“Come and See”
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
v45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one whom Moses wrote about in the book of the Law and whom the prophets also wrote about. He is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
v46″Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” answered Philip.
(Read: John 1:43-51)
In any given culture there is always the human trait of prejudice. A preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. A prejudice against people from different backgrounds. For so long the Igorot people (and other indigenous peoples for that matter) were looked down on by the lowlanders as uncultured people with tails. The statement of Nathanael in our gospel lesson is one classic slur and prejudice against other people from another place and background. In our text for this morning, Phillip comes to Nathanael and proclaims that he has found the one whom Moses wrote about. He is Jesus of Nazareth.
Nathanael responded to this good news in a negative, skeptical, and reactionary manner. Nathanael was prejudiced, without thinking he uses a slur against Jesus because Jesus was from Nazareth, he scornfully asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” In the eyes of Nathanael, Nazareth is quite an undistinguished place. This was a common behavior in the first century (even today), people were normally judged based on where they grew up. If Jesus were from a more appropriate location—it’s possible Nathanael would have been a little more responsive to Phillip’s excitement, but Jesus was from of all places—Nazareth.
According to one source the Jews despised Nazareth because it was on the border of a Gentile country. Nazareth was sometimes called “Galilee of the Gentiles”, and the Jews were so deeply prejudiced against the Gentiles that they considered anyone or anything touched by a Gentile to be unclean in the sight of God. Thus, the Jews despised Nazareth because it was on the border of a Gentile country and so the Gentiles geographically touched it, which caused Nazareth to somehow be considered unclean as well. But thank God for Phillip, for continuing to offer Nathanael this life changing invitation despite Nathanael’s obvious prejudices. Phillip did not stand around to debate with his good friend Nathanael concerning the pros and cons of Nazareth—he simply said, “Come and see”.
Even before they have met face to face Jesus saw Nathanael sitting under the fig tree.
According to one Bible commentary, a fig tree is about fifteen feet tall and its branches spread out about 25 feet in width like an umbrella, creating a space that is almost like a private room. If someone wanted to get away from the chaos of a one-room house, he or she would sit under the fig tree. They would sit there to read scripture or to reflect or to pray. Sitting under a fig tree was a sign of seeking and praying for God’s living presence. Now, I realize that the church looks nothing like a fig tree. But isn’t that why we go there? We have come together in the church with the yearning to know the touch of the living God. We come to “retreat” from the chaos of the world around us so we can read scripture, reflect, and pray. I hope you will see that, despite his relative anonymity, we do have much in common with Nathaniel.
Thank God for fig trees! Thank God that we are allowed to all sit under our own fig trees! Because through them we are brought to our own personal realization concerning whom Jesus is and what He means to us in our lives. Through the spiritual fig trees you are better able to, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” –What a powerful revelation! We are now able to see greater things. Now we can approach God and enter heaven through Jesus Christ; now we have access to God only through Jesus Christ, and now we have a constant communication with God because hereafter we shall see the very heavens open up, with angels ascending and descending. And it is all because of the blessed privilege of sitting under our fig tree and being confronted by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let us pray.
Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (ECP-BCP Epiphany 2 Collect)