McFarland

Wednesday Bible Study by Pastor Tim

Light a candle

Read John 1:43-51

 

 

Encountering Jesus

Last week, we saw that Jesus was revealed in the waters of the Jordan River as God’s Beloved Son (Mark 1:9-11). For the next couple of weeks, we will pay attention to texts that describe how Jesus is revealed to his disciples. This fits with the theme of “epiphany,” which means revealing, making known, manifesting.

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John describes how Nathanael encounters Jesus. Interestingly, Nathanael first hears about Jesus from Philip, a friend from the town of Bethsaida. When Nathanael voices skepticism about the Messiah coming from an obscure town like Nazareth, Philip doesn’t argue, debate, or cajole. He simply invites: “Come and see.” (1:46)

This “come and see” invitation is central to how John describes the call of the first disciples. Jesus says it first to Andrew and another unnamed person (1:39). Andrew, in turn, finds his brother Simon and invites him. Then the next day, it starts all over with Philip, who probably knows both Andrew and Simon from Bethsaida.

“Come and see” is an invitation to an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus in community. Pastor James Howell writes, “We do not ponder anyone at a distance… We go to others, to those not expecting us. And we find both Jesus and ourselves there.” (“Commentary on John 1:43-51,” workingpreacher.org, Jan. 17, 2021) Nathanael first heard God’s call through the invitation of a real person, Philip. We encounter the Risen One as part of a community of ordinary, real, imperfect people seeking a relationship with God together.

The other half of this text is Nathanael in dialogue with Jesus himself. Nathanael is contrasted with the Hebrew Bible figure of Jacob (Genesis chapters 27-33), especially with the vision of a ladder with angels “ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:51).

Nathanael’s story shows that Jesus is revealed to him in steps, like rungs of a ladder, usually with one insight leading to more questions. Nathanael makes a confession, but Jesus tells him that he will see “greater things than these” (1:50). Nathanael doesn’t need to have a complete understanding of God. Faith is more like a walk, a journey, rather than a one-and-done event. As a retired seminary professor, Sarah Henrich, says, “We live into and from what has been revealed to us, by trusting that there is more than any one of us can take in.” (“Connections,” Year B, Volume 1, p. 195)

The Beloved One, Jesus the Christ, invites all of us to “come and see,” and trust that we will encounter him in community, Scripture, sacraments, and our experiences of life.

Reflection Questions

1) Who on your faith journey has invited you to “come and see” Christ?

2) How has community been part of your encountering Christ and growing in faith?

3) What insights about God, Christ, discipleship, faith have led to more questions? How have those questions affected your relationship with Christ and the faith community?

Extinguish the candle