by Pauline Simonsen
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‘Do you believe because … I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these’ (John 1:50).
This ‘slacker’ saying is usually delivered in a tone dripping with scepticism and sarcasm – a sarcasm we hear in Nathanael’s response to Phillip: ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?!’ Phillip has told his friend that he believes he has found ‘the one Moses wrote about in the law and about whom the prophets also wrote’ – the Messiah himself. He identifies this person as Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth. Nathanael is sceptical and dismissive of Phillip’s revelation, though. ‘Yeah, right!’
But Philip is not rebuffed. He simply responds with a gentle invitation for Nathanael to come and see for himself.
When Jesus greets Nathanael as ‘an Israelite in whom there is no deceit’ and adds that he ‘saw’ Nathanael before Phillip spoke with him, Nathanael is profoundly surprised. His scepticism melts in the light of Jesus’ supernatural perception, and Nathanael has his epiphany. He sees Jesus for a moment in his true identity. ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus sees Nathanael, and in response, Nathanael is allowed to see the Son of God.
Nathanael’s experience illustrates this season of Epiphany, which celebrates the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God. The word ‘epiphany’ also refers to a moment of sudden insight or personal revelation. This week we will see how Jesus’ epiphany causes a personal epiphany for different people in the Bible.
We may encounter many sarcastic, sceptical people in our witness to Jesus. It is not our job to convince them; our job is only to invite them. Jesus reveals himself at the right time and brings the epiphany each sceptic needs.
And in case we think we know all there is to know about Jesus, his final words in our reading today promise that we will see much more. There is always more of Jesus to see!
Give us eyes to see you truly, Lord Jesus, and courage to share what we see, and faith to trust you for the revelation needed. Amen.