Scripture: John 1:43-51
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man
The Gospel of John typically has what’s called a high Christology. Basically, that means John wants to emphasize Christ’s divinity more than his humanity. However, I think in this passage we get to see Jesus using his divinity for a very human reason: humor. Think of a time when you just absolutely put your foot in your mouth – I’m talking toe to heel stuck right in there. For example, shortly after getting married, my wife, Chelsea, and I were having spaghetti for dinner. Chelsea cooked said spaghetti. Well, I decided to inform her that I liked my mother’s spaghetti better than hers. Obviously, that conversation didn’t end well for me. And I promise you the spaghetti tasted far better than my foot did. As fun as that wasn’t, I am glad I have that perspective for this story.
When Nathanael asks Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he’s not just insulting Jesus and his hometown. He’s insulting Jesus’ mama, his daddy, and all of his childhood friends. Think about that. Nathanael has just belittled God in the flesh and everyone close to him. Bold move, Nathanael. But the response Jesus gives him in their first meeting is what’s so good. The sarcasm is just dripping from his words. “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” says Jesus. Translation: “Look at this guy, acting like he’s God of the universe!” Taken aback and probably a little offended, Nathanael wants an explanation as to how this Jesus knows him. So, Jesus not so subtly reveals that he, and not Nathanael, possesses the omniscient knowledge of God. In bringing up the fig tree, Jesus is telling Nathanael that he knows about the Nazareth comment. We might call this an “uh-oh come to Jesus” moment for Nathanael. His foot is in his mouth, and he’s singing a different song about what can come out of Nazareth. But Jesus doesn’t let it go there. He basically says, “You know nothing, Nathanael. You’re impressed with my joke, but if you stick with me I’ll show you all the power of heaven.”
This image of Jesus as a sarcastic jokester might seem unusual and even a little uncomfortable to some. I encourage you to embrace it. I find so much happiness in the fact that Jesus picked up his second disciple by having a little fun with him. I love that God has a sense of humor. I can rest so much easier knowing that when I make a simple mistake, God laughs.
Oh loving and humorous God, find delight in your creation, and grant me a spirit of joy that I may laugh at my mistakes and the mistakes of others. Amen.
Thought for the Day:
Find humor everywhere you can.
I now have no doubts as to who makes the best spaghetti in the family – Me.