First Sunday of Lent
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43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, "Follow me."
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!"
48 Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."
49 Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
50 Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these."
51 And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."
44 Τῇ ἐπαύριον ἠθέλησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐξελθεῖν εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν· καὶ εὑρίσκει Φίλιππον καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· ἀκολούθει μοι.
45 ἦν δὲ ὁ Φίλιππος ἀπὸ Βηθσαϊδά, ἐκ τῆς πόλεως Ἀνδρέου καὶ Πέτρου.
46 εὑρίσκει Φίλιππος τὸν Ναθαναὴλ καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· ὃν ἔγραψε Μωϋσῆς ἐν τῷ νόμῳ καὶ οἱ προφῆται, εὑρήκαμεν, Ἰησοῦν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Ἰωσὴφ τὸν ἀπὸ Ναζαρέτ.
47 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ναθαναήλ· ἐκ Ναζαρὲτ δύναταί τι ἀγαθὸν εἶναι; λέγει αὐτῷ Φίλιππος· ἔρχου καὶ ἴδε.
48 εἶδεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὸν Ναθαναὴλ ἐρχόμενον πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ λέγει περὶ αὐτοῦ· ἴδε ἀληθῶς Ἰσραηλίτης ἐν ᾧ δόλος οὐκ ἔστι.
49 λέγει αὐτῷ Ναθαναήλ· πόθεν με γινώσκεις; ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· πρὸ τοῦ σε Φίλιππον φωνῆσαι, ὄντα ὑπὸ τὴν συκῆν εἶδόν σε.
50 ἀπεκρίθη Ναθαναὴλ καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· ραββί, σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, σὺ εἶ ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ.
51 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ὅτι εἶπόν σοι, εἶδόν σε ὑποκάτω τῆς συκῆς, πιστεύεις; μείζω τούτων ὄψει.
52 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπ᾿ ἄρτι ὄψεσθε τὸν οὐρανὸν ἀνεῳγότα, καὶ τοὺς ἀγγέλους τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀναβαίνοντας καὶ καταβαίνοντας ἐπὶ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.
Larger Thought Unit
Everyone is familiar with the famous ‘prologue’ of John’s Gospel (vv. 1-18). What follows next is the section of 1:19-2:12 with the focus on the creation of the new community of God, which will consist of Jew and Gentile. Today’s reading ends with the promise of seeing ‘greater things.’ The thought unit ends with the image of beholding the glory of Christ at the eschatological ‘wedding feast’ with the (newly-formed) disciples believing in him. In addition, witness (John the Baptist, the Father, the Scripture, the “sign”) is brought into the picture and every imaginable title (the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, the Lamb of God, the Rabbi, the Messiah, the “prophet” whom Moses wrote about, the King of Israel, the Son of God, and the Son of Man) is being given to Christ. This is impressive in such a small section.
We find here a reflection of Paul’s apostolic activity: the Gentiles preceded the Jews in accepting the gospel message. It is Andrew (with the Greek name) who introduces Simon (with the Hebrew name) to Jesus as the Christ/messiah (vv. 40-41). Here also, Philip (with the Greek name) invites Nathanael (with the Hebrew name) to meet Jesus as the one who was promised in the Law and the Prophets. The reference to the Pauline gospel can be further detected in the following features:
- Philip is said to be from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Bethsaida in Hebrew/Aramaic means ‘house of fishing/hunting.’ In all four gospels the disciples are presented as fishermen who are called and sent out to ‘fish’ men.
- The Jesus of the gospels originates in Nazareth of (the) Galilee (of the nations/Gentiles) which seems to be unacceptable to the (Jew) Nathanael.
- Just as (the Jew) Simon becomes ‘Peter/Cephas,’ the Rock, upon accepting the gospel offered him by (the Greek/Gentile) Andrew (v. 42), so also here (the Jew) Nathanael is invited to become a true Israelite by proclaiming that the Jesus offered him by (the Greek/Gentile) Philip is the true messiah.
The Pauline gospel is nothing other than the message of the Law and the Prophets (Rom 1:1-2). It is inviting us to understand that the true abode of the scriptural God is not the earthly Jerusalem, but wherever one hears God’s word of promise, even in the wilderness, away from Jerusalem. The imagery of angels ascending and descending harkens back to what we read in the Law/Pentateuch about Bethel (the house of God) being where God appears to Jacob, the father of Israel, with no reference to any building (Gen 28:10-19). The reference to the Son of man comes from the Prophets, where in the book of Ezekiel, the prophet Ezekiel himself, systematically addressed as ‘son of man,’ is called by God in Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple to be the ‘residence’ of God’s word (Ezek 3:1-4).
Charles H. Talbert, Reading John, Crossroads Publishing Company, New York, New York, 1992.
Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.3: Johannine Writings, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2004; pp.147-8.