Come and See
Most of you remember the democracy movement in China in 1989, particularly by the iconic photo of the “Tank Man” which shows a protester standing at the middle of the road blocking a series of military tanks at the Tiananmeng Square. The movement failed, and many dissidents were exiled.
Among them was a scholar named Zhiming Yuan, who was exiled to France, but Princeton University brought him to the United States as a visiting scholar. The Chinese Student Bible Study group at Princeton invited him to join their Bible Study. Yuan refused to go there thinking that religion was an outdated concept. Being a scholar of philosophy, he felt religion to be superstitious and even repulsive.
His interest was how to turn China into a democracy, and what he could learn from America the secret of establishing a democracy. Religion was the last thing he believed would help him accomplish it. After all, growing up in China, he had learned Karl Marx’s famous statement “Religion is the opium of the people.”
As he got to know more and more Chinese students at Princeton, and at their relentless invitation, he finally visited the Student Bible Study group. Even though he had no interest in the Bible, he found the fellowship fascinating. He observed that the people there seemed to be very happy and there seemed to be an indescribable inner joy in them that shows up in their face.
The attitudes and the positive appearance of those Christians sparked an interest in his mind, “Why are they so happy?” What about Jesus Christ that made these people so filled with joy? He was not talking about the superficial outward joy, but the mysterious hope-filled internal joy that reflected on their countenance. The appearance of the Christians triggered his first curiosity of the Bible.
However, in his mind, he still believed Christianity was an outdated idea and inferior to philosophy.
Later, he was invited by President George H. W. Bush (the old Bush) to a breakfast at the White House. Many people gathered at the table waiting for the arrival of the President. When Bush entered the room, people stood up and cheered with applause. That was expected, but after him another man entered the room, and the cheer was even louder and more joyous.
He bent over to his neighbor and asked who this was that seemed more popular than the President. He was told that it was Rev. Billy Graham. He was totally puzzled--why in the world a religious leader could be more popular than the President in this most developed country. He thought, America, being the most advanced country in the world, would have completely eliminated religions from politics.
After that breakfast at the White House, his curiosity on Christianity escalated. For the first time he questioned whether Communism failed because they obliterated religion. For the first time he began to suspect the secret ingredient of the success of American democracy could be in Christianity.
He decided to join the Bible study fellowship and did some research on his own. To make the long story short, he not only became a Christian but also later joined the seminary and now became a famous minister among Chinese Christian circles around the world.
I am telling you this story to consider how a person can be profoundly transformed by a simple invitation “Come and see.”
In John 1:35-42, Jesus recruited his first disciples by simply saying, “Come and see.” At first, two disciples of John the Baptist started following Jesus, and Jesus turned around and asked them, “What are you looking for?” They said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. (John 1:39a).
Jesus didn’t make a philosophical argument or a theological debate, but he simply said, “Come and see.” One might think Jesus would use his divine persuasion with godly language skill to convince someone to become his disciples.
Later Philip found Nathaniel and told him that he had found the Messiah who is the Jesus of Nazareth. Nazareth? Nathaniel didn’t think much of Jesus based on where he was from.
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:46).
Another “come and see” but this time, it’s not by Jesus but by Philip, one of his disciples recruiting another disciple. Philip might have learned from Jesus, a straight and simple “come and see.” Nathaniel wanted to make a sociological, political, or historical debate, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” It sounds discriminatory and condescending.
Historically, Nathaniel was right, there had been no famous people came out of Nazareth. To him, there’s no way for someone as important as the Messiah could rise out of that little town.
Philip refused to engage him on a debate. He just said, “Come and see” and the rest is history.
Sometimes I think we make evangelism too complicated. All we have to do is invite people to come and see.
The question is “see what?” In this context, John invited people to see Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
We might not appreciate the term “the Lamb of God” as deeply as the first century people. For them, it is a vivid picture of redemption from the enslavement of sin, and from the suffering of this world. By pointing Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God, John wants us to come and see four important actions of God. I put them in an acrostic LAMB.
L is for love. The first act of God we must see in Jesus Christ is “love.” Jesus is God’s love embodied. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16). To know Jesus is to know God’s love. Nothing more and nothing less.
Jesus means everything to God and giving him to us means that God loves us sacrificially, holding nothing behind. Seeing that love is the enlightenment. This is what Jesus wants you to come and see. See his love. Seeing and understanding his love will transform your life forever. People will see happiness on your face and feel the joy in your heart.
The second deed of God we must see is “atonement.” John said that the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. Sin means missing the mark. We all have fallen short, and our imperfection separates us from God. The Bible says that the wage of sin is death.
A lamb is used in ancient time as a sacrifice to atone for people’s sin—it died on behalf of them. However, animal sacrifice was only a symbol of repentance. It could not really cleanse our sin, but it was a prophetic ritual of believing that, one day, the true sacrifice will come. Now, this true Lamb of God has come to take away our sin once and for good.
Atonement is God’s grace. The moment we see it, we are a different person. We can live with joy because our burden of guilt is removed. That’s why we see an indescribable joy on the face of a Christian.
Come and see the atonement.
The third deed of God we must see is God’s mercy. Grace and mercy are subtly different. Grace is when God gives you what you don’t deserve. For example, we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, but God still gives it to us. That’s grace.
Mercy is not giving you what you do deserve. We deserve punishment for our sin, but God doesn’t give it to us. God withholds the punishment. That’s mercy.
When Jesus taught Peter that he must forgive seventy-seven times. That’s mercy.
Come and see mercy in Jesus Christ. The moment you see God’s mercy, you understand how to forgive others. How to release others from your burden of grudges. That will make you joyful deep inside, isn’t it. No wonder Christians have an indescribable sense of joy.
The fourth thing you need to see is your spiritual family—where you belong. John said, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (John 1:12). Jesus brings you into God’s family and you now have a sense of belonging.
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” (John 1:38).
Don’t you think it was interesting? Jesus asked them what they were looking for, you might think they would say, “we are looking for your teaching, or we are looking for the proof that you are the Messiah,” but they said, “where are you staying?” They were looking for a belonging. They believed their teacher John that Baptist's statement that Jesus was the Messiah. They just wanted to belong.
Deep inside our soul, we are like vagabonds looking for a place to belong. Just as Saint Augustine said, “Our heart is restless, until it rests in you.” Jesus answered them, “Come and see.” This is where you belong.
In this New Year, we need to renew our commitment as disciples of Jesus Christ to invite people to come and see. However, before we invite others to come and see, we must see first. Coming and seeing are two different things. We have come but have we seen?
Do you see the LAMB? Do you see God’s Love? Do you see the Atonement? Do you see the Mercy? Do you see your Belonging? If you do, ask others to come and see. We cannot make them see. It’s God’s job, but we can invite them to come. However, if we see, it will show a sense of joy on our face and in our hearts, and they will become curious about what we see because everyone wants that infectious joy of seeing.
Remember Jesus invitation, “Come and see.”
Remember Philip’s imitation, “Come and see.”
Let us all imitate Christ by inviting others to “come and see.”
May God bless you all! Amen!