Good News for the Day, January 5, 2018
Christmas Weekday (208)
Jesus decided to go back to Galilee from the Jordan; there He found Philip—and Jesus told Philip, “Come follow me.” (Philip came from Bethsaida, the same town as Andrew and Peter.) Philip found Nathanael next and told him, “We have found the person that Moses wrote about in the law—and the prophets—Jesus son of Joseph, who comes from Nazareth.” Nathanael sneered at him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Why don’t you come and see for yourself.”
Jesus saw Nathanael walking toward him and said about him, “Here comes a real Israelite; there is nothing fake about him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, I was watching you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered, “Rabbi, you’re The Child of God; you’re King of Israel.” Jesus answered him, “Do you come to believe in me just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see more significant things than this.” He continued, “The truth is—I am telling you—you will see heaven opening, and messengers of God rising and falling depending on This Human Child.” (John 1)
Here Jesus is gathering men who will come to share his vision and insight into the realm of what is right. Philip is buddies with the brothers Simon and Andrew. Note that two of these first three do not have-Jewish names; our new person has a very Jewish one. (Elsewhere in this Gospel we find Nathanael comes from Cana of Galilee.) Nathanael becomes an instant convert because of some mysterious conversation between Jesus and Nathanael.
And this adds up to the—the Personal! Let this story remind you of the mystery of persons—of the caring & humble connections that bind us to one another. Jesus reaches out to you and me in the person of other persons—as you reach out to other persons. Jesus appears in the mystery when we realize others are not objects and things—but free and conscientious individuals.
To Nathanael, Jesus is both positive (a “true, real, authentic” Israelite) and negative (“no fake in him.”) He captures the essence of this honest (but definitely prejudiced) man and addresses him with respect. He does not call Nathanael to be a disciple—he just treats him with humble respect, and perhaps a smile. Nathanael came to him with hostility. Nathanael—treated not with reactive name-calling disdain and rage, but with respect, as an individual—becomes a disciple—an apostle. (Read the little book I-Thou by Martin Buber.) This is quite a model, quite a reminder.