Out of Nazareth

Scripture: John 1:43-51

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

Observation: The “next day” in verse 43 refers to the day after Jesus calls his first three disciples, Andrew, Peter (Cephas), and an unnamed disciples believed by biblical scholars to be John the gospel writer. Going to Galilee, Jesus finds Phillip and gives the command, “follow me!” Phillip like Andrew goes and finds someone else to tell the exciting news that he has found/met the Messiah. However, unlike Andrew who tells his brother Peter and Peter follows without comment, Phillip is met with skepticism. When Phillip tells his friend Nathaniel that he has found the Messiah and he is from Nazareth, Nathaniel responds by asking, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Phillip simply says, “Come and see.” Nathaniel is won over by a generous greeting and Jesus’ ability to tell him that he was seated under a fig tree before Phillip called him. Nathaniel makes a bold and declaration of faith based on these two seemingly small acts. All of a sudden Nazareth is not such an unlikely place to produce the Messiah.

Analysis: We often say flattery will get you nowhere when in actuality we are more inclined to respond to pleasant and uplifting words than we are to warnings or rebukes. We are not told if Jesus hears or is aware of what Nathaniel says about his being from Nazareth but we can clearly see that Jesus’ depiction of Nathaniel is in stark contrast to Nathaniel’s depiction of Jesus. Without knowing anything more than about Jesus except that he is from Nazareth, Nathaniel makes certain negative assumptions about him. His response is to literally question whether or not Nazarenes were capable of being productive or doing in good in the world. On the other hand, Jesus greets Nathaniel in the most generous terms possible and based on this greeting Nathaniel begins to warm to Jesus. I hear Nathaniel say, “Maybe this guy does know what he is talking about because he clearly is a good judge of character.” Jesus is does not assume the worst but expects the best of Nathaniel, someone who has denigrated him to Phillip. Perhaps being from Nazareth and feeling the sting of being judged before given a chance, has softened Jesus and influenced his response to Nathaniel. Out of Nazareth comes understanding and acceptance to oppose the exclusion and divisiveness present in the world.

Prayer: Lord, God open our hearts and minds to be aware of the people we might consider Nazarenes. Help us to not judge based on the reputation of a people from certain locations but instead teach us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to receive each other in the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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