The Call of Nathanael

John 1:45-51
Rev 21:9-14 / Ps 145

 

 
You will see greater things than this.
(John 1:50)

 
Like Nathaniel I was in doubt
At first about His invitation;
But in the end I would find out,
God used a friend for my conversion.

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip answered, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to Him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree, before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You shall see greater things than this.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:45-51)

 

Reflection

Today’s Gospel relates how our Lord began to recruit the core group of His ministry. Jesus first came upon Andrew and his brother Simon, whom He later called Peter. Going on to Galilee, He found Philip, and told him also to “Come, follow me.” Philip then got hold of Nathanael, who at first sounded skeptical, with the words, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” And Philip replied: “Come and see.” (1:46)
 
When Philip brought Nathanael before Jesus, our Lord did not rebuke him for his skepticism, but even praised him, saying, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (1:47). These words were enough to melt away whatever doubts or skepticism the future apostle may have had about Jesus. In fact his skepticism turned to wonder: “How do you know me?” When Jesus gave a simple reply, “I saw you under the fig tree,” a great transformation occurred to Nathanael. He said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (Jn. 1:49).
 
It would have been so easy for our Lord to teach the smug Nathanael a lesson in humility for belittling His hometown of Nazareth. Instead, our Lord seemed to do exactly the opposite– exalting him, calling him a “true Israelite”. (But do we detect a hint of sarcasm in His words – “no duplicity in him”?) The very first named “Israel” was Jacob, but it was his duplicity that robbed Esau of his birthright (Gen.Chap.27), as well as outsmarting his father-in-law and uncle, Laban (Gen., chap.31).
 
When a friend invited you to join a renewal community, like Nathanael you probably replied, “What good would come out of it?” And he must have simply replied, “Just come and see. If you don’t like it, you can always leave.” But you have decided to stay. Have you come to regret staying on? Or have you seen greater things that have made you stay? For those of us who have committed to this new life in Christ by becoming active members of our community or Brotherhood, there is no greater joy than to be able to win a soul for Christ as our sponsors did for us. We have also seen a great transformation in our life, such as losing our “duplicity”, by embracing the values of honesty, fidelity, generosity, and servant leadership. Best of all, our community has helped us to understand and deepen our faith in Jesus Christ.
         

Lord God, like Nathaniel before us, we were once full of doubt and duplicity. Thank You for making us see greater things in our new life in the Brotherhood.

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