John 1:43-51

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

This is a Jewish story that is full of Jewish jokes and the camaraderie that is present between Jewish men. It is full of good humor and joy. It is a story of someone who discovered in one moment a relationship that became the most important friendship in his life. The probability is that Nathaniel told this story because he remembered it as the moment when his life was changed. It's like the stories that people tell about when they saw their future husband or wife for the first time. It has that spirit of joy and of the memory of a life changing moment.

This story also reflects the rivalry between the various towns of Galilee. Phillip finds Nathaniel and tells him "We've found the one about whom Moses and the law and all the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." And Nathaniel says cynically, "Ha,can anything good come out of Nazareth?" His tone comes from the competitions that were held between the guys in Nazareth and the guys in Bethsaida and in Capernaum and all the various towns around. This is the kind of verbal jousting that is characteristic of small-town competitions in all ages. I know about that because I grew up in one, Clayton,Ohio, and we had various competitions—softball, football, basketball— between the boys from Clayton, Brookville, Phillipsburg, Trotwood, and all the other little towns around Clayton. That's the spirit of this story. The towns of Galilee all competed with each other and Nathaniel responds with a put down of Nazareth. Phillip responds by implicitly agreeing but persists by saying "Come and see" and so Nathaniel goes.

Jesus' words about Nathaniel are a Jewish joke. When Nathaniel comes to him, he says"Look at this, an Israelite in whom there is no guile," that is, no trickery, conniving, or deception. Jesus’ joke refers back to all the stories of Jacob in which he tricked his brother, Esau, out of the inheritance and later tricked his father-in-law out of his sheep.He was constantly involved in one plot or another in which he was deceiving somebody for his own benefit. These are the kind of jokes that the sons of Jacob told about each other. They all recognized that this was a characteristic of many members of their community. Jesus looked at Nathaniel and saw that this guy was upfront with everything.

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