Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth” (Jn 1:45). Philip’s statement that “we have found the one” is interesting, because if you read just a few verses earlier in verse 43, Jesus, when he decided to go to Galilee, is the one who found Philip. And we then see, as happened in yesterday’s account with Andrew, Philip goes to share about his encounter with another, and finds Nathanael.
Philip, as did Andrew, shows that he also does not fully comprehend the fullness of who Jesus is. He does believe him to be the promised Messiah that they have been waiting for, but as with all the Apostles, they would not come to a full realization of what this meant beyond their preconceived notion of who the Messiah was until after the Resurrection, Ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Nathanael, himself hesitates because of his prejudicial, knee jerk reaction, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” This is most likely a sarcastic response, a dig, meant to be humorous.
The Apostles and those who encounter Jesus do so from the context and construct of their present life and understanding. It takes time for them as they watch him, live with him, and experience him, and are transformed by him, to come to realize that he is who he claims to be: fully God and fully man. Jesus is not just a mingling of the two, not just fifty percent human and fifty percent God. He is fully God and fully man. Jesus does not expect them to grasp this on their first meeting either. Jesus encounters each person where they are, in the midst of their woundedness, sinfulness, and chaos, but he sees their potential, he calls them to a higher level.
Nathaniel does follow Philip and is stunned that Jesus saw him under the fig tree. Jesus sidesteps Nathanael’s moment of wonder and mentions to him, and so to all who follow him that they “will see greater things than this” (Jn 1:50). Jesus here is, “stressing the need to transcend contemporary messianic expectations. Faith based on miracles will not suffice; something more is needed. This greater faith will enable all the disciples to see the revelation of the heavenly with Jesus, the Son of Man” (Moloney, 57). This deeper spiritual maturity of knowing Jesus as the Son of God and the Son of Man, will come about with more time, as they continue to develop their relationship with Jesus, especially as they experience the fullness of his Paschal Mystery.
As Jesus found Philip, he looks to find each one of us today in 2019 as well. He finds us as we are, in our confusion, sin, and imperfections, and he loves us anyway. As in the parable of the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine sheep to find the one, Jesus seeks for each one of us (cf. Lk 15:1-7). At the same time we are searching, longing for him. As U2 sings, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”, Bruce Springsteen sings, “Everybody’s got a hungry heart”, and St Augustine writes, ” You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and we are restless until we rest in thee”, we long in the very depths of our being to find and be found by our Creator, the one who made us for himself. Nothing material or finite will satisfy, that is why the return lines are so long this time of year! As we reach up for God, we find we do so because he is already reaching down for us. Our seeking for God is already an answer to his invitation to follow him.
When we find and are found by Jesus, may we react in the same way as did Philip and Andrew. May we make Jesus the center of our life, our fundamental option or end goal, and go out and share our experience of him with another, just as one would do with any great news! We do not need to feel apprehensive about not fully comprehending the Mystery of Jesus. As the Apostles did, we just need to trust in him, for Jesus sees our potential. He will guide us as we continue to develop a relationship with him, through our prayer, study, worship, and service, and know that the Holy Spirit will give us the words to speak at the proper time. We just need to witness when moved by the Spirit and share our story of how the God made man is making an impact on our life, mostly through our actions and how we treat one another with dignity and respect. May our hearts and minds also be open to the potential Jesus sees in us and be prepared for “greater things” to come!
Photo: Statue of Sacred Heart of Jesus on the grounds of St Peter Catholic Church in Jupiter, FL
Moloney, S.D.B., Francis J. The Gospel of John in Sacra Pagina. Edited by Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998.