Why believe?

How old we are makes a difference, it seems. Those born before 1945 are Traditionalists and want to know if something is true. Born between 1946 and 1963 and you’re a Baby Boomer and want to know if it works. Generation X or the Millenials were born between 1963 and 1983 and their question is, How does it feel? Finally (for now) the Generation Y that follows with birth years 1984-2000 asks, What’s my choice? 

All that has to be massive shorthand and to some extent the marketing department’s fantasy, but it’s a widespread sort of analysis and certainly reflects the rapidly shifting currents in culture today. 

So when we’re preaching, or discussing our faith, those listening to us may be looking for something very different from what we are offering. A long disquisition on the evident truth of the bible may reassure one group but leave another quite disconnected. Differing character types, learning types and social backgrounds can have a similar effect too of course. What to do?

It’s interesting in today’s reading from John to see Philip telling Nathanael all about the Messianic prophecies bring fulfilled, only to get a very dismissive response of disbelief. So what does Philip do? He says the immortal words, ‘Come and see.’ He realises that our proclamation of Christ can only ever be a preliminary to a meeting with Christ, in whatever mode that is, and that only in that way, in Him,  can our diversity find its common good.

An old self-check question for a preacher before putting a sermon to bed, and not a bad one when looking back in bed on any day, is, ‘Have I drawn my listeners towards Jesus, the one they need to see?’ There is truth. There is the Way that ‘works’ our salvation. There is the one who knows our heart and meets our need. There is the one to choose.

Here’s the text:

John 1.43-endThe 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 towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come 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.’


One thought on “Why believe?

  1. Nathanael is, I think, an interesting conundrum. Initially sceptical he then goes to the other extreme and recognises Jesus for who he is, but then – apparently – disappears from the account until he is named as amongst those at the seaside after Jesus’ resurrection (John 21:2). He does not appear in the Synoptics, the theory that he is Nathanael Bar-Tolmai or Bartholomew is now largely discounted so he is not one of the Twelve, and he is not selected as one of the two to be chosen to replace Judas (Acts 1:23).

    So who is this enigmatic figure, and what was he doing during Jesus’ ministry? His name means ‘God has given’ in Hebrew so what did God give him for? This short passage clearly gives us a lot to think about!

    Thank you +David for these prompts.

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