The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 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.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’ -John 1:43-51
John depicts Jesus as a decisive man who acted on a thought with certainty, and who spoke directly. I imagine Jesus as an ordinary looking man with steady, penetrating eyes that alerted those with whom he engaged of his omniscience and withering love. To seekers, Jesus’ authenticity would be difficult to resist – and fearsome to his detractors.
Today’s Gospel is wonderfully lean. Its telling makes vivid Jesus’ omniscience, and his gift for creating pathways for redemption.
Jesus travels to Galilee to call a trusted few into apostleship. His approach is direct, “Follow me.” His eyes and his aura extend the reach of his simple words, touching those whose hearts were ‘ready’, or made curious by friendships among the called. So it was with Philip and Nathaniel. Phillip finds his friend Nathaniel (later called Bartholomew) and tells him he has found the Messiah, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Nathaniel’s response is strikingly snarky and prejudiced, fed by self-doubt and fear.: “can anything good come from Nazareth?” His response stiff-arms the question, “What would be required of me if this Nazarene IS the Messiah?”
How often in a day do we freely offer up our pre-judgments, our prejudices great and small, to be cute and snarky…and to stiff-arm the question, “How vulnerable will it make me if I give in to Love?” --” Oh, she’s from Chalmette? Well, that explains a lot! Double whammy alert: she’s blonde too!” “Can we just split the check 50/50; or are we paying Jewish-style…?” “Look at that idiot in the handicap space…fat and black are not handicaps!”
And what happens when we are called out in our ugliness, fear, and resentment? “Oh, I didn’t mean it that way; some of my best friends are Jewish…are Black…are from Dayton.” We hide.
Jesus’ eyes pour only love into Nathaniel’s. Jesus says with loving irony, “A sight for sore eyes; if it isn’t the one Israelite who speaks only the truth. Well met, my good man!” Jesus’ response creates a hallowed path between Nathaniel’s dark words and the forgiving love Jesus offers. It is a hallowed path we call Lent. It stretches from our own dark places, past Golgotha and into the redemptive light of the empty tomb. May we, this day, choose to be on the path and walk it with the rabbi with the captivating eyes, and the ocean of unconditional love…just to see where it leads.
-Marsden Leverich Moran
Rabbi Savior, this path called Lent feels uncomfortable three days in. Unburden my dark load. Hold my hand while my tender feet become accustomed to stepping on the sharp stones of my own doubt and fear. Help me to walk on, focused on the promise of freedom in the grace of a Love-filled life. Help me home, Lord. Amen.