Friday, January 12, 2018

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Second Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:47–49)

He praises and approves the man because he had said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” And yet, shouldn’t have Jesus rather found fault in him? Surely not; for the words are not those of an unbeliever or one deserving blame, but praise. How can you say that? Because Nathanael had considered the writings of the prophets more than Philip. For he had heard from the Scriptures that Christ must come from Bethlehem, and from the village in which David was. This belief at least prevailed among the Jews, and the prophet had proclaimed it of old.… And so when he heard that Jesus was “from Nazareth,” he was confounded and doubted, not finding the announcement of Philip to agree with the prediction of the prophet.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John

[Nathanael] knows that God alone searches the heart and gives to no other man the ability to know the mind. He is probably thinking of the passage in the Psalms, “O God, who tests the hearts and inward parts” [Ps 7:9; see also Ps 139:1–3]. The psalmist assigns this special quality too to the divine nature alone, taking the position that it does not belong to anyone else. Therefore, when he realizes that the Lord saw his suspicion while it was still turning around in his mind in voiceless whispers, he immediately calls Him “teacher.” Already entering eagerly into discipleship under Him, he confesses Him to be Son of God and king of Israel who has the properties of divinity. As one who is well-instructed, he maintains that this One is certainly God by nature.

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John

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