A simple, surprising invitation to follow.

College admissions offices spend enormous energy recruiting students. Most faculty members don’t. The faculty are part of the product that recruiters sell.

“If you come here, you will get to study with Dr. X. He’s the one who wrote that famous commentary on John. In fact, he was on the translation team.”

It’s possible that if you were to visit the campus, you would see Dr. X. He may even look at you, as part of a group, and say, “Come to our great school.” But he’s doing that primarily because the school has convinced him that he needs to help recruit.

In general, teachers teach. They don’t recruit.

That was true of rabbis, too. A student would ask to follow, would hope to be taken on.

And then there’s Jesus. He was a complete unknown. No following, no teaching history.

After he was baptized by his relative John the Baptist, John sent two of his own followers to see Jesus. They spent the day with him and were captivated. One of them, Andrew, invited his brother Simon Peter to come with him to Jesus. And that’s where our reading started.

Jesus is heading out of town, to the north of Israel, to Galilee. He goes looking for a man named Philip, finds him and says, “Follow me.” (John 1:43-44)

Philip was from the same town as Andrew and Simon. They may have known each other. But they don’t bring him to Jesus, Jesus goes to him.

Relationships with people matter. It’s one of the ways that Jesus uses to connect with people. But I’m pretty sure that sometimes Jesus walks up to someone and says quietly and directly, “The rest of your friends are in my school, learning to follow me. Why don’t you come along?”

It still happens, I’m pretty sure. I used to worry about taking Jesus with me into hospital rooms. I finally realized that if Jesus is everywhere, he’s already in those rooms, or better, with each person in this building. Having conversations, offering invitations to follow, asking questions, offering peace.

Jesus invited Philip to follow.


I first published this in January of 2010. I revised it a little for a sermon this week.