Posted on Sun, Jan 18, 2015
January 18, 2015
2nd Sunday in Epiphany
Gospel Text: John 1:43-51 “Day by Day Blessings”
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
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 about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ 46 Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ 48 Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ 49 Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ 50 Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51 And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
What would it require for you to follow someone so quickly, or maybe as naively as Philip, Andrew and Nathanael, when Jesus called them as disciples? This text seems so easy to picture in our minds because along with a little humor, it seems almost so simple… Everything happens quickly, surprisingly and with little or no explanation. But maybe we are reading the text looking for the wrong message. Maybe the message is more about whom John is trying to communicate to us about (Jesus’ real identity as the Messiah) than about the calling of the first couple of the disciples.
All Jesus says to Philip is, “Follow Me,” and boom not only is Philip on board, but he also makes a confession to Nathanael about who Jesus is, which is most amazing for someone who has just met Jesus, (‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth’). Nathanael’s reply is almost humorous, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” He sounds like me when I was in high school and we would refer to our rival next town, Anoka Minnesota. As a Kaiser dad, “can anything good come out of Kalani?” Sorry, I couldn't resist…
What did Nathanael “see” or “hear” in Jesus the first time they actually “saw” and “heard” Jesus? When John talks about ‘seeing,’ or ‘hearing,’ he is oftentimes telling us that the person was seeing with ‘eyes of faith,’ or hearing with ‘ears of faith.’
The Gospel of John is filled with metaphors and symbols. John may be telling us that these Jewish men, like all of Israel at that time, was waiting for the Messiah all along, and at this moment, when the eyes of these “true” Israelites saw Jesus, it was their faith that could see Jesus’ true identity, and they are blessed with realizing they are face to face with the one all of Israel has been waiting for, for many generations. John is telling this story for the sake of the Israelites, and when these faithful men first saw and heard Jesus, John wants us to know, they were standing in the presence of the Messiah of Israel. In Jesus’ presence, their eyes and ears have become opened to the truth and revelation of whom they were beholding.
It seems to start so simply; we hear Nathanael ask Jesus, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ and then Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Then very shockingly to our sensibilities, Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’
Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51 And Jesus said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’ As if to say, “You haven’t seen anything yet! Wait until we get to chapter 21 of this book!”
As Easter People, we know the “end of the story,” but as you listen to Jesus’ words, what kind of imagery comes to your mind? The images of the first people to read John’s Gospel would probably picture Jacob and the ladder with angels going up and down from heaven. To the Christian we see Jesus being baptized and the heavens torn apart, we also see Jesus ‘lifted up’ on the cross and the sky growing dark, the ground breaking and the veil in the temple being torn from top to bottom, and then we see Jesus rising from the dead and ascending into heaven. Different cultures find different meanings in the same words or story.
The Gospel of John is unique as it is written with and for the Jewish mind, written specifically so that Jewish people could understand that Jesus is their Messiah. For example, it is very important for John to write, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Why did John specifically write this sentence this particular way highlighting that Jesus is the one who, “Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote?” Would a Greek, Roman or any non-Jew know, or even care who Moses was? … Unless they were interested in Jewish history and thought, they probably would not have much understanding of who Moses is, and how he is viewed and revered by the Israelites. Would the relationship between Jesus and the law and the prophets have any special meaning to a Gentile? … Again, for the Gentiles there is no meaning to this important text. But for a Jewish person in Jesus day, they were critical points for a person to distinguish if a great teacher may be considered their Messiah or not. For the Jewish mind waiting for the Messiah is Israel, the Messiah must come to “fulfill the Law and the prophets;” And that was the purpose for John to write his Gospel.
Lastly, from verses 19 – 51, there are a total of seven different titles for Jesus:
Jesus does not deny any of these titles, but that last title, “Son of Man,” is most significant. It occurs 13 times in the Gospel of John, and is most often in conjunction with the crucifixion and the benefits of Jesus’ revelation and eschatological themes.
For John, the first 6 titles are important, but the seventh, “Son of Man” points to the humanity of Jesus, and the suffering Jesus obediently endured for the sake of Israel and our salvation. The first six titles are ‘titles of glory,’ but John makes sure that we understand that the real Glory of Christ, the real Glory of God is only revealed in the most unexpected of ways, the Cross of Christ.
No, neither of these young men have any notion as to the adventure Jesus has called to follow Him and how it will change them and especially the world.
The story isn’t so much about the individual disciples and their experience of becoming disciples as it is about John telling his audience, Israel, about the true identity of Jesus as their Messiah, and that through the cross of Jesus, God’s love and mercy will be revealed they will find salvation.
Now, if Jesus knew Nathanael before they met, why wouldn't God also know everything about us at all times? Especially during the times we are mostly in need of a Savior, Redeemer, Good Shepherd?
Their journey begins with a simple, “Come and See!” or “Follow Me,” but it will end with Jesus rising from the dead and giving us the Great Commission, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’*
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