Jesus already knows us,
even if we have no calling to mind
of many of our prior encounters with him,
even if we do not Name or recognize
His presence and efforts at the depths of our lives.
“The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee,
and found Philip, and said to him, ‘Follow me‘.
Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Philip found Nathanael, and said unto him,
‘We have found him, of whom Moses in the law,
and the Prophets, did write,
Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph‘.
And Nathanael said unto him,
‘Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?‘.
Philip said to him, ‘Come and see‘.
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him,
‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!‘.
Nathanael said to Him, ‘Whence knows You me?‘.
Jesus answered and said unto him,
‘Before that Philip called you,
when you was under the fig tree, I saw you‘.
Nathanael answered and said to him,
R‘abbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel‘.
Jesus answered and said to him,
‘Because I said unto you, I saw you under the fig tree,
you shall see greater things than these.
And he said to him, ‘Verily, verily,
I say to you, Hereafter you shall see Heaven open,
and the angels of God ascending
and descending upon the Son of man‘“.
What is wrong with me
that I sometimes don’t recognize people
I’ve met before?
Am I arrogant? I hope not. Am I losing my short and long term memory?
Have I a kind of Alzheimer? I didn’t think so.
Sometimes I have the sinking feeling
that maybe I’m just not aware enough
of my surroundings in general.
And it’s probably not because
I’m walking around lost in profound thoughts
deaf and blind for everything.
For most ‘human failings’,
there is a biblical Character
to provide company for our misery.
In my case, it’s Nathanael. Jesus already knows him.
As Nathanael walks toward Jesus, Jesus describes him:
“Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!“.
It doesn’t appear to be tongue in cheek.
It seems like a straightforward description
based on his knowledge of Nathanael.
Nathanael says, in effect, “I don’t believe we’ve met“.
Where did you get to know me?
He is so moved by Jesus’ prior knowledge of him
that he makes a confession of Faith.
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God.
You are the King of Israel“.
To which Jesus responds, in effect,
“You aren’t seen nothing yet!”
“Do you believe because I told you
that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than these. . . .
You will see Heaven opened
and the angels of God
ascending and descending
upon the Son of Man“.
In our lives, every time we approach Jesus,
it is in the context of his prior approaches to us.
Every time we recognize his presence in ourselves and others,
in events and moments,
it is because He continually recognizes God in us.
Jesus already knows us,
even if we have no recollection of many of our prior encounters with him,
even if we do not Name or recognize His presence
and efforts at the depths of our lives.
John’s Good Message affirms that The Good Shepherd
knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice [psalm 22].
“I am the good shepherd.
I know my own and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.
The sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice“.
The Prologue tells us that Jesus
“came to what was His own,
and His own people
did not accept Him“.
The Gospel of John has recognition
and failure of recognition as a key theme.
In a number of encounters with Jesus,
people focus on their problems at a literal level
while He stands, unrecognized, before them.
For example, Nicodemus [chapter 3],
the woman at the well [chapter 4]
and the man by the pool of Bethzatha [chapter 5].
Others do recognize Him.
Jesus was killed precisely because His enemies did recognize Him.
As His Healings escalated in drama and power,
so did His threat factor to those who opposed Him.
They recognized Him as the bringer of sight to the blind
[healing of the man blind from birth in chapter 10]
and the raiser of the dead [Lazaros in chapter 11].
In the Good Message of John, Jesus always recognizes us,
but we do not always recognize Him.
The Good Shepherd knows his sheep
– He recognizes who we were meant to be,
namely Children of God [John.1: 12],
in the tangle of our current lives.
The goal of the Gospel is to equip us
to recognize His life within ourselves and the world.
“These things are written
so that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,
and that through believing
you may have life in His Name” [John.20: 31].
[‘Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy upon me, sinner . . . . .‘]
Our task is clear
—with God’s help, we are to enhance our facial recognition skills.
Knowing Jesus is present in every moment, every person, every situation,
we are to be on the lookout for Him,
recognizing His presence and influence
throughout each day.
On my toilet there is a booklet with sayings from Mother Theresa:
She answered when someone asked her,
“What do you do all day walking the streets of Calcutta?“.
She said, “I behold Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God, in every face I see“.
It’s well-known that the monks on the Holy Mountain [Athos]
serve the pilgrims, who are visiting the Holy Monasteries,
with only one object in mind:
“the coming visitor is Jesus Christ Himself in Person,
what I do as a servant,
I do for Christ Himself“.
That’s life ► meeting everybody as an Icon,
as an Image of God.
In that moment
– you will not quarrel,
– you will not be agitated, touched or heated,
– you will accept everything,
– because He is your Creator.
Indeed, in that moment you pray:
‘Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy upon me, sinner . . . . .‘
After Jesus’ Resurrection, Mary of Magdala didn’t recognize Him in the garden,
mistaking Him for the gardener,
until He calls her by name [John.20: 16].
He already knows her. They have met
each other many times before.
So an appropriate response from Mary would not be to put out her hand
to shake His and to say,
“Good morning. My name is Mary.
I don’t believe we’ve met you before“.
An appropriate response for her and for us is,
“I recognize You.
I believe we have met each other many times before“,
because we are God’s Children, His children.
“Grace and truth have shone forth.
The predictions of old have been clearly fulfilled.
Behold, the Church adorns herself with the form of Christ incarnate!
The icons of the new creation transcend the adornments of the old.
As the Ark of the Covenant held the presence of God,
so now the icons reveal the presence of the One we adore.
By honouring them we will never go astray.
It is our glory to fall down and worship Christ in the flesh.
Come, O faithful, venerate His image and cry out:
‘O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance!‘”
Verses on “Lord I call“ for the Sunday of Orthodoxy