43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The math is simple. There are somewhat over two billion Christians in the world today, about a third of the population of the world. The actuaries tell us that over 36 million of those Christians will die this year. Christianity in real numbers of people around the world is not shrinking but growing. That means new Christians must be replacing those who are lost. If you divide 36 million by the days of the year, you get about 100,000 per day.
Today, some 100,000 people confessed Christ for the first-time in their lives. Tomorrow another 100,000. Each month 3 million. That is simply to maintain the number of Christians in the world. The fact is that the real number of Christians is growing. There must be more than 100,000 every day.
In this delightful reading from John, we see Jesus calling people to follow Him. Having risen from the grave, this same Jesus is doing that today. I live in a part of the world which makes that hard to see. It feels like Christianity is in retreat in my neighborhood. Most of the parishes in Portland are struggling to maintain numbers. That is not just an LCMS phenomenon.
I think sometimes we think that this is our church. We imagine that we are at fault for the problems of the day and we claim credit when things look good. The fact is Jesus is not calling us to success; He is calling us to faithful service. It is His church. He is the one to whom success must be credited. I cannot tell you what Jesus and His Spirit are up to in this day and time, but I can tell you that Jesus has called me to preach good news this Sunday in Church. What He does with that is up to Him.
Jesus is still blessing today. Rejoice in that. In places all around the globe today people are being baptized and men and women are boldly confessing Christ. He is still gathering people to himself. When He causes His Spirit to blow, that same will happen here. We can all look forward to that.