Rev. James A. Splitt
January 16, 2000
John 1:43-51 I Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51 [NIV] The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me." Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote óJesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. Come and see," said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that." He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
I Corinthians 6:12-20 [NIV] "Everything is permissible for me "óbut not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me "óbut I will not be mastered by anything. "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food "óbut God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
The call of Nathanael to discipleship is a Bible story worth knowing. Philip and Nathanael are friends. Philip had already been selected by Jesus to be a disciple. Hoping that Nathanael would be a disciple too, Philip goes to him and tells him about Jesus of Nazareth. There is a bit of humor here as Nathanael makes a "dig" on Jesus, wondering what good can come from Nazareth, a city in Galilee. With this in mind Philip and Nathanael set off to find Jesus; and, shortly they meet on the road. Instead of a return "dig," Jesus pays Nathanael a compliment: "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." As if Jesus were reading his thoughts, Nathanael wants to know how Jesus knows him. Quite innocently Jesus responds Ö "I saw you under the fig tree." Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
What prompts such a certain confession of faith? Is it because Jesus saw in him a man of truth and respect or because he was seen sitting under a fig tree? An interesting twist of irony is Nathanael reference to this man from Galilee being the "King of Israel." Nathanael speaks the truth. A term that would later be used to mock Jesus is the words of a new disciple who had mockingly challenged his friend Philip about this man from Galilee. Jesus recognized the true faith of his next disciple and tells him to stick around, heís going to witness "greater things" to deepen his faith in the Son of God, King of Israel.[see The New Interpreterís Bible, vol IX., p.532].
There is a contrast between this Gospel story in John and our other New Testament text from I Corinthians. John portrays the call of the disciple Nathanael, who is seen by Christ as a man above reproach, honest, a man of truth. Paulís message is a warning. We can sell our self short of discipleship if we defile the bodies God has given to us. The Greek work pornea (the basis of the word pornography) literally means to sell ourselves. We initiate our own slavery, or bondage to human compulsions. Often translated as sexual morality, this selling out can mean more than that. Anything which we do to destroy our bodies is a form of pornea, a lust or desire that is destructive the goodness and quality of life God has given to us. Nathanael stands against this text as the example to follow.
What does Jesus see in you? Paul reminds us that we can always do what ever we please. We have free will. We can choose that which is beneficial for ourselves and our body or we can make choices that sell ourselves out. I recently talked with someone who wants to get right with God. They feel alienated and separated from God. Ashamed and embarrassed about the lifestyle this person was leading, they wanted to know what to do to change. Getting right with God means to stop selling ourselves short of the life God gave to us, and seek that which is healthy and wholesome. What does it mean to you that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? Paul uses the play on words to show that we do not have to sell our bodies to harmful lusts and cravings, cause Jesus has bought us with a precious price. Our body, mind and soul belong to God. We are not to sell ourselves away from God!
I want to recommend the book The Jesus Prescription for a Healthy Life, written by Leonard Sweet. Sweet is the Dean of the Divinity School at Drew University in Madison, NJ. He used to be the Chancellor of United Theological Seminary in Dayton. This book looks at the life of Jesus and his teaching as a model for the lives we are to lead. In the chapter, Mind Your Thoughts, Sweet addresses the same discussion as Paul, that our bodies are sacred. "Jesus presented new ways of thinking about what it means to be "healthy" of mind as well as body." (p.86) Jesus looks for people like Nathanael who have a healthy perspective on life. When we turn our thoughts to evil, sexual immorality, pornography, cravings, lusts, addictions, we are selling what rightfully belongs to God.
This behavior of pornea arises out of deep-seated neediness. We have cravings of the flesh because something is missing in our life. Our insecurity fosters unhealthy behaviors. But it is this deep yearning within our soul that can be quenched when we seek the righteousness of God.
"Jesus taught the same principle: thinking and doing are no different. Lust is the same spiritual sin as adultery. Hate is the same spiritual sin as murder (Matthew 5:21-28). The ultimate offender is not a body part but a spirit. If our inner environment is not clean, the outside will not be clean either." (Sweet. p.91)
How do we want Jesus to see us? Nathanael realized that Jesus not only saw him under the fig tree, but Jesus saw his inner self. Our call to discipleship is a call to holy living. Hereís a story about a modern day Nathanael. It comes from A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul: "What Goes Around Comes Around," p. 68-69. Les Brown who was a disc jockey in Columbus tells this story. After work, he had a ritual of going to University Hospital or Grant Hospital and visiting with patients. He would read scripture to them and take time to talk with them. One day on his radio program he exposed a scam by a local entertainment group. He gave an editorial that alerted the public to the fact that this promoter was bringing entertainers to town who were not the original members of the group. This resulted in a contract being put on Lesí life. One night a man approached him at his car and asked if he was Les Brown. "Yes," he replied. The stranger told him about the promoter who had placed a contract on his life. This stranger had agreed to do the job. Les, fearing for his life, wondered what the man was going to do. "You visited my mother in the hospital while I was in prison. She wrote me all about it and I wanted to meet you." When the stranger had heard the word on the street about the contract, he agreed Ö but he was clever and warned the promoter to leave Les alone.
Our soul is precious, bought with the price of a loving Savior. Letís take care of the temple that houses our soul.
References: Sweet, Leonard. The Jesus Prescription for a Healthy Life. Nashville: Abingdon Press. 1996. Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen. A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul. 1993.