For Philip, the wait was over. There was something about Jesus, that when he said “Follow me!”, Philip did. He sees in Jesus the possibility that his hopes will be fulfilled. We don’t know what his hopes were, but like anyone living under an oppressive regime, it is likely to have involved the over throw of the Roman oppressors. He was excited. So he went and sought out his brother Nathaniel. (Read John 1:43-51 here).
It’s advent again – waiting. But I find myself asking what do I ever wait for? Philip and Nathaniel were waiting for change – significant change. When faced with the violent excesses of an oppressive foreign army, it’s easy to see that everything is not right with the world. Hoping, waiting, longing for things to change. But there are no Roman soldiers rampaging through rural Oxfordshire. Life seems good. The closest I come to waiting is an internet order for something I want not coming for a couple of days. There’s no longing, no yearning. I’m not waiting.
I’m not Waiting
However, I know in my town there are people waiting, wanting, yearning, longing. Waiting for meaningful employment. Wanting real companionship. Yearning for health, either their own or a loved one. Longing to escape the prison walls of debt. In the world I’m the minority. I’ve never had to wait for a meal. I’ve never had to long for a bed or a home. I’ve never had to hope for freedom. I’ve never had to yearn for justice. I’ve never had to really wait.
Philip found Nathaniel to tell him the wait was over. “He is here – the one we’ve been waiting for. The one spoken of by Moses and the prophets. He’s here – Jesus of Nazareth!”
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel had good reason to question Nazareth. Nazareth was a Roman garrison town. It had been compromised. Nathaniel was waiting for his Messiah to overthrow the Romans but the citizens of Nazareth were trading and doing business with those same soldiers. How could anything good come from Nazareth? Jesus didn’t fit with Nathaniel’s preconceived ideas.
Can anything good come from …
People today are still prejudging Jesus, often as a result of what they think Christians believe. They’ve heard “Science has disproved faith”. Can anything good come from faith? They’ve heard “the church is anti-gay”. Can anything good come from the church? They’ve heard “religion causes wars”. Can anything good come out of religion? They’ve heard “Christianity is just rules – Christians are hypocrites – Christians are Trump supporters – Christians are always pro-Israel ignoring the suffering of the Palestinian people.” If that is what Jesus is like, then they say “no thank you”. Can anything good come from that? (In time I will blog on each of these. For now though, here is an excellent blog by an Oxford physics professor about Science and Faith).
Even we as Christians prejudge Jesus. We have our little cosy world-view within which we want Jesus to act, and are then surprised when he doesn’t. We may say we’re waiting – but any change has to be within tight constraints that won’t upset the apple cart too much!
Jesus in a box
Philip’s invitation to Nathaniel was simple, “Come and see!”. That invitation still rings out this Advent. Can we put our prejudging aside and genuinely come and see Jesus.
Nathaniel came to Jesus. Jesus did not have to say or do much to convince Nathaniel. His cynicism was turned around. He was soon declaring Jesus the Son of God and King of Israel. Jesus’ reply is then in the plural, not just speaking to Nathaniel. “You will see heaven open, and the angels of God, ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Jesus was probably referring to two motifs from the Old Testament. The first is Jacob’s dream, when Jacob learned that God would act in ways that he had not expected. The second is the Son of Man – this apocalyptic title from Daniel chapter 7, where God gives the Son of Man sovereign power and authority.
I don’t wait because I don’t expect
In other words, Jesus was telling Nathaniel and those around him to put away their little preconceived ideas of him, because they were going to see God act in spectacular ways. See God act in ways they had never expected.
That’s what it means to wait. That’s what I need to be waiting for this Advent. I’m not waiting because I’m not expecting. Jesus is in a box. This advent I need to respond to Philip’s invitation and “come and see”. As Jesus said to Nathaniel, I need to expect angels – even here in little Oxfordshire. I need to learn to wait!