Prejudice and Humility

John 1: 45 – 51
Rev 21:9b-14 / Psa 145

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

At first my heart was full of doubt
When I received His invitation;
But not too long I soon found out
God used a friend for my salvation.

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael replied, “Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?” “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, 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, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:45-51)

Reflection

St. John was relating how our Lord began to recruit the core group of His ministry. Jesus had at first come upon Andrew and his brother Simon, whom He had 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. Completely acknowledging his Master, 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 rebuke the smug and self-confident Nathanael and teach him 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 touch of sarcasm in those words – “no duplicity in him”? The very first called “Israel” was Jacob, but it was his duplicity that robbed Esau of his birthright. (Read Genesis, chapter 27.)

Nathanael was clearly touched by the power of Jesus’ words, because his question seemed apologetic: “How do you know me?” When the Lord said, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under a fig tree,” he was all the more astounded because he probably was under a fig tree at the time, and Jesus was nowhere in sight. And so he professed his belief in Jesus as the Son of God. To this, our Lord replied, “You will see greater things than this. . . the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” And again, Jesus referred to Jacob, in an allusion to the ladder of heaven in Genesis 28:12.

When a friend invited you to a BCBP breakfast fellowship, you probably said, like Nathanael, “What good would come out of it?” And he or she probably replied, “Just come and see. If you don’t like it, you can always leave.” And you have stayed on. Have you come to regret staying on? Or have you seen greater things that have made you stay?

Like Nathanael, I was once full of doubt and prejudice about joining the renewal. I had once been skeptical about a lot of things, and preferred to be pragmatic and practical about life, hiding behind a mask. And then one day, the greatest Man Who came from the poorest village in Israel called me, and in some way, by the power of the Holy Spirit, made me realize that He believed in me, in my sincerity, and unmasked my pride and duplicity.

Father God, it is to my shame and deep regret that I have not been totally truthful to your beloved Son, despite everything that He had done for me. Grant me the grace, Lord to be able to live up to His expectations, and to be worthy of His Name. Amen.

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