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God Giggles & Shows Off- John 1:34-51

The final section of John has a few additional neat treasures.

With the focus the other gospels have on the 12 disciples it seems strange that John does not ever list the 12. This section includes what we would normally call the "calling of the 12", but the 12 are not here.  The author does mention the 12 a couple of times, but only lists 9.  Even, of the "called", only Phillip is really "called".  The others are invited over to Jesus' crib, or just engaged in conversation with Jesus.  The unlisted 3-4 Disciples may be a hint to the author of this gospel.

Two of the disciples in this section were originally followers of John the Baptist.  One is named Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, the other is never identified.  This could be a hint to the author, because the author is never forward with his name in the gospel.

Also of note is that John lists a disciple not listed elsewhere.  Nathaniel, the focus of this section, is not listed in the other gospels.  Most people believe that this is the apostle called Bartholomew in the other gospels.  It could be that Nathaniel is simply not one of the 12, the text is not clear about this.  The scriptures do indicate that there were followers that were not the 12.

A little historical/cultural tidbit that I ran into that was pretty neat was about the interaction between Phillip and John the Baptist's other follower.  They asked Jesus where he was staying, and Jesus responded by inviting them over.  This seems like a little bit of a strange interaction, but some cultural anthropologists suggest that this was a polite way of asking to become a follower.  Jesus' response was an acceptance of their proposal.  Compare this to the three proposals that Jesus denied at the end of Luke 9.

As for the meat of this section:

Phillip really thought that Nathaniel would dig this Jesus dude.  He invited him to come and check him out.  Nathaniel made a derogatory remark about how backwater country Jesus' home town was, but Phillip insisted.  When Nathaniel saw Jesus, Jesus made some grand remarks about Nathaniel was a true patriot and man of integrity.  Nathaniel was put off and said "you don't know me!".  Jesus told him that he had seen Nathaniel under the fig tree.  For some unknown reason Nathaniel was blown away by this comment.  He proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah, the King of Israel.  Jesus tells him "You ain't seen nothing yet!".

What the heck just happened here?  Why was Nathaniel so impressed?  Is this back and forth sarcasm?  Is it a real serious dialogue?  I have two ideas, but no answers.

Idea 1:

Ever have that moment when you are praying and then something happens and you know it must be from God?  My wife and I both spent some time trying to think of these moments.  We know we have both had them, but for some reason we couldn't think of a single example.  I wondered if this was just us, so I brought it up to a small group that I lead.  They all had the same experience.  They know they have had those moments, life changing ones, but couldn't remember a single example.

Were these moment really all that, or did we just find meaning where there was little?  Is this what happened to Nathaniel?  Jesus kind of giggles at him and tells him to buckle up because he is in for the ride of his life.  He promises that Nathaniel will see a whole lot more before everything is said and done.  I think this is true of us too.  Sometimes we find moments that we treasure.  God does not argue those moments, He lets us have them, but he also promises to deliver a whole lot more.  Let me make a promise to you...if you go after the kingdom...I mean really go after the kingdom, then you too will see much much more then that time you thought God spoke through that sign on the side of the road.

Idea 2:

This one is a little more tame, but deep.  I read somewhere that a "fig tree" was a representation of the religious authority of that time.  John mentions a fig tree in one other place that seems to fit this style of thinking.  Later in the gospel Jesus finds a fig tree in the wilderness that bears no fruit.  He curses it and it whithers and dies.  To say that someone was under the fig tree means that they were trained as a scribe or a Pharisee.   The apostle Paul would have been "under the fig tree".  Jesus' disciples were all sorts of rugrats.  Fisherman, tax collectors, zealots (a fringe political group, perceived as terrorists) just in general poor common folk on the fringes of society.  For Nathaniel to be in with this crowd beforehand.  For him to be a man that Phillip would come to...he was someone who disagreed with the religious authorities.  Is it possible that he had a falling out with them?  I wonder if the others even knew he used to be one, or if he had hidden that part of his life for his own safety.  Jesus saying that may have indicated that he knew about his past life, something nobody else should have known.    To call him a true Israelite without a bit of deceit, may have indicated that he knew about how and why he fell out of favor with the religious authorities.

Just a theory I thought was interesting.  What do you think?


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