The Light - Week Two: "Can Any Good Come From Nazareth?"

Season of Epiphany - Series: The Light

The Light of the World has come; what do we do now?

This series will help us learn more about what it means to walk in the Light and be lights in the world. 

Today is the Second Sunday of Epiphany 

And we’re going to read a story about Nathaniel, a skeptical disciple… 

And we’re going to learn about how the Light of World often comes from places we’d least expect. 

What’s the worst town you can imagine living in—at least in your humble opinion?

How do Americans rate the worst cities—an inexact poll. 

Crime, Poverty, Cost of Living compared to Income, Services 

Florida City, Florida 
Detroit Michigan 
Gary, Indiana 
St. Louis, Missouri 
Albany, Georgia 
Kansas City, Missouri 
Baltimore, Maryland 
Flint, Michigan 
Birmingham, Alabama
Memphis, Tennessee 
Little Rock, Arkansas
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Spartanburg, South Carolina

What if someone from one of the worst places you can think of emerged, started gaining notoriety, and was thought to be the person who could change the world?

You might not be all that receptive.  In fact, you might be downright skeptical to the point of dismissive.  

In the story that we're going to be reading today, we will meet Nathaniel, one of Jesus' disciples, who meets Jesus for the first time.  But before he meets him, he has a lot of ideas about whether or not someone from Nazareth could be the Messiah. 

This is what I want to hold on to today: 


John 1:43-51

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Here's a bit of background on this story, starting with Philip. Philip's calling by Jesus here is interesting.  The author of John was wanting to show how some of the followers of John the Baptist began gravitating over to Jesus. Philip gets that call, and responds to it.  

Then he thinks of his friend Nathanel.  Nathanel's name means "Gift from God" and the location where Philip finds him is important.  He's sitting under a fig tree, which is first-century Jewish code for someone who was longing for God to make the world right.  A fig tree is where you would go to pray, to repent, to symbolize peace and prosperity for Israel... it was a long list.  

46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

Nathanael was suspicious.  He was probably wounded by the lack of response to his prayers.  He was filled with longing for the Messiah to come, to free the Hebrew people from Roman oppression... he wanted a better world.  

So he comes back at Philip with a theological argument.  "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  This was both a slam and also a genuine question.  There's no mention of Nazareth in the Messianic prophecies.  

Not to mention, there seems to be some animosity between Nazareth and the rest of the Galilee region.  Scholars have debated this for years, but I have a theory.  

Explanation of Sepphoris

“Come and see,” said Philip.

Philip doesn't try to debate him.  He doesn't try to give him information, he simply invites him to "Come and see."  

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

Jesus draws a connection between Nathanael and Jacob, the patriarch.  Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) was a person who used deceit in his early life to get what he wanted. 

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

50 Jesus said, “You believe[a] because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you,[b] you[c] will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’[d] the Son of Man.”

When Nathanael meets Jesus, he has a unique experience that is mystical and wonderful.  He feels known and seen.  Jesus spoke into his life.  And then he makes a declaration about Jesus' Lordship that is nothing short of amazing.  But that's what you do when you feel known. 

He didn't expect what he found.  All of his preconceived notions were thrown out the window.  

Where have you encountered an unlikely Light in your life?

A story about finding Jesus in the hospital 

1. Set your intentions toward the Light and the Light will come. 

2. Be discerning, but don’t be dismissive. 

3. Let yourself be open to Light from unlikely places and people—after all, you are also an unlikely source. 



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