Gospel of John #21
John 1:43-51 (Note that the text is reproduced at the end of this post)
This scene continues the so-called “call narratives,” where the disciples are called to follow Jesus. The attitudes toward Jesus of Philip and Nathanael are contrasting. Philip immediately recognizes that Jesus embodies the very Messiah, or anointed leader (the Christ), that Jewish tradition and scriptures predict. Nathanael, in turn, is skeptical : “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (1:46).
Yet, when Jesus performs a simple feat of telepathy or clairvoyance — revealing that by a sixth sense, he has seen Nathanael sitting under a fig tree — Nathanael makes a sudden about-face, declaring that Jesus must be the Son of God and King of Israel. Note: Son of God was the title for the Roman emperor.
Nathanael has set his sights far too low. Jesus is appointed not merely to perform magical tricks — of telepathy or the like — nor is he merely a King, like the Roman emperor. Jesus is instead appointed to a more significant role as the Son of Man. He will open a pathway between heaven and earth, on which angels may ascend and descend.
One simple message of this passage is that heavenly things come in humble packages. In fact, our own humble attire – and vulnerability – may be hard for us to embrace and reveal to others, particularly when our needs are urgent and held closely to our hearts.
How would you like somebody to say to you, “Can anything good come out of XXXX?” where XXXX substitutes for your hometown, your workplace, or some other identifying characteristic of yourself?
Spiritually, however, to receive the Christ, who is compassion and truth, sometimes we are lowered, like servants, in the opinion of others. We may look foolish and lose our self-esteem. When others assist us — while in this humble or humiliating predicament– we receive the Christ and gain that much more faith in life itself.
Through such ordinary means and measures, heaven opens. The angels descend and ascend on our behalf.
Text: 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 toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get 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,[m] you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”