Overcoming Cynicism

John 1:43-51

January 14, 2018

I’ve got some smart sayings the might be good to print on a coffee cup.


•A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so does falling down a flight of stairs.

•If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a few payments.

•He who hesitates is probably right.

•Change is inevitable except from vending machines


These statements offer a diagnosis of cynicism. If you found them funny, you probably have got at touch of cynicism. I find them funny myself.

The Formal definition of modern cynicism is as follows: “an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, including a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others?” Kind of sounds like the daily news doesn’t it? Also, kind of sounds like what’s going on in most American hearts right now.

Experience is good teacher, but it’s also a very hard teacher. At the feet of experience we learn a lot of hard lessons about how things are and what we can expect. The things of this world are not always perfect. We learn this and remember this for our own protection. Where we get into trouble is when we allow this description of the world to become the description of our own lives.

If you feel this way, You probably do not like feeling this way. You perhaps have even taken a vow that you are going to try with all that to always look on the bright side and learn how to make lemonade out of all the lemons. To make a vow is admirable, laudable, proper, and good. But this morning I would like to show you how the Lord himself can give you all you need to get past your cynicism.

Our Text is today’s Gospel, where Philip tell’s his brother Nathanael that he has met the Messiah. Philip was of the same city of Peter and Andrew, the first two disciples and at the word of Jesus, Philip became the third. Jesus said “Follow me!” And we can tell that Philip was pretty excited about that . For rushed off to find his brother Nathanael and said “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.”

Nathanael was not not so quickly sold on the idea that Jesus was the Messiah. He was a bit skeptical; shall I shall I say cynical? For he so easily got hung up one that one word “Nazareth” he said “Nazareth, can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Now why would he do do that. Some have attributed this to rivalry between towns…a sort of, our town is better than yours kind of deal…and our cheerleaders are prettier as well! Others have suggested that Nathanael’s question was innocently asked and he was simply wondering how it was possible that such a small town, that didn’t even have a gas station or a high school could produce someone who turned out to be the Messiah and Savior of the world. However Jesus’ description of him, tends to suggest that this sort of talk was the way Nathanael always was. He referred to him as an “Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” In other words, someone who doesn’t keep things to himself…doesn’t hide his feelings or thoughts… He just simply says whatever he was thinking. And he was thinking that Nazareth was a stupid place for the Messiah to come from.

Think of how this threw cold water on Phillip’s excitement. Philip be like “Hey, hey, hey I found the Messiah! And he’s from Nazareth!” And Nathan, the cynic that he was, simply could not resist an opportunity to burst his brothers bubble. Not even acknowledging the more important point that the Messiah was here, he goes “Nazareth?” But you see Philip was used to this since they grew up together. He knew better. His brother was trolling him, baiting him into a stupid argument over the quality or lack there of a town when the important thing was really Jesus. Cynics do that sometimes for their own amusement. But Philip wasn’t going to play. So I would guess in an almost exasperated tone he replied “Come and see”

This is a beautiful snapshot of a real human interaction. If a bunch of guys got together and made up this whole Christianity thing, as so many in our day seem to think, they wouldn’t have written Nathanael’s script like this. They’d want to paint one of the Lord’s apostles as solid and heroic. And they certainly wouldn’t have him bash the town where Jesus was raised! Instead, if they were making this up, they’d have this future disciple greet the news with the wide eyed wonder of a child. He would have gotten excited and overjoyed upon hearing the news and would have obediently heard the report and followed immediately and joyfully.

So why didn’t he’? Why did he meet the news of the messiah with such a cynical comment? Because he wasn’t a child. He’d been around the block a couple of times. He had learned that in this world, what often appears to be true is not true. He had learned the lead story is often not the real story. Besides, there had been others who rose up in the past, claiming to be Messiahs, But they always ended up amounting to nothing. And Jesus was probably just another one. Nathanael was simply too experienced to take his brother at his word. I think you and I are also experienced. And the people in our day are experienced. They’ve known the excitement of thinking they have finally found the real thing, only to discover, nope just another trick played on me. Organized Christianity, is often to blame because it has often played tricks on people.

Philip couldnt’ argue with Nathanael, he didn’t even try. He simply said, perhaps in an exasperated tone, “Come and See.”

And so Phillip and Nathanael went to see but when Jesus Nathanael coming , That’s when he said “Behold and Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” This knocked Nathanael back on his heals. “You know me? How?” Jesus explained that he had seen him when he was sitting under the fig tree.

At that moment, Nathanael felt like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix. “Whoa.” He had an adrenaline rush over the idea that Jesus already knew him. Instantly Nathanael realized this was not some false Messiah, but actually the real one!

And your thinking, well that’s great for Nathanael, but what about us? To bad we don’t get real-time confirmation like that! But we do! He still speaks to us through his living and active word. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had the keanu Reeves moment when I’m in the word. I’ll be struggling over this or that and right when I need it, Jesus speaks to me through the word. or through a fellow Christian speaking scriptural truth. In such moments I shudder with an odd mixture of fear and Joy and I exclaim: “Jesus! you know me!”

This is how Jesus has chosen to work in this time. When he came in the body, he ultimately did this so he, in his body could suffer and die for us and then rise again. He had to do this to be a complete savior. We are Body and soul so he would represent us in Body and Soul. He had to be made like us in every way. And when he had died and rose from the grave his act of saving the world was finished, and he returned to his Father.

But before he left, he told his disciples that he would send his Holy Spirit who would cause them to remember everything he said, so they could write it down. And John, the one whose account we’ve been reading. actually said “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing you may have life.” It’s though the word that we come and see. that’s why we have church. To come together around the word. So that the pastor and Sunday school teachers and fellow christians may impress the word upon us. That’s why we structure the church year around the word and have seasons… so that we can cover all of it. Because we know that this is how people come to know Jesus.

And when you come and see Christ often, when you are a person of the word, you will have more and more real-time confirmation that Jesus is Lord; that he is your Messiah; and the no matter what happens; no matter how bad stuff might appear….cynicism is banished…crowded out by faith in the one who has promised to redeem and save you and protect you forever.

Jesus said to Nathanael: “you believe because you figured out I know you?” Well, You’re going to to see greater stuff then that! Your going to see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the son of man” In other words he answers Phillips cynical question “‘Oh and Bout that Nazareth thing, I did live there, but I came from heaven… heaven is opened through me… and everything good stuff is coming down for you right now. Nice way to counter cynicism I think. The gates of heaven stand open for you, you who believe in Jesus. The future is yours and it’s all good. AMEN