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.’
We have had quite a weekend in the Jones household. My daughter went to the annual Girl Scout Daddy-Daughter dance. This is an event that she looks forward to every year. I will be so sad when the year finally comes that she decides she is too big for Daddy-Daughter dances. It is her big night out with Dad. She had a wonderful time, right up to the point where a couple of girls fell down in front of her, she tripped over them, and her face met an untimely kick from another little girl. Mayhem ensued.
Who knew that one little lip could bleed so much? She was not a happy Girl Scout. Even after a half hour drive, she arrived home inconsolable. She told me that she couldn’t stop thinking about Saving Mr. Banks. And I couldn’t figure out why. This is the movie about the making of Mary Poppins. And then it dawned on me (Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t seen Saving Mr. Banks and you are worried about ruining it, skip to the next paragraph!). She was remembering the flashback where P.L. Travers’s father dies. After years of alcohol abuse, his health deteriorates and he is coughing up a lot of blood.
Oh my. My sweet little 8-year-old girl thought that she was experiencing something far more traumatic than a little blood from a cut on her lip. It broke my heart to think of the fear she must have been carrying around inside of her for the past hour. After I assured her that her condition was in no way related to what the father in the movie experienced, her panic finally dissipated.
I find that with my children, they often say things that seem totally unrelated to the current situation. But if I stop to think for just a minute, I can figure out the connection they are making. With homeschooling, we spend so much of our time together that it often feels like we live in one big conglomeration of inside jokes and references, our own little mini-civilization, that other people can’t readily decipher. I feel extremely fortunate to have this kind of close relationship with my children.
Nathanael recognized in that very first meeting that Jesus already understood all the quirky, indecipherable things he might say, or think, or feel. He realized that Jesus truly knows him. How wonderful to have the feeling of being truly known by another!
It is hard to tell from this short story just why Nathanael gets this overwhelming feeling of connection. It also seems that Jesus is a bit surprised at the effect of this short conversation. But he takes it as a beginning. A good beginning, for Jesus recognizes that Nathanael is beginning to believe. And believing in John’s gospel is seeing. And seeing is what is important.
If you don’t believe me on this, hang on. As we continue through John’s gospel, you will recognize this theme over and over and over again. And pay attention to the order. It is not that seeing is believing. It is that believing is seeing.
During this same weekend, my 15-year-old was at a church event for high-schoolers called Happening. I can’t tell you much about it. That is part of the fun and impact of the event. The first-timers, those who are “happening” don’t know much about “happening.” It is entirely youth-led. Those who are leading are the youth who have “happened” previously. There are adults on hand to make sure nothing goes too far awry, but the youth are the ones leading the sessions, leading the music, leading worship. The knowing, believing, seeing methodology can be experienced live and in action at a Happening. When anyone asks about what is on the agenda, they simply say, “The best is yet to come!”
The youth are expressing the same idea that Jesus did as he told Nathanael, “You will see greater things than these.”
Because God knows us, we can rest in the knowledge that, even when we don’t understand ourselves, God understands us. Paul writes, regarding prayer, that if we can’t figure out what to say, the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. I love that. Sighs too deep for words. So when all you can get out in between sobs is “Saving Mr. Banks.” God knows what you really mean. God knows. Believe it. And you will see greater things than these. The best is yet to come.