Summary: Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Epiphany II John 1: 46 "Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked.
“Can anything good come out of….?” You fill in the blank.
This phrase—“Can anything good come out of?”—is found within the story of Jesus calling his first disciples, John chapter one.
According to the story, John the Baptist is preaching. John points to Jesus. “Behold the Lamb of God!” he says. TWO of John’s disciples—Andrew, and one other (perhaps John, the writer of the Gospel, himself) follow Jesus. Andrew finds Peter, who in turn follows Jesus.
Jesus, a little later, calls Philip to follow. And Philip, in turn, finds Nathanael. “We have found the Messiah!” he tells him, the one spoken of, prophesied, it he Scriptures. “He is Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph.”
Nathanael’s response: “Nazareth? Can anything good come out Nazareth?”
WHY would Nathan say that? Why the NEGATIVE, seemingly CONDESCENDING response?
Well, scholars have debated that for centuries.
--Theological reasons. Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament. No prophet comes from there. There are no references to it as having a role in the coming of the Messiah. Bethlehem IS mentioned, as the Messiah’s birthplace. There is no THEOLOGICAL significance assigned specifically the village of Nazareth.
--It could be an ethnic slur. Galilean Jews would have been exposed to more Gentile populations living in the area, considered not such a good thing.
--Nathanael’s comment could reflect civic SNOBBERY. Perhaps the Judeans considered Nazareth an INFERIOR place. Perhaps MORALLY inferior, it may have developed a reputation for meanness, wickedness, disrespect for the law, unbelief.
--OR it might just be that it was considered by many to be a rural “backwater”—unimportant , inferior in the minds of the elites. What might be referred today as “fly over” country by people residing in New York City or Los Angeles. “Podunk, U.S.A.”
--OR it could be a COMBINATION of ALL OF THE ABOVE!
For whatever reason, Nazareth, not only in the mind of Nathanael, but in the minds of many, would have been considered the absolute LAST place that anything good, or any ONE good, especially the long awaited MESSIAH, would come from!
….SO NOW it is up to YOU to fill in the blank. “Can anything GOOD come out of ….?”
--You might fill it in with a LOCATION. Some location YOU despise, or at least feel little affection for. The East Side of Buffalo. The South Side of Chicago. Some inner city area. Some part of the country or some town that you don’t particularly like for whatever reason. Some place you think of as inferior or as having little significance. Some small town composed of just a stop light, a gas station, and a little church. Some little place you look down on, you sophisticated city or affluent suburban dweller!
---OR, if you prefer,…..fill in the blank with a set of CIRCUMSTANCES.
“Can anything good come out of……?”
Can anything good come out of a PANDEMIC, which has killed millions of people....and which has affected just about every area of our lives.
Can anything good come out of a messy divorce?
Can anything good come out of a time of sickness?
Can anything good come out of a devastating LOSS, loss of a loved one through death, loss of a job and the security that job provided?
Can anything good come out of a time of financial distress? Through no fault of your own…your CAR ENGINE blows up, your ROOF goes bad. Stuff happens at the worst possible time.
“CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME OUT OF……?
You fill in the blank. A location. A set of circumstances.
AND THE ANSWER….BECAUSE OF JESUS…. IS ALWAYS………YES!
JESUS is the paradigm here.
Jesus. Born in a stable, under very difficult circumstances. Raised by peasant parents. Brought up in a country bumpkin, “off the radar” town.
Which says what? GOD’S WAYS of doing things is not necessarily OUR way of doing things!
…That GOD has an uncanny ability to pull the iron out of the fire, to bring good out of bad!
….To bring forth greatness from people and places and circumstances we least expect it to come from!
….Greatness and blessing from people emerging from the most humble or even tragic of circumstances.
Unimpressive people, people who have messed up their lives royally, written off as being of little value by those in the know!
OF course, Jesus had no sin. He hadn’t messed up anything. But he does emerge from the most humble of circumstances. And that was enough for some to DISQUALIFY him. No WAY this can be the MESSIAH!
“Can anything good come out of NAZARETH?” Some, perhaps most at the time, would say: “No.”
But GOD says: “Yes! ABSOLUTELY!”
“Can anything good come out of…….?
That question gets asked once again, in the story, several years down the line. Jesus, now betrayed, rejected, run out on. Still worse, persecuted, prosecuted, led up a hill called Calvary. Place on a cross between two thieves. Many ask themselves: “Can anything GOOD come out of this situation?” Can anything good POSSIBLY come out of this set of circumstances?