Disciple’s Identity Given By The Master

Finding the truth lies in searching the truth sincerely.

You are Simon, son of John; you will be called cephas (Jn.1:42). The disciple’s identity is always given by the Master. He gives it to whomever He wishes, with a special intention. This is not borrowed by money, power or politics.

Jesus says, “Follow me” (Jn.1:43) He invites Philip to follow Him. He invites every disciple to follow Him closely. The close following can help one to know the Master well. Jesus might have seen many in Galilee, but He chooses only a few. The vocation to be a disciple is a special gift, and to attain that gift, one has to have deep longing of heart.

Once Philip followed Jesus closely, it helped him to know the Master well and he shares it with his brother John. He discovered Him as the one about whom Moses wrote in the law and the prophets, “Jesus, Son of Joseph from Nazareth” (Jn.1:45). From those words one can be sure that he was aware of Old Testament and he was a seeker of the Messiah.

A continuous seeking with an open heart is necessary to know the Master. “Can anything good come from Nazareth” (Jn.1:46). These words are not a discouraging one. In fact Nathaniel too was a teacher, and he was well aware of the Torah. He was also a seeker but he could not find out from the Torah about the Messiah who will be coming from Nazareth. Thus he was surprised to hear Philip’s discovery and he was ready to take an extra step to know the truth. He takes Philip’s invitation positively and goes to meet Jesus face to face and experience Him by forgoing his intellectual thinking. A seeker who seeks the Master from the intellectual level cannot discover Him.

This attitude of Nathanial is appreciated by Jesus. He praises him by saying, “Here is a true Israelite” (Jn.1:47). True Israelite is always ready to take an extra step to have a personal relationship with his or her Master. Israel was a chosen race, and Yahweh chose them to be His own. This is compared to spousal relationship. This closeness is being experienced by Nathaniel and Jesus does not see any bad intention in his question. What will be the Master’s response when we approach Him to become a follower? The Identity of true Israelite, is given to Nathaniel.

This wonder happens in us too, when we go close to Him as a true seeker with a sincere intention. Jesus will reveal to us what we are and what is our intention. Here some might be frightened and they try to avoid the Master who speaks truth. The seeker really discovers the Master, and he replies, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel” (Jn.1:49). Nathaniel, who was a teacher discovers the greatest teacher who speaks only truth. He discovered Jesus as the Son of God and King of Israel.

The real discovery is possible through sincere seeking with an open heart. He even humbled himself in front of Philip and went with him to know the Master well, and thus Jesus reveals to Him more and more. As we too are called to be his disciples, how deep is our understanding, discovery about our Master whom we follow? How many are invited through us to experience Jesus by staying with Him?

– – – written by Fr. Biju Maramkuzhackal SVD