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JN 1: 43-51
2nd Sunday after the Epiphany

Not MK, of course, but let's not quibble. JN is going to keep cropping up in the Years of other evangelists.

The term 'the next day' crops up in v.29, 35, & now in 43. Chapter 2 begins with 'on the third day'. Is JN just sketching a simple time-line, or is he conveying a sense of the urgency of Jesus getting on with his ministry. Today, many of us look at those who convey some sense of urgency about things Christian as being odd. After all, haven't we put a lot of time & effort into developing the Committee System as a sure-fire way of making sure nothing much gets done in a hurry? To do things today, the next day, or even on the third day, smacks of indecent if not irreverent haste - doesn't it?!

We've already heard (v.41) how Andrew goes off & brings brother Simon to Jesus. Now it's Philip's turn, to bring Nathanael (very likely the same person as Bartholomew.)  JN conveys a sense of the urgency of introducing our contacts to Jesus. This is how the Light sprads..

Nathanael is introduced to us as one who doesn't see someone coming from Nazareth as being much of a proposition. But he can move, will change position, given good reason. Jesus gives him that reason. IS that good reason. The preacher's job is to give us good reason, help us discern where we may need to change, & how we may grow in grace in that process. Never to dismiss people or places or opportunities out of hand!

Jesus doesn't miss a thing going on around him. (How many Gospel episodes illustrate this skill of his?) There's nothing magic about the fig tree incident. Jesus uses his powers of observation. He notices people because he cares about them. About us. I'm a bit envious of that skill. I'm not normally an observant person. Perhaps I need to admit to not bothering to hone my observation skills, although I do try to be 'present to' people & to situations that 'flesh out' Scripture, make it relevant. When once it was my task to try to teach new clergy how to preach, I certainly encouraged them to develop their powers of observation like Jesus. To take in all that's going on, & use it when it fits the bill.

When Jesus calls Nathanael 'an Israelite in whom there's no guile', who's speaking but the One In Whom There Is No Guile, the Totally Authentic One, the One whose Divine Integrity can never be called into question. The word Jesus uses, (dolos) means deceit, cunning, falsity, & the like. Nathanael doesn't play down the description. To do so would render what Jesus says of him untrue, wouldn't it? A lesson here for us all in self-evaluation - what being 'meek' (& therefore blessed!) probably means. It's urgent, still, that we respond to Jesus as does Nathanael. After all, God knew us in our mother's womb as the Psalmist puts it, even before he sees us under some fig or gum tree. Let there be no false modesty, no Heep-ishness, in our relationship with Jesus. Nathanael & Jesus ought to have got on well together, & no doubt they did. A guile-less self- estimation will help us too, get on well with Jesus, the human face of God.

In the 'heaven opened & angels ascending & descending upon the Son of Man' bit Nathanael is promised a theophany few are privileged to witness (though that still doesn't earn him a role among the inner circle of disciples). There's a clear reference to Jacob's dream (GEN 28) though Nat seems to be starting where Jacob finishes. Maybe he's like people in our church,  well qualified in God's eyes, but never seeking or achieving out-front leadership roles? God needs them in the ranks. We need them in the ranks, too, if only to 'keep the bastards honest' as one Australian political party used to say of its role till it succumbed to guile & brought about its downfall! Heaven can open, & angels ascend & descend, in many kinds of ways, even today! Inside church & out. Faith in Jesus isn't an up-there compared with down-here thing.