaniel asked that question, he was telling Philip that Nazareth is no way for God to come to man.  Never the less, Jesus is the God who took on human flesh in the womb of a simple peasant girl a virgin.  He was laid in a manger at His birth, and He grew up in the town of Nazareth.  Some of Nathaniels expectations had to die.

Philips response was simple.  He said, Come and see. This is the part of being a pastor that is a true joy pointing to Jesus.  Come and see your savior.

Jesus already knew Nathaniel.  Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you. This is when Nathanael learned that Jesus saw him before Philip even invited him to come and see.  Jesus looked like an ordinary construction worker, but He said that He saw Nathaniel even before Philip invited him to see Jesus and, yes, He was from Nazareth of all places.

Nazareth is not the strangest thing that Nathaniel will learn about this savior.  He will learn that this man who looks like an ordinary laborer is God in human flesh.  He will witness as this Jesus lived under the law and kept it perfectly.  He would run away in terror with the other disciples when the soldiers arrested Jesus in Gethsemane.  He would hide in fear while this Jesus hung on the cross and died.  He would stare in wonder as he reached out and touched the wounds in the hands, feet, and side of his risen savior.  This man is not just Jesus of Nazareth, but He is Jesus of the cross.  He is Jesus of the empty tomb.  He is Jesus who comes to you in Word and Sacrament.

Jesus is the way by which God dwells with man in peace.  As Jesus taught Nathaniel, He portrayed Himself as the fulfillment of Jacobs vision of heaven with the ladder extending down from heaven with angels ascending and descending on it and God promising, [Genesis 28:15] Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Jesus said, Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. This is a promise of the same vision that Jacob saw with Jesus as the ladder that allows God to come and dwell with man without the punishment of sin.  For if God were to come to man without Jesus, then there would only be judgment and punishment, but with Jesus there is forgiveness, peace, and joy.

God calls men of every culture to proclaim His message the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  The message of repentance is always similar to the message that God gave to Samuel that terrifies us of our sin.  The message of forgiveness is always similar to the message that God gave to Philip that always points to Jesus.  Come and see your savior Jesus of Nazareth Jesus of the cross Jesus of the empty tomb.  This is the same Jesus who comes to you in Word and Sacrament.  This is Jesus your savior.  Amen



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