Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses and the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” - John 1:45-46 (NRSV)
There’s no Starbucks there, no arty cinema, no hip eatery, no funky downtown. You wouldn’t go there for a memorable evening out. And yet it’s the Messiah’s hometown, believe it or not.
Nathanael doesn't believe it. Nazareth is a backward joke. Everybody says so. Nothing good comes out of there.
Sometimes we pretend not to hear when someone makes a bigoted remark. Not Philip. He challenges Nathanael to test his assumptions against experience: “Come and see."
To his credit, Nathanael goes with Philip, meets Jesus, and discovers he’s been a kind of a jerk for lazily accepting an inherited bias. He also discovers that “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” is not the real question. The real question is, “Can anything good come out of me?”
The answer, thankfully, is yes. By the grace of God, Nathanael becomes a disciple. How grateful he must have been at the end of his life to have been so wrong about Nazareth.
Sometimes the longest and most difficult journey is not from place to place, but from assumption to experience, from disdain to respect, from rejection to embrace, from judgment to love.
Costly, this journey. But, oh, the grace of it!
Holy Spirit, grant us the grace of being wrong. Invite us into the company of the good man who came out of Nazareth. Reorder what we value and desire so that his mercy may flow abundantly from us, undeterred by assumptions, judgment, bigotry, or contempt.
Small Group Discussion
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.