These days I think it is really difficult to not have preconceived opinions about others. This past summer BLM put before us the challenge of how we look at each other and the prejudice we carry toward those of a different race. We have had to look at how justice or injustice is being served on the same criteria. Mention someone of a different political persuasion and automatically the label “liberal” or “radical,” is attached. In the Gospel of John, Jesus had invited Philip to follow him. Philip went to tell Nathaniel that he had found the one they had all been looking for, “Jesus of Nazareth.” How did Nathaniel respond, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Obviously, Nathaniel had some preconceived ideas about the value of people out of Nazareth. The same affliction plagued the people of that day and today as well.
Jesus said that Nathaniel was a person without “deceit,” and that he had seen Nathaniel under a fig tree before Jesus called out to him. Apparently, this was enough for Nathaniel to declare,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”John 1:49
How did Nathaniel jump from doubting Jesus, a person from Nazareth, to calling him “King of Israel?” Nathaniel’s reasoning isn’t described fully. However as a person without deceit, Nathaniel was a person who likely called reality as presented to him: a fact was a fact, truth was truth, etc. His encounter with Jesus caused his vision of reality to change in a dramatic way.
The reading from John concludes with Jesus saying,
Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 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.John 1:50-51
Jesus was telling that upon him heaven and earth have come together. He cited Jacob from the book of Genesis. Jacob was on the run from his past. Tired and exhausted, he laid down with a rock for a pillow and he saw the vision Jesus referenced. Jacob said,
“Surely the Lord was in this place but I did not know it”Genesis 28:16
This is the indictment against us all. The Lord has come to us but we didn’t see the reality of it. Why? We have our preconceived ideas and prejudices that distort our reality. We are too busy with our politics. We are too set in our ways of understanding of how the world should work and the Lord’s involvement – toward my advantage. We are so busy with spin that we can no longer look at the facts for what they are. Yet, the Lord was and is in this place.
So how will we be able to recognize where heaven and earth come together? Follow the invitation that was given to Nathaniel, “Come and see.” Look at the things Jesus did: he invited the outcast, he brought healing to the sick, he lifted up those downtrodden and poor, he announced God’s favour to those hardly considered blessed by our standards. When and where grace has triumphed over power, look to see the Lord has come in that place.
The invitation to, “Come and See” is all that any of us can offer to others. All we do is invite others to do is come and see where heaven and earth come together.