15 January 2012

John 1:43-51

"Nathaniel said to him, 'Can anything good some out of Nazareth?' Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'" (v. 46)


At the beginning of his public ministry, following his Baptism by John the Baptist in the river Jordan, Jesus begins the task of gathering together a group of disciples. According to John's Gospel, two of the Baptist's own disciples are the first to follow Jesus and when one of them, Andrew, shares his conviction that Jesus is the Messiah with his brother Simon Peter, he joins them too. Before leaving for Galilee Philip also joined Jesus, but when he too shared the news that Jesus was the Messiah with Nathaniel he gets a more sceptical response.

Once Nathaniel hears from Phillip that Jesus is from Nazareth, he immediately makes assumptions about Jesus' limitations. As Nazareth, unlike Jerusalem, appears nowhere in the prophetic anticipations of the coming of the Messiah, Nathaniel feels quite safe to discount Jesus as being the one "about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote" (v. 45). By Nathaniel's preoccupations, Jesus just doesn't fit the bill. Yet Jesus transcends any limitations placed upon him. As the missiologist Brian Stanley puts it, Jesus, is God, the Eternal One's 'ultimate act of translation', the Word rendered in flesh, a language that all humanity can understand, into a particular time and place, but for all times and for all places.

Phillip's response encourages Nathaniel to rely on something more concrete than his preconceptions, and not to depend upon his own prejudices. Don't be limited by your own horizons, but rather experience for yourself, with an open mind: "Come and see". Philip's invitation to Nathaniel is one to which followers of Jesus are still invited, both to offer to others and to be constantly challenged to receive for themselves.

To Ponder

What preconceptions do you have about people/places, and what are they based on?

What preconceptions do people hold today about Jesus? And how can the invitation to "come and see" be made in relevant ways?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Tim Woolley

The Revd Dr Tim Woolley is superintendent minister of the Hinckley Circuit in Leicestershire and an adjunct faculty member at Cliff College. Tim has a passion for Wesleyan theology and for fresh ways of being church and doing evangelism, and he is a vice chair of Methodist Evangelicals Together.