JOHN 1: 43-51

January 15, 2012

Rev. Dr. Matt Tittle


John 1: 43-51


I teach a practice that I call the Goodwill Principle. It involves assuming goodwill in every person and every encounter. As we learn from Nathaniel in this passage, we aren’t always inclined to assume goodwill at first blush. After all, people should earn our trust, right? They need to prove themselves to us, don’t they? It would be foolish and naïve (and maybe even dangerous) to just approach every stranger with open arms, wouldn’t it?

In this spirit of skepticism, when Phillip tells his friend Nathaniel to come and follow Jesus of Nazareth with him, Nathaniel replies with a quick, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

But Jesus completely changes the conversation and relationship when his first words to Nathaniel are, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Nathaniel is seemingly surprised at Jesus’ familiarity and asks, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answer is as simple as his initial greeting, “I saw you standing under the fig tree before Phillip called you.”

With this, doubting Nathaniel (people were always doubting Jesus, and he was always disarming them), seems to have a complete conversion and accepts Jesus as the son of God. Of course, Jesus always seems to have the last word. As the chapter closes, I envision the two of them and Phillip walking off arm in arm as Jesus says, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”


God of our doubting hearts, help us to see the good in others, risking trust when we would rather protect, risking friendship when we would rather keep our distance, risking love when we would rather be impervious. May we open ourselves to the possibility of seeing angels descending from heaven. Amen.