Lenten Devotional: March 4

Psalm 30; Psalm 32; Psalm 42; Psalm 43; Deuteronomy 7:17-26; Titus 3:1-15;
John 1:43-51

“Come and see.” John 1:46

In the verse of John 1:43-51, Jesus is gathering his disciples together. John, Andrew and Peter have already joined him. The next day, Jesus finds Philip, and bids him “follow me.” For each of them, upon meeting Jesus, there appears to be a sharp recognition that Jesus is no ordinary man – they immediately drop whatever else they are doing to follow him. Next, Philip finds Nathanael. Philip, full of enthusiasm, tells Nathanael that they have found the one of whom Moses and the prophets have written, Jesus of Nazareth.

But Nathanael isn’t buying it. He is from Bethsaida, which like Nazareth is just another town in Galilee, a poor and backwards region. Perhaps he is weary and disillusioned. He retorts, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip doesn’t attempt to argue, but says simply “Come and see.” So, probably thinking he is wasting his time, Nathanael follows Philip.

As Nathanael approaches, Jesus says of him “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.” Jesus understands Nathanael, and knows his skepticism, but instead of rejecting or scolding him, rather wryly honors his honesty, at the same time intimating he knows Nathanael’s thoughts.

Nathanael is taken aback. He asks Jesus, “How do you know me?” Jesus says only, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” At this, the once-skeptical Nathanael exclaims, “Rabbi, thou art the son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” Nathanael believes at once that here is a man – and more than a man – who with a glance can see into his heart. And he goes much further, proclaiming that Jesus is “the son of God.”

But why does Nathanael believe all this? Simply because Jesus guessed Nathanael’s skepticism and earlier saw him sitting under a fig tree? Very likely Nathanael’s skepticism could be read on his face, and observing someone under a fig tree is surely no miracle. By themselves, Jesus’ statements are hardly a basis for Nathanael to drop his doubts and suddenly decide that this man is the son of God and King of Israel.

More must be going on, and the only answer is that Nathanael is overwhelmed by the encounter with Jesus. He perceives directly, as had John, Andrew, Peter and Philip before him, that here is no ordinary man. Perhaps this is why, when Nathanael doubted that anything good could come out of Nazareth, Philip did not argue, but simply told Nathanael to “come and see.” He knew that the answer to Nathanael’s skepticism was not debate or exposition, but for him to meet Jesus and see for himself.

Maybe it’s the same way for us. Like Nathanael, we can have our doubts – God will not reject us for them. We can debate endlessly, and maybe not make much progress. The key is to