[Oct 06]--A Dream Come True

John 1:43-51

Chapter one of John’s Gospel ends in a fairly puzzling passage. Philip (also called Bartholomew), unlike Andrew and Peter, was actually approached by Jesus. In a pattern copying yesterday’s reading, he went and found a friend to introduce to his new-found Savior. Philip went on to be called as an apostle, and he gets some mention in Acts, but I’d like to focus on Nathanael for today.

He started off with some skepticism, even some bigotry. Nazareth was well-known as a place of low morals, contaminated with quite a few Gentiles and idol-worship, so it’s not surprising he reacted the way he did. I love the way Philip responded: not by arguing, but simply by inviting him to “come and see.” And apparently this worked.

Instead of introducing himself or performing some ostentatious miracle, Jesus started with a compliment, an unusual one. Can you imagine starting off a conversation this way? Why'd he do it?

A key term here is “Israelite,” which actually is pretty ironic when you pair it with “man without deceit.” Do you remember where they got the name Israel? It was bestowed on Jacob, whose picture appears in the dictionary next to “con man.” Even the name "Jacob" hints at this: It means “he grasps the heel” or figuratively as “deceiver.”

Here a little background would be very helpful. For the rest of this devotional I need to give a lot of credit to Michael Card’s book The Parable of Joy: Reflections on the Wisdom of the Book of John. Philip found his friend under a fig tree, which was a traditional place to pray, especially for Rabbinic students. So if he had been praying, what would he have been praying about? Jews were taught at an early age that “He who, when he prays, does not pray for the coming of the Messiah, has not prayed at all.”

So if all this is true, if Philip interrupted his friend while he was praying for the Messiah, then this would explain a lot. Now we can figure out why Nathanael turned from skeptic to a believer in a heartbeat. Jesus told him “While you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” There was only one who could've been hearing that prayer for the Messiah: the Messiah himself! Of course, some of this is supposition, but it's entirely consistent with such a quick and radical change of heart.

But then Jesus returned to the theme of Jacob/Israel. When Jacob first encountered God, he was on the run from a vengeful brother who'd sworn to kill him for stealing the brother's inheritance. Jacob laid his head on a stone, fell asleep, and dreamed an experience which would change his life forever. He saw angels ascending and descending on a ladder which bridged earth and heaven. Now Jesus claimed that he himself was that ladder, that bridge between our world and the Heavenly throne.

So there you have it: Jesus was both the answer to all the prayers for the Messiah, and he’s Jacob’s dream come true. All that we could've ever prayed for, all that we could have hoped for, all that we could've dreamed of, he’s more than that.

Lord Jesus, you are so big, and my vision of you is so small sometimes. Please open my eyes to who you really are, and may I settle for nothing less.

No comments:

Post a Comment