20 June 2017

John 1:35-51

“Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’” (v. 46)

Psalm: Psalm 21:1-7


If it's 'the next day', then it is good to be curious about what happened the previous day. It started in much the same manner, according to verse 29. John the Baptist, keen to emphasise he's only able to offer water Baptism one by one, points towards the "Lamb of God [Jesus] who takes away the sin of the world". John is always testifying that Jesus is the one to watch. He's the one on whom God's Spirit descended at his own Baptism (John 1:32) and the one God will use to transmit that Spirit to others (John 1:33): a completely new kind of Baptism. John's role has been merely to prepare the way and point a finger excitedly in the right direction. Look - that one!

In today's passage, John the Baptist again refers to Jesus as "the Lamb of God" (v. 35)' and two disciples immediately up and follow. It sets off a fascinating chain of other encounters with Jesus and a wealth of grandiose titles attributed to him. As well as Lamb of God, we have Rabbi, Messiah, son of Joseph from Nazareth, Son of God, King of Israel, and Son of Man. Space doesn't permit commentary on all these so do follow the links. What we can note, though, is how skillfully in the first chapter of John's Gospel the whole purpose of the book is being flagged up. The reader is introduced to Jesus and invited to believe in him as someone far more extraordinary and expansive than just the carpenter's son from Nazareth, that obscure village dissed by Nathanael from the more notable Cana in Galilee. When John starts wrapping up the Gospel, he nails it in John 20:31: "These things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name". At which point, Nathanael reappears (John 21:2) for a decisive encounter with the risen Christ whom he almost dismissed at first meeting, but subsequently recognised and revered. Good that we meet him at the Gospel's end as well as its start. A lot of baptismal water has flowed under the bridge by then.

To Ponder

  • Do Christians need to take on board all the titles given to Jesus in the New Testament? Why?
  • Have you ever disrespected a person or place and then been made to think again? What happened?