Come and See - the Cost, Commitment and Response

When you want someone to really understand something, what do you have to do to convince them? How can you show them what you mean? What’s more effective than simply telling them with words? We see Philip use an extremely effective method in today’s Gospel story, when he simply tells Nathanael, “Come and See!”

Come and see what it means to follow Christ! Come and see what it means to be His disciple! Come and see what it means to commit your entire life to living under the reign of God. Come and See! “Come and stay with me,” Jesus invited these first disciples “and see what it means to follow me.

For all of us who call ourselves Christians, this Gospel story has an invitation to us as well. We all are called to COME to Jesus and SEE Christ’s way of life. Yet to “come and see” has a serious implication – it is an invitation which involves a lifelong commitment.

Thus, in today’s sermon I will talk about three things we must understand in order to wholeheartedly follow Jesus Christ.  First, there is a COST; second a commitment; and finally, a firm response.

In today’s gospel story, we hear Philip invite Nathaniel to follow Christ. And we know these apostles accepted the invitation, and faithfully followed Him even to their death. Yet, throughout the Gospels, we can read elsewhere where other potential followers receive the invitation to come and see, but don’t follow through. For example, we hear of a man who tells Jesus that he wants to follow Him wherever he goes. Jesus responds to the inquirer by saying, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air a nest, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head."  Christ is warning this potential follower of the cost involved.  To be a true disciple isn't easy. True discipleship requires sacrifice, perseverance, and struggle. Obviously, the cost involved was too much for this young man because we never hear about him again in the Gospels.

Next, Jesus asks another man to follow him. The man hesitates by saying, "I will follow you, but first let me bury my father." This man is saying he will follow Jesus, but he first needed to wait until all his family obligations were fulfilled. He could not follow Jesus immediately because other responsibilities held his attention. To this Christ responds, "Let the dead bury the dead." This harsh answer presents an important reality for a Christian. Jesus honestly tells the man that he must decide where his ultimate commitment lies - with his family and friends, or with Christ and the Kingdom of God.  Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead he says. The kingdom of God needs workers who will put Christ first, before all else, even before our family! This is a difficult decision, but Jesus wants no followers who place Him second in their lives.

Finally, a man tells Jesus, I will follow you, but I first must say goodbye to my house. Again we hear someone say, "I will follow you BUT..." Christ responds, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God." In other words, "I want a response now. No BUTS allowed. If you keep looking back to other things, you will never become a true follower of mine."

These stories remind us of the COST, the COMMITMENT, and the FIRM RESPONSE needed to follow Christ. The Apostles Nathaniel and Philip understood, and willingly took the risk. But so many others won’t.

The question today, though, is what about us? Are we ready to accept the COST and COMMITMENT, and make a FIRM, LIFELONG RESPONSE to Jesus?

Let's talk first about the COST.  I remember the words of my New Testament professor at seminary, Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos, who would say, "It costs nothing to become a Christian, but once you become one, it costs you everything." There is no cost to be baptized and join Christ’s holy Church. Once we are baptized and become members of the Church, however, then we are expected to live our entire life for Christ and according to His Gospel.

The great scandal of Christianity is the nominal Christian, those who call themselves Orthodox but don't allow their faith to influence their lives. To be Orthodox does not mean that our parents or grandparents were Orthodox. To be Christian implies that we have asked Jesus to enter and control your life. We choose to live under the reign of God. Being a follower of Jesus should affect everything we do in our lives - how we act in our home, in the work place, in our hobbies and in the street. If we have allowed Christ to live in our hearts, than His light of love should radiate from our words, our actions, and our very being. People should understand our identity as Christians not by what we say, but by who we are!

After we accept this COST, then comes the COMMITMENT.  We need to understand the big difference between simply believing in God and committing our lives to Him. How easy to say, "I believe in Jesus. I believe that he was a wonderful teacher, a miracle worker, and even the Son of God."  How hard, though, to say, "I am committed to Christ. I will follow him in all that I do. My lifestyle and my values will reflect the teachings of Jesus. I will try to imitate His life of love, of forgiveness, of mercy, of compassion, of care for all people. I will accept any sacrifice, any suffering, any persecution because I am committed to Him. In other words, believing is not enough. Actual commitment is the authentic sign of true belief.

Following such a commitment needs to come a wholehearted RESPONSE. Jesus doesn't want any lukewarm Christians to follow him. He demands us to give Him our whole heart, to give 100% of ourselves.  In the book of Revelation, we hear Christ says, "I wish you were either hot or cold, but since you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth."  Wishy-washy Christians are not what Jesus wants. To follow our Lord is a life-long journey of continually recommitting our whole life to Christ. This is why we repeat 10 times during each Divine Liturgy, “with all the saints, let us commit ourselves, and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.”

To truly follow Christ is hard! It involves a demanding COST, COMMITMENT, and RESPONSE. Yet the fruits that follow such a path are incomparable – deep union with God, rich fellowship with our Creator, intimate love and friendship with our Savior.  The life of a true follower of Christ is a struggle, but during that struggle we experience inexpressible love, a peace that passes all understanding, radiant joy and hope which sustains us through all of life’s struggles, and ultimately eternal salvation.  This is why people choose to walk down this narrow path.

This is also why we hear in today’s Gospel how the Apostles Nathaniel and Philip left not only their livelihood, but even their families, to follow Jesus. And in every generation for the past 2000 years, people of different backgrounds have left their homes, their families, their comforts and their riches in order to follow the Lord of all!

Come and See! Jesus invites each of us today to follow Him - to accept the cost, to make the commitment, and to respond in a firm manner. Then we will discover the most joyful and exciting life possible! How will we respond?

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