The following is a reflection on John 1:43-51, the Gospel Lesson appointed for January 15th, 2012, the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, according to the Revised Common Lectionary. On this site there is also a version of the Prayers of the People for All Epiphany, and a reflection on the Hebrew Bible Lesson for the same day, 1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20.
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?”
In the modern idiom, Nathanael said something akin to, “Yeah, right.”
In contrast to Nathanael’s bland incredulity, Philip looks to be the picture of faith. In Philip’s mind he’s already put Jesus together with Moses and the prophets. He’s already got him pegged.
Of course, the only thing that John has told us at this point is that Jesus said, “Follow me,” to Philip.
Well, that’s not much to work with, now is it?
Two little words, and Philip is set and ready to go with exegesis in-hand.
Now, one might say that Philip discerned within Jesus, in that first meeting—by that first gaze into the eyes—that Jesus was the One who had come to save the world. But, it sounds at least a little fishy to me.
He’s just a little too sure, for my taste.
He sounds like the seed who fell on rocky soil. He shooted up with great promise at first, but is there really a root system to hold him up yet?
Over the Christmas break my daughters were re-watching Disney’s Enchanted. A Princess finds herself in New York City, in search for her beloved Prince who’s she’s planning on marrying right away. When Patrick Dempsey asks her how long she’s known him she says, “for a day.” He says, “You mean you’re in such love that it seems like a day.”
Nope she had met him yesterday.
What I see here is the petulance of both Philip and Nathanael. Jesus had Philip at “hello,” and Nathanael doesn’t give a whup.
Both responses are filled with immaturity. I’d say spiritual immaturity to be exact.
Both of them would come to faith, but not for some time later. After the crucifixion. After the Resurrection. After Jesus returned to them and breathed on them.
Then they’d both get it.
The season of Epiphany is about recognizing in Jesus of Nazareth the manifestation of God. And, through Epiphany, as through the Gospels, we find that different people have very different journeys to God in Christ. In fact, no two journeys are the same. The journeys start in different places—some start with a wandering star, a flock of angels, a falling dove, a visit at the fishing docks, a healing, a wedding…
And, each of those journeys, with different beginning points, have different routes. Different high points. Different low points.
The the point is, that the journeys are meant to have the same ending point: Jesus the Christ.
I’d say that my journey began with the same immaturity that Philip and Nathanael began with. And, I’d say that my spiritual immaturity pops up every now and then along the road. Even now.
But, I’m still on the journey.
To go and see. And follow Him.