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Saturday, January 07, 2006

under the fig tree

This was part of one of the daily readings at Sacred Space this week:

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."

- John 1:47-51

Right from the start, Nathanael recognized that there was something special about Jesus. It appears that Jesus noticed something special about Nathanael, too. Of all Jesus' early disciples, this "Israelite in whom there is no deceit" must have appeared at first glance to show the most promise. He saw in an instant that Jesus was the Son of God, the King of Israel; surely Nathanael would be one who would quickly grasp Jesus' teachings, perhaps be the one to explain them to the other disciples.

And yet, as the events unfolded, it was not the scholar Nathanael taking the lead. It was the fishermen, Peter and John and James, who became Jesus' inner circle. At the empty tomb it was Peter and John who After Pentecost, it was again Peter and John taking the lead, boldly teaching about Jesus, risking arrest for doing so.

Whatever became of Nathanael? He is only mentioned once more, in passing, near the end of John's gospel.

The lesson here for me, I think, is to follow the example of Peter and John, who did not rest on what they knew but continued growing in their faith until the end. After Jesus' death and resurrection, they took roles that they probably never even dreamed about before they met Jesus. Nathanael may have grown too, but he did not step up to the leadership role that the erstwhile fishermen did. Furthermore, they did not merely sit under the fig tree and study. They acted on their faith, even doing the same things Jesus had done.

I've gotten a few reminders recently -- like this one -- that God's ways are not our ways. God doesn't always call the best qualified person to fulfill the role. Exactly what that means for my life I don't yet know. But it seems to me that it means something.



At 1/08/2006 4:58 PM, Blogger Patti said...

Maybe you are going to be called to do something that don't feel qualified for.

At 1/15/2006 2:46 AM, Anonymous eija said...

"God doesn't always call the best qualified person to fulfill the role."

I've seen that happen many times. So I've always had trouble with what many people say: "your calling is according to your gifts and wants". And now it seems that I'm to be the next one. God has been hinting, that He's calling me to something that doesn't come naturally from me. Yikes!

God have mercy on me - and you! We only have to keep praying that He'll unfold the things He has planned for us. And, eventually, even if it won't be easy, it will be good.

At 4/24/2007 8:47 AM, Blogger Oloryn said...

This comment is way late, compared to when you made this post, but I have to ask: Is valuing Peter and John's characteristics over Nathaniel's because Peter and John ended up as leaders valid, or is it a reflection of us exhibiting the same obsession with leadership and position that Jesus had to deal with in the original disciples? I'll definitely agree that God often chooses people for roles who in the flesh aren't the best qualified for the position. I suspect a lot of that is that those people are going to be much more aware that they have to depend on God to carry out their mission than those whose natural talents fit the role.

There's a Chestertonish "collision of two passions apparently opposite" balance to this, I think. On the one hand, God does give us gifts and wants corresponding to our calling. On the other hand, He calls us into areas where those gifts aren't sufficient, so we can learn that our sufficiency is in God, and not in those gifts.

This is one reason I think it's important to take the talents we're given, and surrender them to God, humbly (see here. We need to be willing to say to God "I rejoice in the gifts you've give me, but I'm not going to imagine that those gifts make me self-sufficient. I surrender them back to You. Teach me to use them in the way You want them used, not in the way I, in my own self-sufficiency, would try to use them."

At 12/01/2008 8:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

roger GR Michigan
It is important that whatever our gifts... (that is not the key) but what we do with them and the fruits that they bare...Ps it is (is'nt it) our mission and
God's work/will


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