15 January 2012John 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.
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?