The Stodden Churches

I wonder if you have ever thought about how Jesus sees us? If we take time to really reflect on that question it should give us a real challenge as to how we live our lives, on the choices we make and the values we claim to live by.

In our gospel reading today, which takes place not long after Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan, we see Jesus’ encounter with Nathanael. It comes about through Philip who had already had his own encounter with Jesus, inviting Nathanael to come and see the Jesus that he had found so life-changing.

When Jesus sees Nathanael approaching him he says of him: “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false”. Jesus does not say to Nathanael something like, “You look well today” or “You look tired”. He is not looking at the outside of Nathanael, rather he is looking at the inside; right into his soul. Jesus can see his real character, as if Nathanael’s skin and bone were of glass and Jesus had a clear view into his heart and mind.

Jesus looks at us in a very different way to anyone else. He really “knows” us from the word “go”. He can see how we tick. He could see what made Nathanael tick, which was a dedication to truth. He was an honest man who walked a straight line, there was no skew of deviousness in his soul. By calling Nathanael a true Israelite Jesus was comparing him to Jacob in the Old Testament story of Esau and Jacob where Jacob deceived their father Isaac and stole Esau’s birth right. Later God renamed Jacob Israel, which means “He who struggles with God”, but Jacob never truly left behind his deceitful ways. Right at the heart of who Jesus is, is truth. It is a value and a way of living that Jesus praises because it is so close to who he is. Remember Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

Nathanael is amazed at Jesus’ intimate knowledge of him given that they had not met before; “How do you know me?” he asks. And Jesus replies “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael is blown away by Jesus’ statement, for only God could see him in his private moments. So he responds with a real positive declaration of faith; “You are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.” We know that Nathanael is not flattering Jesus because of what Jesus has revealed about Nathanael’s true nature as a man whose life is about truth and honesty. He really means it; he is stunned into faith by how Jesus has really seen who he is.

So have you ever thought about how Jesus sees you? As I said at the beginning if we take time to really reflect on that question it should give us a real challenge as to how we live our lives, on the choices we make and the values we claim to live by. Jesus is the Son of God and he really sees us, he knows what we are really like on the inside. I know that makes me pause for thought; some of my inner thoughts and desires I would rather he could not see – but he can. I may not be sitting under a fig tree, I might be in my bed, or driving the car, going for a walk. Or just sitting quietly thinking on my own, but Jesus sees the real me.

Now the idea of Jesus being able to really see what we are thinking or desiring can feel rather frightening; a bit like having a dream that you are walking about naked on Paddington Station in the rush hour, and then waking up and finding it really is happening.

But as those who are followers of Jesus, who know his true nature as love as well as truth, then we should not be afraid of his gaze. Jesus will always use how he really see us, warts and all, to draw us closer to him. Jesus looked into the heart of Matthew the tax collector, saw him as he really was, corrupt and self-seeking, and the result was that Matthew followed him, just like Nathanael. Jesus called the cheating trader Zacchaeus out of a tree and went to his house because he could see the full truth of who that man was and so Zacchaeus changed the direction of his life and became a giver rather than a taker. Jesus called Simon the Zealot from a life of terrorism to become one of his key disciples because he could see the full truth of who Simon was.

We should not try and hide from Jesus’ gaze, but rather welcome how he sees us. Sometimes taking time to reflect on how Jesus sees the real me, right now, can cause me to walk closer to him, to get to know him better, and become more true to his truth than my own.

I wonder how Jesus sees you today? 

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