B-B-B-Bartholomew, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!

When you first begin to follow Jesus the excitement and enthusiasm is profound. Sadly, for too many, that begins to fade. We need to hold on because what Christ can and will do in your life is just beginning. We ain’t seen nothing yet!

B-B-B-Bartholomew, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet! ~ March 11, 2018 ~ John 1: 45-51

Would you join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the word of God. Let us pray together. Lord, upon the pages of this book is your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

So as you know, last week, this week and next week I decided to take a little journey to walk alongside the disciples, because you guys know that I get a kick out of the disciples, because at times they are so clueless they remind me of me! Of us! And I thought, you know, why don’t we look at their lives a little bit and see if we can’t identify with them. Is there something about them that you see in yourself? Do you see part of yourself in them or part of them in you? Or maybe you have a combination, a little bit of a bunch of them. So we looked last week at Andrew and Simon Peter and James and John. And now, Andrew and Simon Peter and James and John are following Jesus. Jesus decides to go to Galilee. First, he encounters Philip. Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown. Jesus tells Philip to, again, not “follow God,” but “follow me.”

Now, interesting story about Philip: John doesn’t mention in his book this particular story, but it is a church tradition that Philip was the disciple talked about in Matthew chapter 8. When asked to follow Jesus, he says, “Hold on a second. Lord, let me first return and bury my father.” So Matthew 8, Philip is the disciple who says, “Hold on, not yet, let me first return home and bury my father.” To which Jesus replies, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.” Now when I first read that I thought, “Wow, why would Jesus say something like that? That’s kind of mean, isn’t it?” This is why you come to church. Not only to offer your sacrifice of worship to God, but to learn stuff! So you can be as we used to say up in Maine, “wicked smaht!” And I love discovering this stuff to share.

Jewish burial customs are numerous. They have a lot of traditions, a lot of customs in their faith, it includes making sure that the body is in the ground in 24 hours after death. Before 24 hours has expired, they want to put the body in the ground. Deuteronomy 21 teaches that because of the dignity of the human body, it is considered a form of respect to not allow the body to remain unburied. So when you die in the Jewish faith, they do everything they possibly can to get your body in the ground in 24 hours. Now what does this have to do with this situation? Philip said, “Let me return home and bury my father.” Well, Philip had been following Jesus around as Jesus was preaching. He wasn’t an official apostle yet or disciple, but he was a groupie. He was a fan. He enjoyed listening to what Jesus had to preach, he was amazed by the things that he saw Jesus do, so he was following Jesus around in Matthew chapter 8 when he said, “Let me go home and bury my father.” Philip’s father wasn’t dead! Not yet. He was waiting to – basically what Philip was doing was saying, “Please let me have time to bury my father at some point in the future, when he dies.” Maybe he was elderly, maybe he was sickly, I don’t know, but Philip wanted to be close by when his father passed, specifically because at this time and age in history, that’s when you found out what was coming to you. It’s kind of like waiting for the reading of the will. So if Philip was going to inherit any part of his father’s estate of any value, he needed to be there when his father died. So when Jesus asked him to come, he said, “OK, but not yet, let me wait for my dad to die first and find out where I am, and then I’ll come and follow you.” And Jesus said, “No. No. A decision to follow me,” he says, “cannot be put off for any reason. Nothing should be placed over a total commitment to living for me.”

So I asked myself: Am I Philip? Have I ever been Philip? Is this not a good time for me to follow Christ? Am I too busy? Because I hear that a lot. “I’m too busy.” I’m too busy for church? I’m too busy to spend time in his word? I’m too busy to serve my community? Philip made a decision. He said it’s time to make a change in his life. And it could not wait. So he didn’t wait and go back for his father to die. He dropped everything and followed Jesus.

And then he left to go find his friend Nathanael, because he thought for sure, Nathanael is someone who needs to know who Jesus is as well. That’s where our reading begins, verse 45. Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Now before I go any further I want to mention something about names. You know in the Bible sometimes you have several names for the same person? Like Simon is also Peter is also Simon Peter, and Levi is also Matthew. Simon actually is also known as Simon Bar Jonah. Bar, B-A-R is Hebrew for “son of…” So, my father’s name is George, so in Jesus’ days I would be known as Adam Bar George. Adam, son of George. Simon was known as Simon Bar Jonah, Simon, son of John. Jonah was Hebrew for John. Well, Nathanael, his father’s name is Tolmai, T-O-L-M-A-I. So his whole name, if you will – they didn’t have last names back then, so if there’s more than one Nathanael in your congregation, which Nathanael are you talking about? You would identify them by who their father was. “Oh, that’s Nathanael, who’s the son of Tolmai. Bar: son of; Tolmai. Nathanael Bar Tolmai. Now if you say those last two kind of quickly, Bartolmai, Bartolmai… Bartholomew. The English translation is Bartholomew. So Nathanael, I guess if you did have last names, his name would be Nathanael Bartholomew. So in 3 of the gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, Nathanael is referred to by his last name. It’s like, anybody ever call you by your last name? “Hey! Sanchez! Get over here!” Right? “Hey, Söderberg!” “What’s up?” Three times in the gospels they called him Bartholomew, Bartholomew, Bartholomew. John calls him by his first name, Nathanael. Now the only reason why I mention this is to make you aware that that happens in Scripture. It’s not that the Bible is contradicting itself. It’s not that the Scriptures are incorrect. There’s always an explanation, you just gotta ask, you gotta research, you gotta come to Experiencing God! on Wednesday nights at 6:30. So you can become “wicked smaht!” like the rest of us.

So, Nathanael is also known as Bartholomew. So I will use the names Nathanael and Bartholomew interchangeably. So Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” So Jesus’ name would have been Jesus, or Jeshua Bar Joseph. “Nazareth!” exclaimed Bartholomew. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Well, that wasn’t very nice! What’s wrong with Nazareth? Well, apparently there were a couple things. Bartholomew was from Cana, a village about four miles away from Nazareth, so he was very familiar with the area. He knew Nazareth. He knew that Nazareth, the people who lived in Nazareth were not looked well upon. They were kind of despised because in Nazareth there was a Roman garrison and there was some idea that those who lived in Nazareth didn’t resist the Roman occupation to the degree or level that they should have. They just kind of laid down and went along to get along. So because they weren’t that angry or upset or fighting the occupation of Rome that much, Nazarenes weren’t that well thought of. There was also – they had a less than stellar reputation, let’s just put it that way, the people who were from Nazareth. So for both of those reasons, Bartholomew had the reaction, responded the way he did. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from Nazareth?” 

Am I Bartholomew? Do I have a preconceived idea about someone because of where they’re from? I tell you, one of the great things when I go down to Luther Rice to school, because it’s in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the fun things is to listen to people talk. I love a southern drawl! You know, some people in other parts of the country think that we have a strange accent. I don’t understand what’s wrong with “pah-kin the cah in Hah-vad Yah-d.” Makes no sense to me. But down south I love that southern drawl! Unfortunately, a lot of people when they hear a southern drawl, they’ll ask, “Where are you from? Oh. You’re from Alabama.” And they think that must mean you are a PBR-swillin’, cousin-marrying, Nascar-lovin’, gun-totin’ member of the KKK! That’s the first thing that jumps into their head when they hear where you’re from.


Source: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/beverly-hillbillies-actress-donna-douglas-760919

Look, I lived in Maine for almost 20 years. I get it. Oftentimes when someone hears you’re from Maine they immediately take 25 points off your IQ. They automatically think everybody lives in a log cabin and heats their house by wood. Right? They wonder that if you really did get divorced, would that mean you were still legally brother and sister? I mean, come on, we all get it sometimes, right? “Your church is in Hartford? I can’t go to Hartford! I will die!” I’ll never forget, when I was on my way here – I can’t remember if it was for an interview or the actual move – when Marsha Lazod, a very close friend and member of the church in Maine called my cell phone and left me a message, and we listened to it, and Marsha was in tears, crying because she had heard I’d accepted a church in Hartford, CT. She thought for sure I was taking my life into my hands! That she would never see me again! I mean, maybe a little nervous at first. After we were here a while, we were like, now it’s funny. I wish I had saved it. It would have been funny to play. But we have these preconceived notions, like, “Your church is in Hartford!” Or what about this, “You LIVE in Hartford?! What street?” As if your address determines who you are as a person, because hey, if you’re from Greenwich or New Canaan or Darien, that’s different than if you’re from Clay Arsenal, or Upper Albany, or Greenfield Streets. Right?

You know who suffered from this a lot, very unfairly: Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene was called Mary Magdalene because she was from the city of Magdala. Magdala was a city on the southwest coast of the Sea of Galilee, and Magdala had a reputation, like Hartford has a reputation, of not being a safe place, and a place of loose morals. Prostitution was big in Magdala, in the city. Mary Magdalene is not a prostitute. There is no biblical evidence to support that conclusion whatsoever. She’s carried that her whole life because of where she’s from, not because of what she ever did, or didn’t do. So where did that start? Well, that started in the year AD 591 with Pope Gregory the First. Right? So 600 years after Christ, basically a Pope, a man, stands up and says, “You know what, I’ve connected all these dots that the woman that was caught in the act of adultery, was almost stoned at the wall when Jesus said, ‘He who is without sin cast the first stone;’ That woman who burst into where Jesus was meeting with the Pharisees and religious leaders, and she fell down at his feet and washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair: that’s all the same person.” So he said. There’s no evidence of that fact, but he decided that was all Mary Magdalene, yeah, she has to be a prostitute! She’s from Magdala! And she’s worn that banner incorrectly ever since. We should not have preconceived notions of who a person is because of where they live, where they’re from, or who their family is. Each of us, what did Dr. King say? “Not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” So, Bartholomew, his expectations were rather low. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replies. As they approached, Jesus [says to Bartholomew], “Now here is a genuine son of Israel – A man of complete integrity.” “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” What??? Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God – the King of Israel!” Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”

Bartholomew’s expectations were rather low, and then he meets Jesus and suddenly, he’s singing a different tune. Was I more like that? Was I, I don’t know, kind of indifferent or uninterested in God, Jesus, church, or faith in general? And then someone introduced me to Jesus and everything changed. Yeah. That was me. I was partially Bartholomew. I know that’s what happened to me. I hadn’t been in church in almost 20 years. And suddenly when I got saved I couldn’t get enough. I had to be there every week. If I was not in church on Sunday, I was just a little, I felt a little off the rest of the week. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just felt incomplete if I missed church. I needed to be in church so much that… when our children were small we used to go camping a lot. I mean like, a lot. There were some years we went camping every weekend from Mother’s Day to Columbus Day. I was working in the Post Office, I would drive home from work, I’d get out of my car, I wouldn’t even go in the house (that was back when I could hold my bladder a lot longer than now), and I would get out of my car, I’d jump right into – yes, I had a minivan – and Renée would have the minivan all packed, we’d have our pop-up trailer all packed, ready to go, and we’d be off. We’d go somewhere and camp. See, we didn’t make enough money to fly and do Disney and cruises and all that kind of stuff. We did camping, and camping was great back then. It was before DVDs, it was before cell phones, it was before video games. When you went camping you had to entertain each other! It was awesome!



Anyway, so I’d get out of the car, I’d get into the van, we’d drive someplace and set up camp. But I wanted to go to church! I missed it! So often times we’d set up camp on Friday, on Saturday I’d hop in the car – oh, van, sorry – hop in the minivan and I’d drive around town, try and find a church nearby, find out when the service was and on Sunday morning I’d go to church! On vacation! In a weird place! It’s amazing. I needed to be there.

Sadly, for a lot of folks, that feeling fades. I’ve seen it. I’ve been going to church now for thirty-some-odd years, only for 21 of it have been a pastor. And I’ve seen it happen again and again. Someone comes to church because their life is falling apart. Maybe their marriage is on it’s last leg, or I’ve had people looking for a spouse and they’re really depressed because they can’t seem to find that special woman or that special man that they want to spend their life with. People have come because their children are acting out and they’re really having trouble with them and they need some help there. Plenty of people since I’ve been here have come to church because they’re having trouble conceiving. So you come to church often in a time of crisis. And unfortunately, when God answers those prayers – you find that woman, you find that man, you do get pregnant, God delivers, they got what they prayed for – and then they fade away. We don’t see them again. We don’t see them for a long time. It’s sad. It reminds me of that story that I’ve told you before, but it’s been long enough that hopefully you’ve forgotten, about that woman who’s going to the mall, and she’s driving around and around and around looking for a parking space, and she gets exasperated and finally cries out, “Lord! Please open up a parking space for me!” And lo and behold, she turns the next corner and boom! There’s a parking space right up front near the doors! So she lifts up her head and goes, “Never mind, Lord! I found one!” Right? The Lord answers the prayers, and too many times we start out all excited. “You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!” Because you are amazed at what you find in Jesus. And then you get your parking space and it just doesn’t seem all that important anymore. Until the next time they need him.

Wasn’t so with Bart (Bartholomew). He was excited. At first he was a skeptic, right? “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” But after he meets Jesus, he completely turns around. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God – you are the King of Israel!” And then Jesus has a great line, he says, “You believe this because I told you I had seen you under a fig tree? You don’t really know what I can do, do you? You’re not really familiar with any of my work?” Right? And then he says, “You will see greater things than this.” And all I could – I’m sorry – all I could think of when I read this was a song that was popular when I was a teenager, in the mid-70s, by Bachman Turner Overdrive. I felt like Jesus was saying this: {Plays You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet by BTO}


Source: https://www.cdandlp.com/en/bachman-turner-overdrive/you-ain-t-seen-nothing-yet-free-wheelin/7inch-sp/r115963003/

See, now if I was Jesus, that’s what I would have done! “B-b-b-Bartholomew, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” Love BTO… Everybody was staring at that screen all morning going, “What the heck is B-b-b-Bartholomew You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet?” (Anyone who’s under the age of 35!)

But look, the point is I don’t know why you are here this morning, not specifically. But what I do know is this, whether you do come every week or you come regularly, or this is your first time: You think God is done with you? You think God is done blessing you? He got you through or will get you through whatever it is you are facing, and that’s it? How short of a memory we have! How many people have had a friend or a relative who is deployed over to Afghanistan? And they were praying and praying, “Please bring so-and-so home safely.” And they got home safely. You think that was coincidence? How many people, since we’ve been doing Solid Ground, have asked for jobs, right? Praying for work? How many times have we heard that answered? How many times have we had people here who were having trouble conceiving, and then they got pregnant, and had a child? We’ve heard about healings here. We’ve heard, “I’m looking at some legal trouble, and I’m just praying that God will comfort me and help me through.” And then he answers the prayer and what? We’re all done?

He is absolutely not done. Bartholomew just met Jesus. It’s chapter 1, right? There’s 21 more chapters to go. There’s a lot to come. It’s the same thing for us. If we continue to follow Jesus just like Bartholomew, I’m telling you, you ain’t seen nothing yet. He’s going to open doors for you. He’s going to give you opportunities you can’t even imagine right now. He is going to bring healing to your life. He is going to bless you if you continue to follow Jesus. Moses put it best in Deuteronomy chapter 28. He wrote: If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God, if you continue to follow Jesus. And he lists them: Your towns and your fields will be blessed. Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed. The Lord will conquer your enemies when they attack you. They will attack you from one direction, but they will scatter from you in seven! The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

Like Bartholomew. If we continue to follow Jesus. If we continue to recognize, “You are the Son of God – the King of Israel!” the Lord will continue to bless you. Are you excited about meeting Jesus? I hope so! If you are excited about meeting Jesus, let me tell you: {Plays You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet by BTO}

You ain’t seen nothing yet! Will you stand and pray with me?