In the first scene of the above clip, Nathanael pulls out the parchment drawings of his grand synagogue plans and whispers to God, “This was done for you.” He then begins to pray, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,” before quoting the first two verses of Psalm 102 while striking the flint to create a spark of fire for those blueprints. In the end, he sprinkles the ashes of his plans over his head at sunset, tears running down his face. He whispers, “Do you see me?”
Come and See
The next time we see Nathanael, he is in a dark room, despondent. His friend, Philip (the newest disciple to join Jesus), tells Nathanael that he has found the Messiah, a man from Nazareth. Nathanael scoffs, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?!” Philip’s constant refrain is, “Come and see.” As Jesus meets them in the street, he looks into Nathanael’s face and says, “When you were in your lowest moment, and you were alone…I did not turn my face from you. I saw you, under the fig tree.” Nathanael’s eyes widen and he responds, “Rabbi…You are the Son of God, the King of Israel.” In that moment, the man who came to see, saw. He saw heaven coming to earth, meeting in the man in front of him (Gen 28:12-17, John 1:51). But, what was more, when Nathanael came to see, he was seen. He wasn’t alone or abandoned under the fig tree when his dreams burned to ashes. His cry did not go unheard or unheeded. His wound did not go unseen.
Often in our own lives, we have plans for how we think God is going to use us or our talents. They may be perfectly good ideas and dreams. But rarely does it happen that our plans end up being the ones God chooses. He often takes us far out of our comfort zones, out of our small visions (or in some cases, our erroneously grandiose visions), and uses us and our gifts in ways we would not have chosen. Sometimes, everything we’ve tried to do for God must be in ashes around us before we lift our tear-stained faces to him and whisper, “This was done for you. Do you hear me? Do you see me?” He does hear. He does see. He does not turn his face away from us.
Even as he burned up his synagogue plans, Nathanael prayed. He offered his dreams as a sacrifice on the altar to God. He gave his plans and skill into God’s hands, not knowing what to do next. Then, he answered Philip’s call to come and see; to follow the King of Israel.
For Nathanael, there was nothing wrong or sinful about wanting to build a beautiful place to worship God. But Jesus was about to call him to build something much, much bigger than one beautiful synagogue—Jesus wanted Nathanael to assist in building the Church. In the closing line of the episode, Jesus says, “So… You wanted to build something that would cause prayer and songs, something to bring souls closer to God, yes?” Nathanael nods and Jesus lifts his eyebrows, “Can you start tomorrow?”
If you are in a confused and lonely place because of failure or loss, know that God sees you. He may be waiting for you to cry to him in your distress. He may be waiting for you to be still so that he can speak in the silence. And he may be about to send a Philip-friend to you to bid you to come and see. To see God from another perspective. To see his much bigger plans for you in his Kingdom.
Can you start tomorrow?
Written by Jody Byrkett, Reflect Senior Editor
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