First preached at Croydon Minster on Sunday 17 January, 2021. Gospel reading John 1.43-end
‘You will see greater things than these’ (John 1.50b)
St John’s gospel is wonderful! It’s full of connections, links and allusions. It begins with everything distilled into 18 pregnant verses, known as the Prologue, that are fleshed out through the next 21 chapters.
Take today’s gospel reading. Philip and Nathanael are invited by Jesus to see so much more than they could believe possible about themselves, God and the ways of heaven.
A couple of verses of the Prologue seem to encapsulate Nathanael’s encounter with Jesus:
‘The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.’ (John 1.17-18)
As Jesus said, Nathanael was an exemplary Israelite, and knew the law given through Moses (cf John 1.47). He had never seen God – no one ever had - but what Philip, Nathanael and we will see – and now have seen - is grace and truth in the face of Jesus Christ.
When they meet, Nathanael discovers that Jesus had already seen and known him. Seeing Nathanael goes beyond spotting him by a fig tree; this is deep knowing.
Nathanael is amazed, ‘How did you come to know me?’ The answer was given in our psalm this morning:
‘O LORD, thou hast searched me out and known me : thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising, thou understandest my thoughts long before’ (Psalm 139.1).
Jesus beholds him and knows him; he beholds you and knows you, because in beholding you, he loves you.
And beholding, knowing and loving you he invites you to ‘come and see; taste and see’.
‘It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.’
Come and behold; come, feast your eyes, and you will see even greater things than these - says Christ, the Bread of Life - and in knowing me, and feasting at my table, I will open to you the very heavens, the very depths of the mystery of God full of grace and truth.