John 1:43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. 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 about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." 46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" 48 Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." 49 Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" 50 Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these." 51 And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
Piscine Patel, the Indian boy in Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi, tells his imaginative story of the sinking of the Japanese cargo ship, and his subsequent survival at sea with a tiger. The two officials from the Japanese Ministry of Transport are sceptical of his tale, and so he tells them another story – one that is far less happy. He then asks them which story they prefer, and they admit to choosing the first story. Pi thanks them and says “and so it goes with God”. I use this as a way of pointing to John’s description of Jesus calling disciples.
John tells an entirely different story to the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). These Gospels describe Jesus calling the following disciples - in order - as Peter, Andrew, James and John. But John’s Gospel tells of Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael. And quite frankly (like the Japanese officials in Pi) I will exercise a choice of one particular version. I like the Gospel of John because it recognises space for doubt, and scepticism, in being a Jesus-follower. Jesus welcomes Nathanael, not because of his faith, but in spite of his doubts. All too often we who follow Jesus, deny our doubts – as if this will make them go away. Be comforted in the knowledge that God welcomes us, questions and all: “and so it goes with God”.
Second Sunday after Epiphany
8. “Come follow me”
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 59.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.