Tuesday 3 July 2012

Enter the Logos (Pt 2)

At first glance to say "follow me" is much the same as saying "come and see". The Theologian, however, is laying another aspect of his Divine Master before us. Here it is the case that Jesus deliberately seeks out Philip and issues a specific invitation to him. What the Theologian tells us about geography is significant. Jesus is a Galilean from Nazareth, Philip is a Galilean from Bethsaida, at this point they are situated in Bethabara beyond the Jordan and Jesus has taken the decision to return to Galilee. In the Gospels Galilee often stands as a figure for the normal everyday working life of ordinary folk by contrast with the high tensions and festivals of Jerusalem. Philip and his companions have taken a time out from their ordinary lives to seek out the truth and meaning towards which John the Baptist points. Now our Lord seeks him out and invites him to return to the normal and the ordinary but to experience it in a different way. Philip will return to Galilee changed by baptism and will lead a life who's guiding principle has now become the following of Jesus. A Jesus who is present amidst the fishermen and tax gatherers, the sowers and the reapers. It is an invitation that tells us that Jesus is the incarnated one. He is in our midst as one like us and also as God Himself. He is our bridge, He is our vital link between the inward and the outward, time and eternity. He is the strong become weak that the weak might become strong. He is Emmanuel, God with us.

And who is the "us" that Emmanuel is most with? Nathaniel is our model here. "..an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him." To travel in friendship with Jesus to and through Galilee there must be no barriers within ourselves to truth. A true Israelite is not one who pretends. Nathaniel says what he thinks, that is honesty. It is not stubbornness though, what he thinks will change as the facts change. The kind of charge that Jesus will later bring against the Pharisees is not that they are blunt but that they stand by their bluntness in pride rather than examine the possibility that they might have made a judgement based on inadequate information. Nathaniel is honest enough to adhere to things as they are, or as they become, rather than simply sticking to his previously expressed opinion as being once right always right. The prestige of the Pharisees amongst first century Jews rested precisely upon their reputation for honesty and truthfulness. Jesus in his description of Nathaniel and not Pharisaism as true Israel is making the point that inflexibility and an obstinate refusal to see is not truth it is falsehood elevated to a system. 

 “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree and I saw you. The Theologian allows us to see two things here. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, Jesus possesses great powers which suggest His divinity. Secondly, that He chooses to act through human agency. He could have called Nathaniel Himself but He did not. Philip performed that noble task. This I think links us back to the words of our Lord to St Peter. Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, has a mission as a human among humans using human means. He could, as it were, short circuit everything and achieve all His ends by direct Spirit to spirit contact but the Father does not will it so. It is His intention to save us and unite us to Him not as disembodied entities but as fully human persons with bodies as well as spirits, with weaknesses as well as strengths. And in service of that project He Himself takes on our frailty and uses that frailty itself; directly Himself and indirectly through His Apostles, disciples and friends to bring about the fulfilment of His plan. It would no doubt be more satisfactory to human imaginations if He used only perfect means to achieve perfect ends but He does not. He uses very imperfect means sometimes. Which is to say He uses you and me. If we are willing to do as Philip did.

....you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.  And so we come to the end of the Seven First Words. And the end is a promise. The promise of a new beginning. If, like Nathaniel, we follow Jesus into the Galilee of the everyday our journey will bring change. He does not promise and ever repeated sameness but an ever deeper and truer vision of Himself. However long we gaze upon Him He will never cease to be the carpenter from Nazareth. But we ourselves will change and will see that the fullness of divinity and the fullness of humanity are, in Him, not two things but one. And by His gracious gift when He looks upon us He can see that what He is by nature we have become by adoption on the day that we have, in our hearts, understood the question What are you looking for?”

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