Lectionary : Epiphany 2 Year B – 17th January 2021

♦ ♦ ♦  John 1 :  43 – 51  ♦ ♦ ♦

The First Disciples –

John introduces his hearers to Jesus’ mission a day at a time. On the previous day, Andrew and another disciple found Jesus, along with Simon Peter. Now, Jesus takes the initiative and finds Philip. There is a pattern of ‘finding’ as the group of disciples takes shape; some find each other, others are found by Jesus. The disciples also express their new relationship by saying: ‘We have found the Messiah’ (1.41). Finding implies a profound recognition of their ability to connect deeply with Jesus’ mission.

However, when Philip finds Nathanael, there is a hitch in the process. Nathanael does not accept the invitation but challenges Philip to prove that anything good, let alone the Messiah, can come from somewhere so downmarket as Nazareth! Philip’s reply recalls Jesus’ invitation to the two disciples the previous day – ‘Come and see’ (1.39). The Greek word ‘see’ implies far more than ‘take a look’. To see is to understand.

For Nathanael, though, it is not seeing but hearing that overcomes his reluctance. In conversation with Jesus, he discovers that Jesus knows far more about him than he expected. Jesus acknowledges him as ‘truly an Israelite’, living in God’s ‘shalom’ where each one has their own vine and fig tree (Micah 4.4). The change is remarkable as Nathanael heaps Jesus with honorific titles: Israel’s king, God’s son (Psalm 2.7). Perhaps there is a wry smile on Jesus’ lips as Nathanael reacts with such enthusiasm, but then he promises far more: heaven opened, the barrier between God and humanity swept away, and angels coming and going as they did for Jacob (Genesis 28.12). Finally, Jesus tells Nathanael how he understands himself – he is the son of man. Does this mean that he is God’s chosen one (see Daniel 7.13), or is he using it in the Aramaic sense of ‘an ordinary person’? It’s hard to tell – maybe John has both meanings in mind – but it’s an important moment as Jesus names himself for the first time.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com