The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also 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.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 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!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
What I wanted to talk about today is a little bit of a difficult topic. I’m going to talk about the mystery. I’m going to talk about reasoning. I’m going to talk about how those two are working together. So it’s a difficult topic. The Christian journey is a journey into God and journey into God is a journey into mystery. By nature journey into God, is a journey into mystery. We don’t really know what the outcome will be. We see Phil and Nathaniel in today’s story, when you look at it there are a lot of missing holes. Jesus was in the side that Moses talked about and the proverbs talked about and how Nathaniel knew that Jesus was the son of God and the King of Israel. There’s no explanation.
They just made a confession. Sometimes the Bible has that when there’s a mystery aspect, there is no explanation necessary. But their lives were completely changed after this incident they neither expected nor imagined that their lives would turn out that way. Before they met Christ they were probably living very normal and ordinary lives. Then all of a sudden, once they met Jesus Christ, their lives turned around completely and they followed Jesus. In that sense, life is a mystery beyond our control and our power. We cannot always predict our life’s outcome. These days I really, really enjoy seeing my grandson, Nolan. I don’t have much time to visit them and actually see him, but Josh sends me pictures and video clips. So my daughter Grace is from Boston, so she came and stayed with us and we sat down and watched the pictures and video clips.
She said, I can watch this all day, and then cry. Everything is so beautiful. It’s wonderful to see your grandson. But while I was asking myself what future is waiting for him? What will he be like in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years later? And I realize that I don’t know, it is hidden. It is hidden to us. It is hidden because it is part of our life. We live our lives in the natures of the known and the unknown. The certain and the uncertain. The revealed and the hidden. Nobody lives with absolute certainty. Nobody should claim that they live with absolute certainty. Philippe and Nathaniel didn’t expect at all that their lives would turn out the way it turned out. It was a mystery to them. Yes, it was their choice. But when you look at it and yet it wasn’t totally your choice. Don’t you feel that sometimes, yes you made a choice but it wasn’t really totally your choice? Life is like that, we think it’s our choices, but we realized that it wasn’t purely our choices. Life turned out all right, but not necessarily because of our good choices. Some of the times, life turns out in spite of our bad choices. We didn’t always make the right choices to make our life good, sometimes life turned out good in spite of our bad choices.
We are thankful to God for that. There is a force that leaves our lives much more powerful than the power of our choice. That’s what Philip and Nathaniel experienced in today’s scripture passage. Nathaniel was a skeptical person. like most of us. Most people who live in the 21st century are very skeptical. Philip came to him and said, oh I met this great guy he was the one that Moses and the prophets were talking about. It’s Wonderful. And then Nathaniel said, “What good comes out of Nazareth?”. And Philip’s answer is so refreshing. Come and see, come and see. That’s the formula of John, come and see don’t try to figure out, come and see. You actually have to come and see. What good can come out of Nazareth? That was Nathaniel’s prejudice, in the end, he was proven wrong. The real good came from Nazareth, Jesus Christ came from Nazareth, and then ultimately you are the son of God and the king of Israel.
There is another famous skeptical person in the Bible and his name was Thomas. Thomas was another skeptical person. It’s interesting, both people came out from Johns Gospel. Nathaniel comes out right in the beginning, in chapter one right at the beginning of John’s story. Thomas comes out at the end of the story, almost like John was trying to say how a skeptical person became a believer. From the beginning to the end he put those two people right there. After Jesus was resurrected. Thomas wasn’t there, so when he was soon there he said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hand and put my fingers in the mark of the nails and put my hand into his side
I will not believe. Thomas wasn’t there and he said this, “But as soon as he encountered Jesus, he didn’t put his finger there. He didn’t put his hand in his side. He didn’t do any of that”. That skepticism evaporated. As soon as he encountered Jesus, the only thing that came out of his mouth was the greatest confession. My Lord and my God. In the entire Gospel, no one ever said that Jesus was gonna die. The highest confession was that Jesus was the son of God, but nobody dared to claim that Jesus was God. And from the lips of Thomas, we hear a confession, my Lord, and my God. They both overcame their skepticism when they met Christ. You know, skepticism comes from our intellectual reasoning, but when we encounter the divine, our reasoning stops. That’s what it is. When you read the Bible. That’s what happens. When you encounter the divine the reasoning stops, and something more powerful than the reasoning takes us over. That’s why religion can be very, very dangerous.
Also, religious fanaticism was caused because of this aspect of God. You can justify almost anything in the name of God, and the name of God, they did horrible things. In history and right now we use God to justify their hidden beliefs, their anger, their hatred, and the fear of being powerless. We don’t condone that. They simply use God for their purpose. But encountering God is the most beautiful thing. The most beautiful thing that we human beings can experience. It is not something we can figure out or explain. There is such a thing as figuring out God, you can never figure out God.
That doesn’t mean we put aside our reasoning. We don’t use our reasoning to figure out God, we use our reasoning to understand God deeper. As we encounter the divine, all our reasoning stops. We are simply in awe of Gods presence. That’s what we have seen today’s scripture. When Jesus calls Phillip, Phillip did not try to figure out, he simply understood that he was the one Moses and the prophets were talking about and that was what he communicated to Nathaniel. In the beginning, responded skeptically, but that was before he met Christ. But as soon as he met Christ, he made his confession. He was a son of God and king of Israel.
Being able to reason is the power we human beings have. When we lose it we become very uncomfortable and vulnerable. It is a power to protect us and build our lives. With reasoning, we make our living. With reasoning, we make our judgment. With reasoning, we say what is right and what is wrong. So being able to reason is very, very important in our lives. When your reasoning is screwed then it becomes a problem because he really drives our lives. With reasoning, you can pretty much control your life. Yes, with reason, we can control our live’s, but we cannot experience life with reasoning. You can control it, but we cannot experience God. You can experience life. Life is not to be controlled, life is to be experienced.
God is not to be figured out. God is to be understood. God is not to be controlled. God is to be encountered. God who is controlled is not God anymore. It is an idol that we create for our own convenience. God gave us this greatest gift, reasoning. I think that’s a wonderful gift that God gave to us. If he didn’t then we would become quite arrogant with our reasoning. It is the greatest power we human beings are proud of, and rightly so.
But we have to understand that this power of reasoning can limit us, blind us, and keep us locked in our own small world. We don’t experience the magnitude of life. We don’t experience the love and joy of life. We just live with a taste of a little control we make in our lives. As Nathaniel encountered Jesus, he was in awe. He was quite shocked by how deeply Jesus knew about him. And then Jesus said, “Are you surprised only with this?”. And then he said an amazing thing. You don’t see the greater thing you don’t know yet, what that greater thing is. You’re just surprised with this. You’ll see a greater thing. Jesus really showed what the greater thing about life is, That is what the life journey is all about. As we take the life journey, we will see greater things in life. In that sense, I’m an optimist. I always believed that life will get better.
I always believed that everything will work out for the better, and I believe that the present is always better than the past. I have beautiful memories in the past but still right now, the moment I’m living, the present time I am living in is better than the past. We’ll see greater things in life. To do that, we need to be open to fully encounter Christ. Jesus where do you want to take me? If you’re with me I will go with you. Jesus, what do you want me to experience in life? I’m scared, but if that’s what you want me to experience, I believe to experience that. We have to trust God.
God wants you to experience the most beautiful things in life, but we have to trust him. Our journey is a journey into mystery, our journey is a journey to experience greater things in life. As we meet God our eyes will be opened and see greater things. Jesus said to Nathaniel, heaven will open, but we have to trust in God. With small things that you’ve created. Don’t be bound by it. Don’t be scared of going beyond. Don’t let your fears stop the journey. Have the courage to take into a deeper level of our living, deeper joy, deeper love, and a deeper sense of justice. In that journey, we will experience that life is wonderful. All things beautiful and bright. Yes, life is wonderful my friends. Don’t be scared of taking on this journey. God will be with you and God will take you to the most beautiful place.