Sunday, February 16, 2014

At The Well... Jesus and the Smaritain Women: An Encounter Across The Barriers (John4:1-42)... Sitting Under The Fig Tree (Part 3)

In Journalist Phillip Yancey’s book “The Jesus I Never Knew” he talks of being part of a group which looked at the various film presentations of the Jesus story alongside the gospels. One comment that Yancy makes that has always stuck with me is this.  ‘AS we watched the movies about Jesus’…”we noticed a striking pattern: the more unsavoury the characters, the more at ease they seemed around Jesus. People like these found Jesus appealing: a Samaritan social outcast,(which we are looking at today) a military officer of the tyrant Herod, a quisling tax collector, a recent hostess of seven demons.’… “In Contrast, Jesus got a chilly response from more respectable types. Pious Pharisees thought him uncouth and worldly, a rich young ruler walked away shaking his head, and even the open minded Nicodemus sought a meeting under the cover of darkness.
The thing that really hit home was Yancy’s reflection on the church today from that… “How strange this pattern seemed, since the Christian Church now attracts respectable types who closely resemble the people most suspicious of Jesus on earth. What has happened to reverse the pattern of Jesus day? Why don’t sinners like being around us?’ Ouch…I thought…that hurts… right.
Yancy illustrated that point by talking of a prostitute and drug addict who when some asked her why she hadn’t gone to the church for help responded “Church why should I go there? They’d just make me feel even worse than I already do!”… ouch…ouch, that really hurts doesn’t it.
My experience is that while there is some truth in that comment and illustration, it is more a caricature of Church, not the reality… people generally find us here and this church a welcoming and healing place. However, we can put barriers up from inside and outside the church, real or imagined… that can keep us and others from Jesus… and as I looked at Jesus encounter with the nameless Samaritan women I can’t help but be aware that Jesus is not put off by the barriers, either the big social barriers or the personal ones we put up, he is prepared and able to cross those barriers to encounter people with love and bring life.
We are working our way through people’s encounters with Jesus in John’s gospel and today. So far we’ve looked at encounters ‘Under the fig tree’, and  at night’, today we are going to the well. They are all encounters with Jesus in the everyday life of the everyday people of Jesus day. They show Jesus encountering people from across the spectrum of society in his day. They all show us Jesus offering life and love and revealing the truth of who his is to all these people, and John retells them that we may believe and have life.

If Nicodemus was the ultimate insider at the heart of the religious and social life of Jesus day, the Samaritan women could be said to be the ultimate outsider.  Samaria was the old northern kingdom of Israel, when the Assyrians came and conquered it in 722bc they took most of the population into exile and imported other peoples from all over the empire. Those who remained in Samaria intermarried and also there was a intermingling of the various religions that came in. In 2 Kings 17 it tells the story of the Assyrians sending some exiled priests to Samaria to help the people living there to worship the God of that land. But the Jews always considered them an unclean people. They would avoid contact with them. The narrative in John 4 starts by saying that Jesus was almost fleeing Jerusalem for Galilee and so ‘needs must they went through Samaria, the shortest distance to Galilee, whereas pious Pharisees would have travelled the long route. They would not have shared an implement for food or water which is why the Samaritan women is surprised when Jesus asks her for a drink of water.
Secondly she was a woman.  Pious Jewish men would not normally talk with women who were not family members in public. It was a segregated patriarchal society. Like many places round the world today it was the women’s roll to go and get water for the family.
Lastly she had come to Jacob’s well which wasn’t the closest to her village, at noon, the normal time for getting water was in the cooler hours of the day. AS her story unfolds we find that she had had five husbands and the man she was living with at the moment was not her husband. She was ostracized for that. Maybe she came at this time and to this well to avoid the painful jibs and down nose looks and cold shoulder silences of the other women. Historically it’s been hinted that this was about sexual immorality, but as Paul Metzger says in an environment where a women’s welfare was dependant on her marriage, and divorce was easy   all we know is that she had had a tough life. He sums it up in the classic country song “she’d been looking for love in all the wrong places” and there would have definitely been a barrier when it came to trusting men’s promises.
Jesus is prepared to crosses all those social barriers. Firstly we meet a very human Jesus who is tired and worn out from his time in Jerusalem, and he is left by the well while his disciples go to find food, and he is thirsty in a desert land without the means of drawing water.  He is prepared to ask for help. I can’t help but reminded of the parable of the sheep and the goats, where we see that one of the ways people encounter Jesus in the world is in the least, the hungry, the poor, the thirsty, the imprisoned.
The woman is amazed that Jesus would even ask her this. We may have lost some of the satire in her reply… “oh now you a Jewish man will ask me for help when you are in need.” She throws up the barrier of conflict between Jew and Samaritan almost like a defence mechanism.  And Jesus reply changes the conversation, he tells her that if she knew who it was talking with her she would ask him for water and he would give her living water.
The Women can’t think beyond the physical and for a desert people  living water meant running water, a secure source of life giving water, Psalm 1 picks that up by talking of the people who base their lives in hearing and doing the word of God as being like trees planted by living water, a flowing stream. Jesus is basically saying the same thing to the Samaritan women as he does to Nicodemus. That he is the source of spiritual life, of life for the spirit. He does not say he is the living water because later in John 9 he says the Holy Spirit is the living water that wells up in our lives and fills us and over flows to bring that life to the world around us. But it is Jesus who gives that living water. It’s not that we drink it once and that’s it we will never thirst, but rather that it is the only truly reliable and constant source of new life of abundant life, we do not need another, but we do need to continually allow ourselves to drink from it and let it refresh us.
Maybe some hope has been birthed in the women as she hears Jesus offer. She says she would like that water. Weather she understood it as talking about new life, spiritual water or weather she simply wanted a better more reliable water source we don’t know. But Just like with Nicodemus and Nathaniel Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter. “Where is your husband?” It’s not condemning it’s not the mocking of others, rather as John talked about in John 3 it is bringing light and truth to bear so healing and transformation can happen. Living water, flowing water was preferred in Jewish religious practise for purification and that is what Jesus offers here. The women will later tell people that Jesus had told here everything she had ever done.  Her identity and all she was had been caught up in these failed relationships and Jesus is saying that there is life beyond that. Just like we may build our identity round things that don’t give us life… what we have done in the past… our education or our work our mistakes or even our strengths… Jesus points to a life source beyond that. Being accepted and loved by God, finding God dwelling in us by his spirit, bringing new life a chance of the slate wiped clean, health and wholeness, sustenance in the desert lands of our soul.
Her perception of Jesus changes, she acknowledges that he is a prophet and almost to deflect Jesus attention away from herself, but also because it was one of the burning issues of the day. She asks who was right about where one should worship, Jerusalem or the mountain where the Samaritans do.   Again Jesus isn’t willing to let that be a barrier for life giving water… he is not going to let those cultural and religious barriers stop this women from receiving living water. His reply is that while the Jews know who they worship and Samaritans do not that because God is spirit that true worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth. It’s not the place but it is in knowing God. Again the women throws up a barrier that of time…That this will be a future reality when the messiah comes. Her hope as with all of Israel is that God would send a saviour, a king and Jesus breaks through that barrier with self-disclosure that he is the messiah, the son of God and that the time is now.   He is inviting the women and us into the new reality of knowing God in Christ. 
The disciples suddenly turn up at that moment and it gets a bit uncomfortable. But we see the women go and tell what she knew of Jesus, she changes from being outcast and ostracised to being the source of life giving water to her community and they come and Jesus spends a couple of days in that village. God’s love, the life Christ has to offer, new creation cannot be contained it will always well up and over flow even the barriers we put up, with an invitation to receive that new life in Christ and to Come and know and worship the God who loves us.
The question that comes to mind is where do we stand in this story?
I couldn’t help but find myself standing with the disciples, in a sort of uncomfortable foot shuffling, reluctant way. There is that “hey what is Jesus doing talking with that women?” there is that “what are you doing talking with Jesus?” thing happening.  I became aware that I put up these barriers around Jesus and his love and who he lets in and Jesus just won’t let that stand. Jesus love and grace is for everyone, it will even overflow the barriers of my comfort zones and prejudices and imagination and you yours. Even though Jesus disciples would have remembered his encounter with the women at the well, in Acts it took persecution of the church in Jerusalem for Jesus disciples to go back to Samaria, where they found that the gospel was readily accepted. If the spirit is that life giving water it will move us along in its flow even beyond the barriers we want to rise to contain it.
Secondly I can’t help but wonder as the people round Jesus that when we feel a spiritual thirst or hunger, that we think it has to do with going to the well to find the living water, we need to dig more and more into God, use spiritual disciples to listen and drink of what the spirit of God has for us. There is truth in that.  But maybe also we need to sit at the well… as well. To be in unfamiliar territory and do the will of God, share what we have found, show the grace we have been given, be the living water and we like Jesus will find sustenance in doing that.
Maybe today you find yourselves like the Samaritan women standing on the outside in a desert place, even in the plush suburbs of sub-tropical Auckland, and what you have in your life does not satisfy your thirst. What you have built your identity is dry or leaks. Can I say Jesus is wanting to meet with you and give you that life giving water today. He’s even willing to work through the barriers we put up.
Finally, in way of an answer to Philip Yancy’s critique of the church… a vision of what could be, not my own but that of Ezekiel in the old Testament. Ezekiel is taken to the temple in Jerusalem it is the centre of a restored and new Israel and out of the temple, which symbolised God Presence and which Jesus had told the Pharisees he would destroy and rebuild in three days a spring bubble up. A river starts to flow shallow at first but getting deeper and deeper as it flows from out of the city, into the desert land beyond it, allowing the desert to bloom and grow and have life. May we as a church allow Jesus to take the living water of his spirit and let it flow out of us , pushing down the barriers that stand in it way and bring life to this place and this city, this nation and this world that God loves and has called us to witness to.

At Night... You Must Be Born Again Nicodemus and Jesus (John 3:1-21)... Sitting Under the Fig Tree (Part 2)

Preaching on the passage we had read out today feels like handling a much valued family heirloom… It contains one of the most well known and loved verses in the New Testament… John 3:16. Even Non-Christians may no longer know what it says or that it’s a bible verse but they know John 3:16… it’s made its way into popular culture….even onto the Simpsons.
It also contains that troublesome phrase ‘born again’ which has become a bit of a clique and a very loaded term in Christianity and culture today: so much so that we can lose the amazing truth of God’s love and grace that it encapsulates. And I want to do it justice today because it is as enigmatic and challenging and life giving for us as it was for Nicodemus.  .
This year leading into Easter we are working our way through a series called Sitting under the Fig Tree… looking at encounters with Jesus in John’s Gospel and today. The passage we are looking at from John chapter 3 lends itself very well to this. In verse 1-15 we have the narrative of Nicodemus coming to see Jesus at Night and then in verse 16-21 we have the reflection on that encounter by John, applying it to the wider context, to the world and so to us.
Ok having said that let’s have a look at Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus.
Nicodemus is a Pharisee.  The Pharisees were a group within Judaism. Their relationship with God was based on their birth right as the people of Israel, and they believed that identity needed to be lived out in meticulous obedience to the Law of Moses in all facets of life. The only chance they saw of getting rid of the Romans, becoming an independent nation and being blessed by God was by that observation of the Jewish law. Nicodemus was also a member of the ruling Jewish council the Sanhedrin, he is a political and religious leader, and Jesus is right to call him Israel’s teacher.
Nicodemus comes at night. It could have been he was anxious as an official rabbi coming and seeking out this unofficial Rabbi, this rabble rabbi from the sticks. Or as he has seen enough of what Jesus had been doing to see the hand of God in it, like with the disciples of John the Baptist, that we looked at last week, he comes to see and the only quality time he can get with Jesus is at night, away from the demands of the day.  
One of the things that John emphasises in his gospel is how Jesus knows what is on people’s hearts and Jesus here cuts straight to the quick. ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again’. Paul Metzger says that Jesus saw that Nicodemus had been playing the religious game for so long and that he had a flawed faith based on the traditions and testimonies of the old boys club rather than true faith based in God’s word and spirit’ and Jesus moves to stripe this away
What Jesus says can be translated both born again and born from above. And the focus here is that the Kingdom of God is not about the effort of humans but the divine action of God. Nicodemus does not understand this he can only think in terms of physical things.  How can an old man be born again, it’s impossible. In that Nicodemus has captured half of what Jesus is saying that yes it is humanly impossible. But we need to remember from Mary’s encounter with the Angel, with God all things are possible.  Jesus coming is God’s answer, is God’s grace, is God making a way.
Jesus goes on to elaborate for Nicodemus. He says ‘you cannot enter the kingdom of God unless you are born of the water and the spirit.’  Now that has been interpreted in different ways. Some see it as a reference to Christian water baptism, with its emphasis on purification and repentance, and the Spirit, receiving God’s Spirit. That fits but in the context I wonder if it does not push the emphasis here a little bit back towards what we do not what God does, not focusing on God’s grace. The other way people understand it that Jesus may simply here be saying you need to have a natural birth, water, and commentators point to a lot of water metaphors in Jewish writing to do with birth, and also a spiritual birth. That our lives are regenerated, made new by the spirit through Christ.
Remember John’s gospel starts ‘in the beginning’ it starts with creation, the emphasis in the gospel can be seen as ‘new creation’ the resurrection narrative starts in the garden on the first day and Jesus is talking of that new creation, that new life coming into our lives from above. In the prologue to John’s gospel it is phrased in terms of being born into the family of God. Not by natural means or a father’s will, but by God’s grace, given as a gift to those who received Jesus, the word made flesh.
Jesus says that Nicodemus should not be surprised by what Jesus had said. In the passage we used as a call to worship today in Ezekiel 36 (24-27) there is that promise that God would renew the hearts of his people, that God would bring transformation, regeneration. That it would be a divine action that would enable them to keep the law, not simply by human effort, but out of a new life.
But Jesus then goes on to use an Old Testament illustration to help Nicodemus understand that, the story of the bronze snake in Numbers 21. In response to the people of Israel rebelling against God a plague broke out, that threatened to wipe out everyone. In response to Moses prayers for mercy, God saws grace and tell Moses to fashion a snake of bronze and everyone who looked to it would be saved and healed. It was by divine action and grace, not that they were suffering from a lack of seeing bronze snakes.  So it is says Jesus with the son of man, when he is lifted up, which refers to Jesus crucifixion, which in John’s gospel is associated with Jesus being glorified  he will bring all people to know life in himself.
We don’t know how Nicodemus responded to this encounter with Jesus. He is only mentioned twice more in the New Testament.  Both times being positive about Jesus… In John 7 as the Sanhedrin discuss what to do about Jesus he suggests they should go and see for themselves.  In John 19 he is with Joseph of Arimathea as they seek permission from Pilate to bury Jesus and helps prepare Jesus body for death. Maybe he became a follower of Jesus at the least he is prepared to be identified publicly with Jesus.
How does this encounter with Nicodemus relate to us today?
The good thing is that John does not leave us wondering about that. He moves from a narrative of Jesus and Nicodemus, to tell us what it means for the world and us. He tells us that salvation and life are gifts from God in Christ. God loved the world, the word world gets repeated four times in the space of two verses to emphasise that, and gave his only begotten Son so that all who would believe in him, should not perish but have everlasting life. The truth for all of us is that Christ came so that you and I may know the new life the new birth that Jesus is talking about to Nicodemus. It’s for us. We must be born again, and we can be because of God’s love shown in Jesus Christ. God aim is not that people perish and are condemned but that we may find new beginnings and new life in him.
In fact says John, the sad truth is that despite in Christ the light coming into the world, people prefer the darkness. Because once you step into the light all that we do is exposed and we are aware of our need for transformation and change.
If we were to bring it even more down to us today, I think the call is the same as it was to Nicodemus. Oh and if you’ve been wondering what that is a picture of.. It’s Auckland city at night from space. I've seen so many images of the earth from space associated with John 3:16 and haven't really related to them, they are usually northern hemisphere orientated, but this one is not, in fact I can point out where the church is and probably where I live. For me it symbolises that this  passage connects here and now with us.
You see we We must be born again. Some of things that have stopped this being life giving to people in the past have been that it is connected to an experience in life. It is tied into responding to an altar call or making a commitment or praying a particular prayer. It can start at those particular times. But as we look at peoples encounters with Jesus in John’s gospel it manifests itself in people’s lives in different ways. But the truth is that Christian life is from divine activity, divine grace rather than from what Christ has done for us, from the love of God rather than human effort.
WE must be born again, the fact that it is based on God’s love and God’s grace and god’s reaction does not mean that we do not have a part to play. It’s not automatic, it’s not universal, John’s reflection is that many will prefer to remain in the dark, we do need to respond, to believe to put our trust in Jesus and his grace.
We must be born again. One of the things that has put people off this is the idea is that for some it is seen as a destination, that people equate being born again as having made it. Having an insurance for an afterlife with Christ, ‘pie in the sky when you die,’ but in John’s gospel the idea of life is about quality not just quantity. Westcott expresses it like this “it is not an endless duration of being in time, but being of which time does not measure.” It is eternal because it is life lives in relationship with Christ, the eternal one, life in Christ.
We must be born again. The idea of being born again also does not indicate a destination but a beginning, a new start, a new life where we grow into maturity in Christ; it’s a journey through this world in the light and love of the one who gave his life for it.
We must be born again. It is God’s gracious gift to find new life in Christ. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Under The Fig Tree... Jesus Meets Us Where We Are And Calls Us To Follow Him (John 1:39-51... Sitting Under The Fig Tree: Encounters With Jesus In John's Gospel And Today (Part 1)

Today I want a start a series of messages looking at the stories of people’s encounters with Jesus in John’s gospel. It’s my prayer and hope that as we look at those encounters that we meet Jesus in a new way today. I’ve called the series “sitting under the fig tree” based on the passage we had read out to us where Jesus says he saw Nathaniel sitting under a fig tree.
Sitting under the fig tree may raise some very exotic and romantic images for us, and it’s interesting that when I searched for photos online there were many images of people sitting cross legged under a fig tree meditating, it gave the idea of transcending everyday life. But in many places round the world, and in the ancient near east, houses were not the many roomed residences they are here and now, and if you wanted to sit down and relax, read, think, pray, or just be then you would go and sit under the fig tree outside your house. One commentator says it was like the banyan trees in India, or photos you may see from Africa where people congregate in the shade of the trees close to their village. It’s the reality that in the gospel Jesus encountered ordinary people in their ordinary lives, Jesus does the same today. So the image on the poster is a park bench which could be anywhere.
Most days when I’m at the church I stop and have lunch if not under the wonderful tree out in the area at the back here, but sitting looking at it. I’ve had conversations with people from the church and who use the church who love the shade the tree provides, and the sense of peace as you are under it. It’s not a fig tree but I couldn’t help thinking that we here at this church sit under the tree and so I hope that as we come together here and allow the spirit of God to speak to us through the scriptures, through each other that this is a place where people will encounter Jesus and know his presence and love in their lives and that we may all be transformed to be like Christ. Our vision is that “we are Called to be an Authentic, vibrant, sustainable community, growing as followers of Jesus and inspiring others to join us on that journey.”
It’s appropriate that we start looking at people’s encounters with Jesus by looking at John’s narrative of Jesus calling his first disciples. I don’t know about you, but as I read the passage we had to day I was struck by the fact that there were some things missing. We are used to this story from the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and so where are the boats, the fishing nets, the “come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”, and as Rob Bell says, challenging the way Jesus is often portrayed, “the blue eyed blond Swedish Jesus walking down the beach in his sandals, his white robe and blue beauty queen sash.” John’s gospel is so different; in fact it’s so different that biblical scholars wrestle with which is the right version.. But it’s not really a matter of either or. Here is the way I see it.
In movies and television and even computer gaming there is an expression, which says ‘everybody has to have a back story’, we are often presented with events, action and conflict that presupposes what has gone before even though we don’t see it on the screen. One of the things that has always struck me about the calling of Jesus disciples in the synoptic gospels is that they are… “boom”… one off events where people are willing on the spur of the moment to give up everything to follow Jesus. But John fills in some of that back story, that there was a developing relationship that leads to the disciples willingness to leave everything and follow Jesus. The passage in John seems to happen over the period of a week, there are other factors which contribute to people’s willingness to follow Jesus. Leonard Sweet uses the word ‘Nudge’ to talk about how the spirit draws us to Christ. Giving someone a nudge or a poke  comes from social media it’s the way you can get someone’s attention to continue a conversation or relationship online, and often our encountering Jesus and coming to follow him or to grow closer to him is a process a series of nudges. We can get fixated on the big flashy one off response to an altar call sort of mentality and forget that God is at work in all our lives by his spirit nudging and drawing us closer and closer to Jesus.
In this call narrative I couldn’t help but notice four things.
The first is that each of these people encounter Jesus through other people. People who point them to Jesus.
John the Baptist is a great example of that, the passage we had read has John pointing to Jesus and saying ‘behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ words we are going to hear again during communion. John tells them about what happened when he baptised Jesus. John is a great example of what it means to be a witness and a saint. John was developing rock star status in his time, and Paul Metzger, contrasts John with celebrities today, they attract people to themselves but as a saint and a witness, john points people to Jesus. So much so that two of his disciples decide to go and follow Jesus. You’ll note two of John’s disciples go to follow Jesus but only one is named and there a strong possibility that the other disciple is John, the writer of the gospel, who refers to himself in his book as the disciple that Jesus loved, he too steps out of the story and points people to Jesus. He says he writes the gospel so that we may believe and have life.
Andrew is someone throughout to gospel narratives who bringing people to meet Jesus. He was one of the two disciples of John and after he’d spent the night seeing what Jesus was like, he goes to tell his brother Simon, “We’ve found the Messiah”. There is a lot of Jewish history and knowledge that goes into that statement, as a disciple Andrew would probably have been an expert scholar stepped in the Jewish scriptures. But there is an excitement of who Jesus is that is infectious.
We don’t know the back story of Philip, but again Philip also goes and tells Nathanael. John, Andrew and Philip all use different words and ways of talking about Jesus the lamb of God, messiah, the one who was written about, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, which tell us a lot about who Jesus is but also shows that each person expresses what they know of Jesus in their own words, it’s equally who they are as well as who Jesus is. The end result is that they bring these people to Jesus.
This is a call to us as well, how do people encounter Jesus in our time and space today, like in Jesus time most are introduced to Jesus by a friend or family member who tells them about who Jesus is. Yes some come through the ministry of ministers and evangelists but the majority come through people who know Jesus and share that.
The second thing I noted in this passage is that the group of people who get called are ordinary people, they are a cross section of their Jewish society of the day. Andrew and John were already seeking to follow God they were disciples of John, we know from the other gospels that they were also simply fishermen. Simon seems to be a person ready to believe his brother, whereas Nathaniel who we are not that familiar with and seems to play a bit part in the Jesus narrative is very familiar to people into days society. He is cynical he embodies the prejudices of his day…’can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ to put it into our kiwi context, this week I heard about the Satirical Political Party, who announced their first non-negotiable  policy, if they get into parliament is that… for the good of New Zealand they would make Hamilton an independent state. People try and make a lot out of Nathaniel sitting under the fig tree, that he was studing scripture or praying and maybe that is the case we don’t know, like all Jews in his day there was the expectation and hope that the messiah would come but there is nothing extra ordinary about him … Scott Hoezee sums us Jesus choice of disciples like this…
“if you are going to save the world , you’ve got to start somewhere. And if in the end you’re going to save the world through humility, gentleness, compassion, and sacrifice, it makes sense to begin with  a bunch of fellows who couldn’t get much more humble if they tried! The messenger fits the message. In fact, over the course of his ministry if Jesus had any significant struggles with his disciples it was the struggle to keep them humble and ordinary-looking.”
It is the same today Jesus meets with Ordinary people and invites them to an extra ordinary life following him.
A third thing that strikes me as I look at this passage, is that Jesus sees and knows these people, before they meet him, and he seems to know them more than they know themselves. AS John tells us in his prologue this is the eternal God the creator come dwell amongst us.  He calls Simon, Peter, In Simon he sees something that Simon does not see himself. That unlike the reed blowing in the wind that Simon means, that here is a man who can be trusted to be a rock, a leader. Throughout the gospel we see Peter as volatile usually with his foot in his mouth, scared and unsure, but in the end Jesus vision of Simon Peter wins out.  Likewise Jesus sees Nathaniel under the fig tree and sees he is a true Israelite. It may be that Jesus sees the desire in his heart that Nathaniel has for his people and to serve God, which is great God knows our heart. But I also wonder if Here Jesus isn’t maybe tempering that by letting Nathaniel know that he sees his pride in his religious and national identity, he sees his image of himself and in contrast to Simon tears that false thing down. Either way the fact that Jesus knows him so well draws Nathaniel to believe. Jesus knows us with our possibilities and our failings, all our strength and weaknesses and invites us to encounter him and know him, and become the people that as our creator we can become in knowing and following him. It’s reassuring that while we may wrestle with having faith in Jesus and believing in him, that Jesus knows us and believes in us. Knowing us you’ll note that Jesus speaks so differently to them. Jesus first words recorded in this gospel is a question “what do you want?” and then as Andrew and John respond he invites them “to come and see”. To Philip it is “come follow me” to Peter is words of the hope of a new life and possibilities, and to Nathaniel it is to respond to his cynicism. It’s not a production line but a personal encounter.
And lastly all these people respond to Jesus with faith. There is a time when the come and see becomes the follow me. Nathaniel responds by acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God and the King of Israel.  And then Jesus responds to Nathaniel’s affirmation by using a picture from the Old Testament, of Jacob seeing the stair way to heaven and angels coming and going to care for him, and Jesus tells Nathaniel that he will see in Jesus that connection between heaven and earth, made even more real, that in Jesus is the dwelling place of God’s grace and truth. May we encounter and know that reality more and more in our lives and bring others to know it in Jesus as well.