Lectionary Reading: John 1:43-51 (NRSV)
What is it like to be known?
My first real friend’s name was Ralph. He lived in the house behind ours and we had an adjoining chain link fence that would divide our play in the backyard. This didn’t keep us from enjoying our daily time together as children and we invented lots of play together through the fence.
I can remember him calling my name, “Saaaammmy!!” when I was inside the house indicating that he wanted me to come outside.
St Paul’s Cathedral in London draws the eyes
heavenward to perhaps remind us of angels ascending
I would just as often call out a sing-song, “Raaallph, come out and plaaay!” when I was ready for him to join me in the backyard.
We moved when I was five years old and Ralph was the first absence I remember.
To be known by another and to know that person in kind is significant.
In today’s lectionary reading, Jesus seems to know Nathanael. Nathanael responds in worshipful tones to Jesus, declaring allegiance through his praise.
Jesus alludes to angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man which is a self-reference. This would call to mind the story of Jacob experiencing God in a dream in Genesis 28:10-22. Jacob’s theophany calls him to cry out, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Jesus later refers to himself as the Gate in John’s Gospel.
As we context the Genesis reference, we remember that Jacob is fleeing from the homicidal wrath of his twin brother Esau whose paternal blessing he just swindled. When Jesus tells Nathanael, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” it makes one wonder if he was being sarcastic. Nathanael had just asked the question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Maybe Jesus was just acknowledging that Nathanael was a blunt individual. He called it like he saw it!
In any event, we see that Nathanael’s response is to being known.
As we continue to look at God’s call upon our lives, we also know that sometimes we are not interested in being known quite so thoroughly. As we get older, there are calls we get from people that make us respond not with joy but with cringing. We find that, like Jacob, we may end up wrestling with God. Hopefully, we can discover a truth in ourselves and in those we meet. Maybe, this realization will cause us to declare that we have entered the house of God and seen the gate of heaven.