Gospel Reading March 1st
Sunday of Orthodoxy
(John 1:43-51, Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael)
In this passage we meet Nathanael, the man Christ praises for having no conceit or guile.
The Old Testament had foretold that the Messiah would be of Bethlehem (Micah 5:1). According to St John Chrysostom, Nathanael had knowledge of the prophecies, and therefore doubted Philip when he told him the Messiah was from Nazareth: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (v. 45). However, at the same time, he was so eagerly awaiting the coming of the Christ that he was willing to believe that Philip was mistaken about the city. Nathanael exhibits no pride in knowing more about the prophecies than Philip. His only thought was that perhaps Philip had mixed up the city, meaning to say “Bethlehem” instead. Nathanael’s reaction was not to ridicule Philip. In contrast, his question was a positive one: “can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (v. 46). Nathanael teaches us with this considered question that man should not be deceitful or needlessly negative: Christians should be disposed to looking for positive meanings in every aspect of life.
Christ praises Nathanael for his lack of guile (i.e. not being cunning or deceptive), but Nathanael is not quick to follow blindly on account of the praise. He pays attention to the more important task of finding out who precisely this Man is; how He could possibly know anything about Nathanael. Nathanael is filled with eagerness but is more concerned to determine the truth about the Man before him and exposes some caution: “How do You know me?” (v. 48). The answer of Christ took him completely by surprise: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (v. 48).
Nathanael follows with a remarkable confession of faith: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (v. 49). However, unlike Peter’s similar confession (Mat 16:16), Nathanael’s is somewhat inferior, because he declares that He is the King of Israel, limiting Christ to an earthly kingdom. So Christ lifts Nathanael further up, telling him that he will see the “heavens open, and the Angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (v. 51), persuading him to receive Him also as Lord of the angels.
Source: February- March 2015 Lychnos Edition