Reflection for the Second Sunday of Epiphany – what are we looking for?

Jesus answered, ”I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 

From John 1:43-51.

”We shine the brightest.” Durham police officer, speaking of the nightly battle for law and order when darkness is a cover for criminal activity. 

At this season of Epiphany, revelations continue as Jesus is seen in the first chapter of John’s gospel as ‘the Lamb of God’ (v29), ‘one who baptises with the Holy Spirit (v33), ‘the Son of God’ (v34) and ‘Rabbi’ (v38). It is the third of ‘the next day’ texts where Jesus finds Philip in Galilee and tells him to “Follow me”. Philip does so, but first goes to tell Nathanael that the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote has been found. Nathanael is scornful – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – but Philip then invites him to come and see for himself. Nathanael responds and is astounded when Jesus discerns that he is an Israelite with no deceit. As Jesus tells him that he saw him under the fig tree before Philip called him, this being traditionally a place where a Rabbi would study the Torah, Nathanael then realises for himself that the Rabbi before him is, “…the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” This is an astonishing revelation, given that Nathanael was originally so scornful, and Jesus goes on to tell him that he will see far greater things, including heaven itself and the angels. 

Despite what he originally perceived, Nathanael was willing to respond to Philip’s call and then to change his mind. As he saw for himself, so Jesus looked on him and promised great things to come. All of this could happen because Philip told Nathanael the good news about Jesus and, at such a dark and challenging time today, good news is needed more than ever. Hope will triumph over despair, love will triumph over evil and the message of the Prince of Peace will eventually prevail – but meanwhile, darkness, misunderstanding and wrongdoing may seem to have the upper hand. That’s particularly pertinent as revelations continue about the great miscarriage of justice by Post Office administrators, the increasing tensions in the Middle East, the unresolved issues over refugees, the waste of money with HS2 and much more. There may seem to be little that can be done but there are many opportunities to make a positive difference in small if not great ways, although we may have to change our mindset or leave our comfort zone to see this for ourselves – like Nathanael. How this might happen is complex and diverse but the Durham police officer spoke with confidence in himself and his colleagues in bringing light into the darkness. In answering God’s call in our lives, or encouraging others to respond as did Philip, at this dark time the light and insight we can contribute with others is vital. Jesus’ question to his followers today as well as those first disciples is appropriate in light of the way ahead as 2024 unfolds and Epiphany continues: “What are you looking for?” (v38)

With my prayers; pob bendith

Christine, Guardian.