In God’s world, what we think we know often gets turned on its head: The ones who cannot speak well are called to be prophets, the mighty and wealthy are cast down, the last are first, and the tomb does not end the story. What we thought we knew is reversed in today’s passage too.
When Nathanael’s friend Philip comes to him and says the Messiah is the son of Joseph from Nazareth, Nathanael says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Perhaps Nathanael’s skepticism comes from what he thinks he knows about Nazareth, the small and seemingly insignificant neighboring town. Or perhaps Nathanael’s skepticism comes from what he thinks he knows about who the Messiah would be, how the Messiah would arrive, or what the Messiah would do. In either case, Nathanael makes clear in his question that Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth, is not what he was expecting. Yet Nathanael allows his skepticism to turn to curiosity; he decides to take Philip’s invitation to come and see Jesus. Jesus does not criticize Nathanael for asking the question but praises him for being without deceit. Nathanael’s honest question led him to belief.
Nathanael is a great model for curious and questioning faith, the kind of faith that admits we do not have all the answers, is willing to let go of what we thought we knew, and is open to new revelation. When we embrace this kind of faith, we will be surprised and delighted by the way God turns what we thought we knew on its head. We will see God show up in people, places, and ways we would never have expected, like in Joseph’s son from Nazareth.
God, help me to let go of any false knowledge or expectation that keeps me from seeing your revelation. Teach me to ask honest questions that lead me to what I do not yet know. Amen.
We read the stories of Samuel and the calling of Jesus’ disciples in John, and it’s easy to feel jealous. God spoke so directly into their lives that they should have had, it seems to us, full and unwavering confidence in their callings. Didn’t they have an unfair spiritual advantage over us? However, the psalmist reminds us that God knows and sees us individually just as well as God knew Samuel and Jesus knew his disciples. God has plans for us, even if they are revealed in less obvious ways. The reading from First Corinthians is quite different in its message. Perhaps we can at least recognize that even if we never hear God’s audible voice, through scripture God still provides guidance for our lives.
Read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. Can you think of a time when you failed to hear God calling you? What helps you to listen to God?
Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. How does the knowledge that all humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” inform the way you regard and care for others?
Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Paul writes, “All things are lawful.” What does that mean to you? What are the responsibilities inherent in such freedom?
Read John 1:43-51. Who are the people who invited you to “come and see” Jesus? Is there someone around you to whom you could extend that invitation today?
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