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!” – John 1:48-49 (NRSV)
I’m going to go ahead and guess that if Nathanael told you to worship Jesus based on this conversion story, you’d be a mite skeptical. Just like you were when your friend told you you should pay to visit that psychic who knew “everything” about them: “And then he told me he could see that I live inside a building! And that I know a human! Whose name begins with a T!” Maybe there’s more to this story than the biblical author included; maybe if we knew the full tale we’d be as amazed as Nathanael. But as written, it’s pretty underwhelming. Jesus is as likely to have made a lucky guess as he is to have had some special second sight.
Which is the point, of course. It’s like that powerful dream you had one night that still gives you chills, but which is boring for anyone else to listen to. The dream wasn’t for them; of course they’re not moved by it the way you are.
This is actually the way of most conversion stories. To the convert, they are powerful, moving, astounding. To everyone else, they’re meh. You and I read Nathanael’s story, and we’re like, “Ummm…” Nathanael remembers the story for himself, and he sees the moment where his life became divided into before and after. The marvel isn’t that Jesus is maybe a psychic wonder; the marvel is that God can flip souls in ways so profound the rest of us don’t notice it’s happening till it’s done.
Let me treat every human story I encounter as the miracle that it is. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.