Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Bishop's Note - January 15, 2015: The Nathaniel Effect

Bishop Eric Menees

    Over this Season of Epiphany, my Bishop’s Notes will focus on how God makes manifest the person and character of Jesus. Last Sunday we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus, and we heard - from the Gospel of Mark - how God tore open the heavens and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus “ a dove.” Then, just to put an exclamation point on it, God the Father spoke to His only begotten son saying: “You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

    This Sunday we will celebrate the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, but rather than making the person and character of Jesus manifest in a dramatic way, the story of the call of Nathaniel is subtly compelling.

    You will recall, from the first chapter of the Gospel of John (John 1:43-51), that Jesus calls Philip, who is from Bethsaida, to follow Him. Philip responds to Jesus’ call to follow him, and then witnesses to his friend Nathaniel declaring without reservation: “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45)

    The first way that the person and character of Jesus is made manifest in this scripture is through Philip's testimony to his friend Nathaniel. Philip doesn’t make a weak and vague identification of Jesus’ identity. Philip clearly states that Jesus is the Messiah - the long expected one of prophesy! Nathaniel’s response is: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip answers simply: “Come and see!”

    How important it is for us to witness to one another about Jesus, and then to follow that up with an invitation to meet Jesus personally! Of course Philip brings Nathaniel to Jesus, who demonstrates that he knows Nathaniel’s character: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47)

    Nathaniel is flabbergasted that Jesus knows him – knows his character and, by extension, knows his history. He asks: “How do you know me?” And Jesus responds: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” (John 1:48 ESV) Jesus makes it clear that he doesn’t know of Nathaniel because Philip has told him – Jesus saw him before Philip had even spoken to Nathaniel. Jesus was interested in Nathaniel the same way that he is interested in you and me!

    Nathaniel’s response is the same as that of all who come to a saving relationship with Jesus is: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49 ESV)

    The cycle of Epiphany is clear: we meet Jesus, who already knows us; we tell others about him and invite them to meet him; and, when they do, the cycle repeats.  

I pray you every blessing and peace this Second Sunday of Epiphany!

Catechism Questions 61-63

61.    Why does the Creed make a point of saying that Jesus died?
The Creed makes the point to emphasize that Jesus died a real, bodily death such as all people face because of our sins. (Matthew 27:45-51)
62.    Why does the Creed emphasize Jesus’ death in this way?
The Creed emphasizes Jesus’ death to counter suspicions that Jesus did not truly die on the cross, to celebrate the fact that He died there to secure our salvation, and to prepare our minds to grasp the glory of his bodily resurrection.
63.    What does the Creed mean by saying that Jesus descended to the dead?

That Jesus descended to the dead means that he truly died; his spirit did not remain with his body, but entered the realm of death. (1 Peter 3:19)

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