Reading for Second Sunday after Epiphany
Peace be with you!
In a world where there are a multitude of lifestyles and role models to follow, there are many difficult decisions to make. Some people are followers, which can either lead them to either emulate their leader’s bad choices or to copy virtuous actions. Other people are leaders who pave their own way and make positive decisions. Still others are leaders who focus their energy on simply making money and having the best of everything. Whether we are leaders or followers, we decide whether to follow a positive or negative direction in life.
When I hear Jesus say, “Follow me” (John 1:43), I want to run in the opposite direction. My parents taught me to be a leader and to make positive decisions for myself and for my community. To follow Jesus means to let go of the reins and to give control over to him. It contradicts much of what I have been taught by my parents and various mentors. In my mind, being a follower means you need someone else to make your decisions for you. As Americans, we are encouraged to challenges the ideas and opinions of others. When someone just follows someone else’s lead, we, Americans, think they are uneducated or too weak to think for themselves. And yet everyone needs someone to model their own decisions after. No one can pave a new path without building on the ideas of someone else.
Jesus says, “Follow me” (John 1:43), and I am caught between two worlds: being a leader and being a follower of Jesus. It is an odd place in which to be. I find myself rebelling against both worlds in hopes of finding a balance: to stand as an independent young woman and to depend on Jesus Christ for guidance.
As a skeptic, Nathanael asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46a NRSV). Any scholar will tell you where and whom you studied under is of great importance. Nazareth is a small, inconsequential town, giving Jesus no real credibility with which to back up his teachings. To Nathanael’s objection, Philip simply replies, “Come and see” (John 1:46b NRSV).
Jesus knows Nathanael as an upright man who follows the law faithfully (John 1:47). Nathanael is shocked to be known by Jesus as such and questions how he knows him (John 1:48a). Jesus simply says, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48b). Immediately Nathanael recognizes Jesus as Rabbi, Son of God, and King of Israel (John 1:49). Jesus knows each of us even before we meet him; he knows us completely without us doing a thing to reach out to him. Nathanael recognizes Jesus’s knowing ability as coming from God the Father. Jesus must be the Messiah.
Yet Jesus exclaims that Nathanael will see greater things, such as the heavens opening up and angels surrounding Jesus (John 1:50-51). Jesus reinforces Philip’s “come and see” and explains that he will experience even more amazing things if he follows Jesus.
Being Jesus’s disciple will lead these men down a new path in life. These men will witness the Messiah’s work in the world. The Messiah will be crucified and die in front of their eyes, and then these men will see him rise from the dead and then ascend into heaven. Their foundation will be shaken and rebuilt upon Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection when angels of God will ascend and descend upon the Son of Man (John 1:51). Nathanael transforms from skeptic to believer through believing he will witness many great things by following Jesus Christ. Nathanael comes to believe there is something more to life than what he understands and is willing to step out on a limb to see what Jesus has to show him. The Kingdom of God is near through Jesus Christ, the Messiah, coming into the world to die for our sins. Nathanael chooses to follow Jesus and to keep his eyes open.
There are days when I am skeptical of how God is working in my life. Sometimes he feels so far away. Then I realize it is I who has walked away from God—thinking I could handle [whatever “it” is] on my own.
It is amazing how plans fall into place when you let go of your ideal plan and leave it to God. Whenever I find myself needing transform from skeptic to believer, it is usually when I have taken too much onto myself without asking for God’s help. When I let God in, everything seems to fall into place. God knows where and when we need to be for a given purpose, even if we do not know until it is happening. Jesus invites us to “come and see” what he has in store for us. All we need to do is believe.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for inviting us to “come and see” what Jesus is up to in our lives. Help us to be transformed from skeptics to believers. Reveal your plan to us as we continue to do your work in the world. Guide us through your forgiveness, grace, and love. Thank you for being close to us. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- Who are your role models? How do you model your life after them?
- How are you a skeptic?
- How have you been transformed from skeptic to believer?