94. Tabernacles, Temples, Cathedrals and Churches.

A trademark of life on earth is worship. Just think for a moment. All through history and all over the globe, places of worship are central to the culture and history of every nation on the face of the earth. Since ancient times, elaborate buildings and even natural wonders have been dedicated to gods and higher beings as appeasement and admiration.

The desert people with their fold-up version of a place of worship, was no different. Freed from the sun-worshipping Egyptians, who built magnificent architectural wonders in awe of their gods, they ventured into the desert with nothing to anchor their renewed faith in the miracle-working YHWH (Yaveh), the God of their faith-ancestry, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Not too far into their desert wanderings, we find the meticulous and awe-inspiring prescription of the Tabernacle, based on the detailed instructions of Moses whose ear was inclined to hear God’s voice. Under Holy Spirit-inspired craftsmen, the Ark of the Covenant is built, to symbolize the Presence of the Most High God, with thick embroidered woven linen to separate it from the section where the Table of Showbreads, the Lampstand and the golden bowl with incense symbolize the Word of God, illuminated by the Light of the World, Jesus, and the worship that prepares for His presence, are located. In the forecourt was the altar of burnt offering where innocent blood cleansed from sin and the bronze laver with water symbolized baptism. This ancient pattern of worship is the foundation of our regular religious reunion with God.

I am always encouraged by the scripture, describing the gifting of art and crafts for men and women that came from God.

…and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, 32 to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.

34 “And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver—those who do every work and those who design artistic works. (Exodus 35: 31- 35)

Settled in the Promised Land, a few centuries later, it is David’s desire to build a Temple for the God He loves and pours out his worship to. His son Solomon, builds a magnificent Temple to mark the high point of Hebrew culture in the ancient world and earn the respect of neighbouring nations for almost four centuries. After Solomon’s death the kingdom divides and slowly falls away from true worship until the hostility of other ancient Empires (Assyria and Babylon) brings destruction and exile.

After the exile, the reconstruction of the Temple dominates the lives of Ezrah and Nehemiah who re-establish worship in the physically restored Temple, carefully recorded with the many miracles accompanying their daunting task.

Under Roman rule, the Jewish king Herod the Great, works for decades to restore the Temple to its former glory. He is well known for his grand architectural projects throughout the Judea of that time. It is the centre and pride of the city of Jerusalem, built to the pattern of the original desert Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon, with a few modern additions like the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of the Women that were never included in the original plan.

The Temple was the pride and joy of the Pharisees, priests and people at the time of Jesus. It was the centre of Jewish culture and everyday life. Jews lived and worked in their culture of worship. There was just no alternative. If you were born a Jew daily prayer, sacrifices, the Sabbath and celebrating the feasts, marked your life, diary and pleasure. Nothing else was important. Worship of YWHW was above all else in life and the world.

Acts like Jesus cleansing the Court of the Gentiles where the money was collected, would produce immediate reaction from the leadership. Their reaction is discussed in John 2:17-25.

Jesus’ disciples remembered the words of Psalms 69:9. The Psalm is talking of the Messiah. He would be consumed with zeal for the House of God. Zeal means passion or even jealousy. In the minds of the disciples Jesus was being established. His actions befitted the Messiah.

The reaction of the Jews is understandable. They needed to establish Jesus’ credentials through some sign. They knew the Messiah would be established by wonders and signs. Jesus needed to prove His claim. He had to do something supernatural.

Jesus’ reply presented them with a problem. This is John’s interpretation written long after all the events. He is writing seventy years of perspective into the narrative.

The words of Jesus were later used against him as accusation in His trial (Matthew 26:61). The accusers said they heard him say:

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

Jesus never said He would destroy the Temple building and rebuild it. Jesus knew the end of the Temple was near. He said to the Samaritan woman that people would worship in spirit and truth without a specific place.

Temple worship did not lead men to God. It should have. It became obsolete. He would never have suggested rebuilding the old ways.

God makes things new, always better than before. It is the miraculous principle of restoration. He makes something you never envisaged. Look out for the new thing. (Isaiah 42:9, 43:19)

Jesus wanted to bring a Temple not made by hands. His coming would bring an end to man-made, man-arranged worship and bring Spirit-worship after the ultimate sacrifice had been made. (Mark 14:58)

He came to introduce a new way to worship God without elaborate buildings and animal sacrifice – a new way of coming into the presence of the living God.

In 19BC Herod started work on the Temple to appease the Jews within the Roman political system. In 64AD the building was finally finished. It took 46 years to build. Only six years after that in 70 AD, the Romans army under generalship of Vespasian destroys the Temple so that only the wailing wall stands.

With this background Jesus makes a shocking statement. Did He really mean all the lavish magnificence and splendour would be nothing and completely obsolete? All the money they spent would be irrelevant in God’s plan. Jesus calls men into discussion with his statement. He sets the literal against the figurative, the physical in contrast with the spiritual.

Further more, His statement was a prophecy of the Resurrection. All would then have access to the glorified Jesus. The ever-present God was to be reachable to the ends of the world. The true depth of the statement could only be known after the resurrection.

The scripture that they believed is that they will be saved from death. Death was an absolute mystery and very frightening. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol (Psalms 16:10). Peter quoted it at Pentecost (Acts 2:31) and Paul quoted it at Antioch (Acts 13:35). It expressed the confidence of the church in the power of God and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Our approach to God is not dependent on anything man-made or man-built. We worship in our own inner-Temple in the presence of the risen Christ.

Jesus obviously did many miracles in Jerusalem. Many believed in Him, but He did not openly declare Himself.

Jesus knew human nature and how quickly a miracle becomes old news. In journalism they talk about the “one day wonder”. Sensation is only sensational for a very short time.

They would follow signs and wonders, but not many will follow the self-denial and service. Surrendering to the will of God, carrying a cross would separate the superficial from the real.

Jesus was not in it for the popular vote. The mob would have declared Him Messiah. He did not want acceptance until they all knew exactly what acceptance meant.

John calls miracles signs and uses three words:

Teras means a marvelous thing. It has no moral significance; simply an astonishing thing. The New Testament does not use this word alone to describe a miracle.

Dunamis means power. Our word dynamite comes from this word. It denotes extraordinary power, effective power to be recognized by all.

Semeion means sign. This is the word John uses. The deed told men about the man, revealed his character and it was done in order to understand the person doing it better. Miracles told men something of the nature of God. Jesus showed whom God is in healing the sick, comforting the poor, feeding the hungry.

Jesus performed signs of the love of God.

In any miracle there are all three meanings included, revealing the heart of God.

 

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93. In the thick of things – a corrupted people.

In the second chapter of John, following the joyful miracle at the wedding in Cana, the scene is set for a dramatic confrontation at the core of Judaism (John 2:12 – 16).

It is the Passover feast in Jerusalem. In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes frequent visits to the Temple and to Jerusalem. Jesus loved Jerusalem. He speaks a lament over the city in Matthew 23:37:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Passover had to be attended by every male Jew living within 15 miles of Jerusalem. The Roman census of 4 AD noted that 250 000 lambs were slaughtered during Passover. A lamb as sacrifice was usually shared by at least ten people. A rough calculation puts the number of Jews in the city at 2,5 million. No wonder the Jewish leaders needed somebody to betray Jesus’ whereabouts to bring Him to trial at the time of the crucifixion.

The other Gospels put the cleansing of the Temple at the end of Jesus’ ministry. This incident made the leaders very angry and prompted them to set His arrest and death sentence in motion.

John did not write chronologically.

According to the prophecy of the Messiah, He would come to the Temple. (Malachi 3:1-4)

John knew the prophecy and was telling of the sudden coming of the Messiah in His temple. He wanted to establish Jesus as a door opener for everything anybody coming to the Temple has ever yearned for. John is not interested in the date, more in the action. John records Jesus’ action as that of the promised Messiah.

It was the aim and ambition of every Jew, scattered over the earth, to celebrate one Passover in Jerusalem. It was the most important feast by far. Everybody over 19 years old had to pay Temple tax, which was the equivalent of two days’ wages.

All kinds of currency were valid in Palestine; Roman and Greek silver coins, also coins from Persia, Tyre and Sidon (old Phoenicia, modern day Lebanon) and Egypt. Temple tax had to be paid in Galilean shekels or Temple shekels. All other currencies were declared foreign and unclean. The other currencies could be used to pay everyday debts, but to God “clean” money had to be used.

The pilgrims arrived with all sorts of coins. The moneychangers were necessary for the purpose of changing currency and would have been fine if the dealings were straightforward. However, the dealings were less than honourable. They asked commission for the exchange and the commission added up to at least one day’s wage.

The wealth accrued from Temple Tax was fantastic. The profits were flowing in. When Crassus (a Roman commander) captured Jerusalem in 54 BC he raided the Temple treasury and took the equivalent of 2,5 million British pounds without nearly exhausting the funds.

The exchange rate was laid down in the Talmud. It was not wrong to take money for themselves, but the rates went up and poor people were fleeced to the bone in the name of God.

Besides the money changers there were the vendors of oxen, sheep and doves. A visit to the Temple required sacrifice of gratitude, worship and also repentance. Of course it was more convenient that the sacrificial animals were on the doorstep. Law prescribed that the animal must be perfect and unblemished and for that purpose inspected by the priest. The Temple authorities appointed inspectors. For the inspection a fee had to be paid. If the sacrificial animal was bought outside, rejection was almost guaranteed. If bought inside, it could be as much as 15 times more expensive but guaranteed flawless. Again it was glaring social injustice in the name of God.

All this moved Jesus to flaming anger. It was not impulsive and hysterical. It was calculated and calm. He took cords and made a whip. Some historians described his face as quite a sight and that His eyes and the majesty of God shining in His face must have been terrifying. God was not idly standing by. The anger of the Godhead was unleashed.

Jesus’ anger was fully unselfish. This was not about Him at all. It was all about the lost and the seeking that He came for. He acted on behalf of a world yearning for God, and not finding the true character of His Father in the so-called religion supposed to bring people to Him. Jesus called Himself humble and meek, but He knew exactly when to unleash His anger against the corrupting of people’s souls.

His drastic step had deep reasons.

God’s house was desecrated. God wanted worship with reverence. Worship without reverence is a terrible thing. Worship that is formalized and unthinking, does not acknowledge the holiness of God. One can never forget God’s purpose in worship. Here in the forecourts were the arguments about worn coins, prices of animals and the ramble of the market place. Are you serious about your worship? It is better to stay away than to USE the house of God for your own gain.

 Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11 when he warns against the unworthy use of the Lord’s Table in the verses about communion echoes in this instance also. It is better to stay your participation, than eat the bread and drink the wine without reverence and true repentance in your heart.

Jesus showed that animal sacrifice is completely irrelevant. For centuries the prophets were saying: God does not delight in the blood of animals or in the grain offerings. He is not to be found in animal sacrifices. [Isaiah 1:11-17, Jeremiah 7:22, Hosea 5:6, 8:13, Psalms 51:16.]

Do you delight in your service to the church? Do you find your joy in lavishing on the building and equipment? Real sacrifice is the offerings of the loyal heart in true devotion. Any substitute for true worship is what made Jesus angry.

The Temple should have been a house of prayer.

Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:17)

In the Temple of Solomon there was 24/7 worship.

The Temple in the time of Jesus consisted of various courts. First it was the Court of the Gentiles, then the Women, then the Israelites and then the Priests. All the buying and selling went on in the Court of the Gentiles. Beyond this Court, a Gentile could not go; the scene of the moneychangers was his impression of God. No man could pray there. It was no place of worship. These Temple activities barred men from real prayer and the presence of God.

The confusion of many gods to communities like the Romans and Greeks was a reason to convert to the Jewish religion with conveniently one God. These proselytes as they were called, were only allowed in the very first forecourt of the Temple.

What hinders worship today? Is a sinner welcome in our churches? Could our snobbishness, exclusiveness, coldness, lack of welcome, arrogance and indifference towards strangers mark the atmosphere our Court of the Gentiles? What do they see in the forecourts of our churches AND in the forecourts of Christianity? Only judgment? Or do they see the love and grace of God, when they come with their burden and approach with a true heart.

Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? (Jeremiah 7:11)

What then about the church today? All the words just as applicable today:

 Worship is like focusing a telescope. We can focus the vision by using the knobs on the side, to shorten or lengthen the distance between the eyepiece and lens of the telescope. Changing this distance allows you to focus on the object in question. Adjust the knobs until you see the image come into a sharp focus.

Where do we find our focus knobs in worship? Approaching God with a humble spirit, a broken heart and a true intention will “shorten the distance”. When we confess our sins we enter worthy into the presence of our Most High Father. We do not have to be perfect. We do not have to live right. We approach by the Blood of the Cross of Jesus to clothe us in righteousness to enter in.

Praise God for the Cross. Let us then welcome “our Gentiles” into a house of prayer and not a den of thieves.

 

92. Wine, wedding and song.

This title rings a bell, doesn’t it? Yes, you are right of course. It is not correct. The title of the beautiful waltz written by Johann Strauss junior in Vienna many years ago in 1869 is: Wine, women and song. Well, both titles are an accurate description of one of the oldest events we still celebrate today. Customs have changed over the course of history, but love is still and will ever be a reason for feasting.

A wedding is such a magnificent occasion. It is the official merriment of love discovered in private, going public. Weddings these days are so full of traditions and expectations that I always feel honoured to be invited. All the many requirements make it expensive and often stressful. Our global village brings guests from far away places to be accommodated and entertained, often in events over more than one day. Still, it is a life-event to be dreamed of, planned in detail and remembered forever. Be careful how you respond to that elaborate invitation privileged invitation; it will be in the memory of the main players for years to come.

One thing that thrills me about Jesus, is that He never shunned a party. Reading through the Gospels I could come to the conclusion that He was a popular and honoured guest to many occasions. Quite a few of the stories take place in a party or dinner party setting.

Here in the first eleven verses of the second chapter, John sets the scene for Jesus’ first miracle – the wedding in Cana.

Jesus and his disciples were invited and it looks as if Mary, his mother, was involved with the arrangements of what was most probably a family event. She was very worried that the wine ran out and she had authority to tell the servants what to do.

A village wedding was really important. A virgin wedding took place on a Wednesday and the feast lasted several days. After the ceremony the couple was escorted under a canopy to their home on the longest route possible, so that many people could wish them well. They had no honeymoon. They stayed home and kept open house for a week. For the whole week they wore crowns and were treated like a king and queen. They were addressed that way and could request anything. They were most likely awaiting a life of constant hard work; therefore the wedding week was a festival of joy and relaxation.

Jesus arrived with five disciples. Wine was essential for any Jewish feast, although drunkenness was considered a shameful disgrace. The wine was diluted with water – two parts wine and three parts water. Hospitality in the East is a sacred duty. For the provisions to fail at a wedding like this would be a terrible humiliation for the bride and the bridegroom.

The translation of Jesus’ words to his mother make his words seem disrespectful. Jesus opens with a common conversational phrase. It was spoken gently and meant:

“Don’t worry; you don’t quite understand what is going on; leave things to me, and I will settle them in my own way.” Jesus was simply telling Mary he would have his own way of dealing with the situation.

The word for woman is gunai. In our ear it might be misunderstood. It was used for a well-loved woman and well known in the Greek language.

The jars used were very large, probably 75 liters each. John had to explain it was the jars that were used for the purifying ceremonies of the Jews. Washing of feet and hands were very important in a dusty, dry climate and needed lots of water. Hands were washed several times throughout the meal.

The jars were filled under supervision to make sure they held clean water. Then the contents were taken to the head waiter (the maître d’). The bridegroom was responsible for the wine that it why the headwaiter addressed the bridegroom and joked about serving the best wine last. Usually inferior wine was served last, when the wine drinkers cared less about the taste and more about the feasting.

This was the first glimpse for Jesus’ disciples of who He is.

He participated in a joyous occasion of ordinary people, helping the feast along, spreading the joy.

This momentous miracle happened in the humble home of a villager. It was not presented to vast crowds. Jesus manifested His heavenly glory in a home with no pretence in the lives of a small circle of friends and family in the village of Cana.

Jesus stepped out to save the host embarrassment. He exercised His power and heavenly authority for the benefit of a lowly villager in sympathy and kindness to the simple folk. He did not save the big thing for a big occasion; rather, he did a big thing on a small occasion.

Mary had faith in Jesus. One might think that she had seen His power before. She instinctively turned to Him when things went wrong. Even when she did not understand what He was doing, her response was obedience. She had faith to trust without understanding.

Jesus says to her: My hour has not come. [John 7:6,8, 12:23, 17:1. See also Matthew 26:18,45 and Mark 14:41.]

Jesus knew the miracle would thrust Him into public life. Maybe He was aware that Mary did not fully comprehend the full consequence of His revelation through the miracle.

All his life Jesus knew of His specific reason for living. It was not a life in terms of His wishes; only for God’s purpose. His life was lived with an eye on eternity, not real time. He lived in the deep and permanent truth: every detail counts.

There were six water pots filled with water. Seven symbolizes completion and perfection. Six symbolizes imperfection and incompletion. Six shows the imperfection of the Jewish law. Within the imperfection, Jesus pours His new wine of the Gospel of grace. Old pots have good wine after He touched them.

He made a lot of wine. He filled all the pots. It was enough to last throughout the wedding and a lot to spare. Grace never runs out. This miracle speaks of glorious superabundance.

 John is telling us that in Jesus the imperfections have become perfection. Grace has become overflowing, sufficient and more than enough for every need.

The Greeks also had a story about three empty jars sealed in the presence of the priests, then miraculously filled with wine at the beginning of the festival. John is saying: Bring your stories about your gods; you know it isn’t true. I have the real thing. He is the dream come true. Everything you thought your gods would do, Jesus can and will do for you.

John is teaching that Jesus does not do a miracle as a once off. He is forever doing His miracles. He will always fill your jars with new wine and new life for feasting. A changed life is the miracle. The impossibility becomes possible. We are testimonies of the glorious impossible!

I am always very aware and overjoyed at the sighting of a rainbow. To me the rainbow is the symbol of God’s faithful covenant love, supporting and confirming all the covenant promises. You know how often one sees a rainbow just in the reflection of a shiny object, or in the shower when the sun hits the right spot. It struck me one day – the rainbow is always there. We need to look at the right angle with sunlight and we will see it. It all depends on how we look.

God taught me that day. There are always miracles. It depends on how we look. Do we see His hand moving with Holy Spirit anointed eyes or do we look through the dark veil of politics, negative circumstances, broken relationships or wounded lives?

Oh pebble pals – let us call out the prayer of the blind man again and again. Lord, that I can see…

Fill up your jars. Jesus is here to make wine.

 

91. Mere men in the story of God – one day there by the lake…

Is there somebody in your life that you admire so much that you can remember the day the two of you met? People often asked that of married couples. The story is then related with lots of smiles and interjections in the detailed description of the circumstances that worked together for the meeting of two people that made a life long commitment to each other. The whole audience to this narrative listens attentively with smiling satisfaction.

Just think of the massive historical implications of the meeting described below.

One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone). (John 1:40-42)

Andrew is thrilled to have found the man he calls the Messiah and the first thing he does is share the news with his brother, Simon Peter. It is a momentous occasion – this meeting of Jesus and Peter. Just think on their relationship in the luxury of hindsight. It all started this day at the shores of a lake somewhere in the middle of the world.

These verses mention Messiah and Christ, which are the Hebrew and Greek words that mean God’s anointed King. All through the ancient world kings were anointed.

Andrew is identified as Simon Peter’s brother and plays an important role in bringing people together. He brought the boy with the fishes and loaves to Jesus in the narrative of the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:8-9). He is prepared to take second place in the greater story. He also brings the inquiring Greeks into the presence of Jesus. He could not keep Jesus to himself. He has the heart of a missionary.

Andrew takes centre stage in the meeting of Peter with Jesus.

Jesus looked at Peter. The word used for look means intent gaze, seeing into the heart. He gives Peter a new name, there and then. You are going to be called Cephas, which means rock.

Two names were common in those days. People often had an Aramaic name and a Greek name, like Thomas and Didymus (Greek for twin). Tabitha was Aramaic and Dorcas was Greek for gazelle. Peter and Cephas was the same name in different languages.

In the Old Testament a changed name denoted a new relationship with God. Jacob became Israel in Genesis 32:28 and Abram becomes Abraham in Genesis 17:5. A new man needs a new name.

Jesus sees with purpose and potential. He sees what he is, but also what he can become. In that moment Jesus saw with Holy Spirit insight a Galilean fisherman. He see that in every person committing his life to God. He saw it in Gideon and David and so many other Old Testament faith heroes.

It should be our way to look at people. Just think of the powerful, visionary Jesus-words over our children’s lives when we look at them with the purpose and potential of the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew 16:13-20 another discussion between Jesus and His disciples is recorded. He starts with an easy question: Who do the people say I am? The disciples answer: Elijah, Moses, a prophet, John the Baptist etc. That was the easy answer. Suddenly Jesus turns it and makes it personal.

 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Trust the ever audacious Peter to blurt it out.

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This inspirational, Holy Spirit-infused answer prompts Jesus to speak an everlasting blessing upon Peter, that echoes throughout the church today.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

This is the revelational-speech we desire from God. Not the things that flesh and blood reveals. We want to speak what the Father in heaven reveals to us.

He pronounces the words of Peter as the rock on which the church will be built. Note, it is not the man Peter, but his revelation that is the rock on which the church is built. The church of Jesus is not built upon a man; it is built on the revelation of who Jesus is.

The revelation of Jesus as the son of the living God is the rock on which the church is built.

This is the deep disparity between Peter and Judas. Consider their roles in the dark hours of the trial of Jesus.

Judas was a zealot. He was part of a political party that aimed to overthrow the Romans by force. He walked with Jesus for three years and many times witnessed the anger of the Jewish leaders flare up against Him to the point of stoning and violence. Many times the Gospels state that Jesus just walked away. To Judas this was a miracle. Maybe if he forced the hand of the authorities against Jesus, Jesus might overthrow the Romans in a miracle-like way. Without even giving a second thought to the warnings of Jesus that He was on a collision course with the rulers and will be put to death and rise again (Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31; 10:33)), Judas set his own plan in motion, “using” Jesus for his own goals.

He received the 30 shekels of silver (the price of a slave on the market at the time) from the High Priest and led the soldiers to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Very soon he saw that things were not going according to plan. He witnessed Jesus’ peaceful surrender to the soldiers to be led away to the house of the High Priest. Later that night He was taken to Pontius Pilate, and to Herod and back to Pilate. Judas panicked. He saw that the whole thing was going south. He stumbled back to the leaders and uttered the words:

I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. (Matthew 27:4)

To the very end Judas did not realize that he was a player in the life of the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed One, the One man the whole world was waiting for. He died a self-inflicted death alone in utter darkness.

Peter and John very courageously followed Jesus to the courtyard of the house of the High Priest on the night of the arrest. It was not the time to be seen as one of the supporters of this man that the leaders put on trial. When he denied knowledge of Jesus three times and heard the cock crow, he wept bitterly and fled to his fellow disciples.

That is exactly where you should be in the midst of spiritual struggle.

There he waited with desperate hope and great remorse. Jesus knew his soul struggle and specially mentioned him to Mary to bring him the good news of the resurrection.

Peter’s life ended in great victory.

In John 1:43-51, other ordinary men meet God.

Jesus leaves the south and moves north to Galilee. He calls Philip. Philip finds his brother, Nathanael with the good news. Nathanael is skeptical. He was probably following a discussion on the details of this Jesus everybody was talking about. Rivalry between villages was common. Nothing good can come out of Nazareth, he reckoned. Even more, the prophets said nothing about Nazareth – they said the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. Only by deeper investigation, the true searcher would have known that Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem.

Nathanael is from Cana. He argues with Philip. Philip is wise. He says: Come and see. Arguments end well when the person is brought into the presence of Jesus. Arguments can only happen in love, never in hostility or arrogance. Jesus revealed is the goal. That often happens in testimony, rather than argument.

Jesus’ compliment would have been understood by any Jew. Psalm 32:2 and Isaiah 53:9 stated that no deceit will be in his mouth.

Sitting under the fig tree was any Jew’s idea of peace. Undisturbed under thick shade was a place to pray and meditate. Jesus was aware of the cry of his heart. He was clearly part of the remnant , who kept the vision of the expected Messiah alive. The promise still stands, even after so many years of waiting. Do not grow weary. Great is His faithfulness.

Jesus knew the cry of his heart; he knew his prayers. He can interpret the soul. He communicated with Nathanael on a deeper level, spoke prophetically into his life and stirred up his vision for greater things to come.

Nathanael does not appear in any of the other Gospels. John describes it as an encounter to illustrate Jesus’ nature in dealing with people.

It was in Jesus’ nature to satisfy expectations.

Nathanael stands symbolically for the person whose heart is cleansed of pride and prejudice and who sees in Jesus the one who satisfies the longing of his waiting, seeking heart.