The Call of Nathanael
In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.
So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior.
Today’s gospel, Jesus calls Philip to be with Him and experience Him. Philip cannot hold it by himself. He tells Nathanael about Jesus in order for him also to experience what he experienced of Jesus. But Nathanael is skeptical and uneager to believe that a Messiah can come from Nazareth. He says: “Can anything good come from that place?” He is referring to Nazareth, our Lord’s hometown. Nazareth was a neighboring village, and a rather insignificant place. Was it said that we don’t judge the book by its cover? Well, our prejudices and biases often prevent us from seeing the beauty, the greatness and the potentials of the person before us, as somebody had said. And the story above shows such kind of prejudice. Another is judging others by their social background. Nathanael fell into such a trap when he said such words.
Perhaps we are like Nathanael. We reject others or distant ourselves from them because they come from some places or positions we don’t like or find fault with. But Philip is different. Instead of arguing with Nathanael, he takes the wiser strategy of inviting Nathaniel to “come and see” for himself who this Jesus claimed to be. Actually, arguing with people rarely wins them to the gospel but an encounter with Jesus, by bringing them to Him, can transform their lives forever. Nathaniel finds in Jesus more than what he dreams and hopes for because Jesus speaks to him a word about the innermost thoughts and desire of his heart that blazes it with wonder! And that is, Nathaniel is hungry for knowledge of God. He really wants to know God personally. God places in our hearts a longing and a desire to know the One who created us in love for love. That is why Augustine of Hippo, who found God only after many years of wandering in disbelief and darkness, exclaimed: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Nathanael is like this.
Jesus reminds us also that whatever our backgrounds are, we are welcome to follow Him. It is a consolation to know that the Lord when He calls us, He does not demand so much of our qualifications like: certificates, diplomas, status in life, educational attainment and others but our willingness to follow him. Yes, God calls not so much the worthy but the willing.