We are officially half way through the alphabet this week for ABC Wednesday with the letter N. I hope you are having fun reading the entries. This week we take a peek into an obscure man named Nathaneal…or Nathaniel…maybe better known as Bartholomew. He’s introduced as Nathaneal in John’s Gospel, but in the other three Gospels, he is associated with Philip and called Bartholomew. So biblical scholar people think this man is all the same person.
Nathaneal is lounging under a fig tree, daydreaming and watching the cloud formations when Philip runs up to him and practically jerks his arm off to get up and come with him. Philip wants to introduce Nathaneal to a man named Jesus, who just recruited him to be part of his Discipleship Club. We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. In other words, he’s found the Messiah foretold in Jewish writings.
Nazareth is nothing but a blip on the radar map of Galilee at this time. A backwater little town located about 90 miles north of Jerusalem. The town isn’t famous for anything. To which Nathaneal haughtily replies, Can anything good come from Nazareth?
As Philip is pulling Nathaneal along the road, they practically trip over Jesus who looks at Nathaneal and says, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! To Nathaneal’s recollection, he’s never met this man before in his life, and wonders why he’s speaking so freely about his integrity. Nathaneal is thinking this man is an excellent judge of character, and perhaps he jumped to conclusions with his previous comment. But stereotypes tend to run deep, and Nathaneal wasn’t one to mince words.
Must have some kind of conversation. Could it have been the part where Jesus says he saw him before Philip drug him here today? Whoa….How? Where? When? I have a stalker?! Then there’s that comment about his integrity and not having any guile. Guile is another word for deceitfulness. Being a good Jew, Nathaneal would immediately recognize the reference to Jacob (who was later renamed Israel) and his deceitful plan involving Esau and a birthright.
Despite Nathaneal’s outspokenness (and lack of filters), Jesus sees potential in this straight-shooter of a man, and adds, You shall see greater things than that. I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Nathaneal is thinking this might be another reference to Jacob and his dream about a ladder to heaven. But by this time he’s forever hooked and is initiated into the Discipleship Club on the spot.
It was some time after that messy crucifixion of their friend that Nathaneal and some of the disciples decided to go fishing to clear their heads. Setting out in a boat, they fish all night. As dawn breaks, they see a man on the shore tending a small fire. The man calls out whether they’ve caught anything, to which they reply no and, oh by the way, they’re pretty darn tired and hungry. The man suggests they throw the nets on the other side of the boat.
Oh yeah, that should make a difference, they mutter under their breath. Thinking this man is crazy, they cast their nets on the other side, and soon it’s all they can do to haul the fish in without ripping the net. As they approach the shore, they realize the man is their friend, Jesus. Yes, the same one that was crucified; the same one that was buried in a tomb; the same one whose body disappeared from that very tomb while it was sealed. He’s not an apparition, vision or spirit, but a living, breathing person.
As the sun rose on the intimate warmth of that small campfire, Nathaneal thought breakfast never tasted so good.
Evidently something good came from Nazareth after all.
Do you believe God knows you by name; knows your character?
Would you recognized God’s voice if he called to you?
Is your mind closed to God’s voice because of stereotypes and skepticism?