A reflection on John 1:43-51 for the Second Sunday After Epiphany, January 17, 2021
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 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.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ 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.’ 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.’
John 1:43-51 (NRSVA)
By now John the Baptist is rapidly fading from the story. Yet his influence is everywhere.
John’s disciples are eagerly looking for the Messiah. John’s pointing ministry is taking flight.
Yesterday it was Andrew bringing Simon. Today it is Philip bringing Nathanael. On both occasions the same simple testimony is the offered: ‘Come and see’.
Mission, both then and now, is about inviting people to encounter Jesus for themselves.
Nathanael has his doubts. After all, Philip’s claim is big: ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ The long expected Messiah hailing from…Nazareth.
Even so, the invitation to see for himself is irresistible.
He also comes.
And even before he arrives Jesus is confessing to a previous – more mysterious – encounter.
Details are not given but Nathanael is impressed to say the least. He is already known. Somehow Jesus is familiar with Nathanael’s character and his recent place of contemplation. A vision or supernatural knowing is not ruled out.
Certainly not by Nathanael. His response: ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’
Jesus, in word and action, clearly saw, and spoke to, Nathanael’s previously unconvinced heart.
And on top of this, Jesus offers another promise: there is much more to come.
This is a story of good evangelism. Philip begins with his friend. He offers his testimony. He invites his companion to see for himself. At each stage God is at work.
And so this – alongside the account of the boy Samuel – also a story about one who is knows us completely.
Have you ever had someone reveal a knowledge of you that you thought they had no way on knowing? What was your response?
Have you ever had a moment when God revealed how much more God knows about you? How did you respond on this occasion?
How would it change your approach to sharing the Gospel if you were to take God’s intimate knowledge of everyone as a starting place?