"Proof" of a relationship with Jesus

Posted by James Hahn on

John 1:45-51

Relationships are interesting things. They are interesting because for the most part there is no “real” way to prove that they exist. I have a very close relationship with my wife. However, there is no concrete proof that the relationship really exists. I could show you my wedding ring but that’s just a symbol and anyone off the street can have a golden band without having a relationship. I could show you my children, a “product” or “result” of the said relationship, but here too the “proof” could be dismissed because it really doesn’t give evidence that my wife and I have an intimate personal loving relationship. It merely proves we are capable of producing offspring as is most of creation.

The only “proof” of a relationship is how the parties involved conduct themselves. If I claim to have a loving, caring relationship with my wife but I am constantly abusing her mentally and physically then the proof speaks otherwise. If I tell everyone I meet how close my children and I are but I never spend any time with them, then the proof tells the truth. Relationships can only be gauged by the actions of those involved.

Today’s Gospel is all about relationships. Philip already has a relationship with Jesus. He is excited about the relationship and wants Nathanael (Bartholomew) to have a relationship with Jesus as well. Yet Philip realizes that he can’t prove Who Jesus is, so instead of carrying on with many words he only speaks three, “come and see.” Philip is wise in his approach in introducing Jesus and Nathanael. Philip could never adequately describe the relationship he has with Jesus in an attempt to invite Nathanael to meet Jesus.  He doesn’t have lots of time to witness through his actions. He does something better, he takes Nathanael to meet Jesus and let the cards fall where they may.

In today’s world I can talk until I am blue in the face about my relationship with Jesus but unless that relationship has changed me, and people notice the change, no one will believe that the relationship exists. The difficulties lies in the fact that people today tend only to believe what they see. Therefore, they reason, if I can’t see God, He must not exist. And if they see others claiming to have a “personal relationship with Jesus” yet their lives haven’t changed one bit then they write off my “relationship” as fantasy.

Philip didn’t try to start a relationship between Jesus and Nathanael with fancy words, he simply introduced them. Based on the text alone there is no “real” proof that a relationship began. Based on the life Nathanael lived after that relationship began, I can see the proof of that relationship. Nathanael, later known as Bartholomew preached in India and Armenia. He was flayed alive and then beheaded in Armenia by King Abanopolis.

I like to look at this passage through the eyes of a guy. It seems to me as almost a comical exchange between the men involved. Guys often joke with each other and have fun especially when introducing a friend who isn’t currently part of the “group.”

Philip and Nathanael obviously know a good bit of Scripture. Philip tells Nathanael that they, the other guys and himself, have found a man they believe to be the long-awaited Messiah. Both of the men know the prophesies that surround this longed for person and they both know he is supposed to come from the tribe of Judah, specifically from Bethlehem. In reply, Nathanael jokes, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip doesn’t waste time arguing passages but rather invites Nathanael to check it out for himself, “come and see.”

When they meet, Jesus joins in on the joking because he knows what Nathanael said. Jesus knows there was no harm intended by Nathanael’s comments so He says he has “no guile” which means he is not being cunning or deceitful. Nathanael is a little shocked and embarrassed by Jesus’ statement and wants to know how Jesus knows this. I can almost see a smile on Jesus’ face as he tells Nathanael that he “saw” or maybe rather “heard” him speaking to Philip under the fig tree. Nathanael is taken aback realizing that Jesus somehow knew what was said to Philip and that there must be something to what Philip told him about Jesus.

Based on what has happened Nathanael understands that Jesus is from God he states his belief that He is the Lord. Jesus, again smiling, almost laughing, tells Nathanael that if that was all it took to convince him he’d better hold on to his hat and get ready for what will take place in the coming years! “Because I said I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these!”

- “Belief has always had something of an adventurous break or leap about it, because in every age it represents the risky enterprise of accepting what plainly cannot be seen as the truly real and fundamental.” Pope Benedict XVI (Cardinal Ratzinger in Introduction to Christianity)  (This is an affiliate link.  By clicking on this link I may earn money by your purchase.  I do not recommend anything I haven't read or used personally and believe is of value to you the reader.  Thank you)

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