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Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy

Second Sunday of Epiphany

John 1. 43-end:
"Forming Community "

Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Sharing Together:

Has anyone helped to bring you to meet Jesus? Was this through personal contact or by reading something they had written? Does the kind of person who helps you in this way ever come from a background very different from your own?

A Window on the Text:

John’s Gospel gives no direct account of Jesus’ baptism, or the 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. We are brought straight into the formation of his new community of disciples and believers.

Jesus seems to appeal to all types – not only the ‘already religious’ like John the Baptist but also the quiet unassuming ones like Andrew, prepared not only to spend time in discovering who Jesus is but to go and tell others, including extrovert enthusiasts like brother Simon Peter. He in turn, although impulsive and unreliable, is recognised by Jesus as having the potential to be a great leader.

Next is Philip, ordinary, and not particularly impressive, who we will meet again several times, where he comes across as a little slow on the uptake! (See John 6 v 5-7 and 14 v 8-11). But at least he is keen to introduce others to Jesus, not only here but in John 20 v 20-22. Philip brings the intellectual, sceptical, even snobbish perhaps, Nathanael – who finds himself shocked out of his cynicism when told by Jesus that he has already seen him under the fig tree. Jesus says it is not his ‘supernatural’ insight into Nathanael’s whereabouts that is significant but the fact that he has come to bring into reality the long-awaited vision of God uniting heaven and earth. Once his prejudices are dispelled, Nathanael is open to the truth.

It is interesting that the titles disowned by John the Baptist earlier in this chapter – “neither Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet” – are now given to Jesus, whose only claim himself is to be “the Son of Man” – the Human One.
Responding as a community
  1. Is Christianity caught or taught?

  2. To what extent are you as individuals and as a community open to learning from the most unlikely people you meet? How can we become more open?

  3. What were or are your prejudices and hang ups about following Jesus? What convinced Nathanael in the end, and what has helped you?

  4. How are disagreements between different personality types recognised and handled in your Christian community? To what extent are differences accepted, honoured and celebrated?
Praying Together
  1. Pray that each of you will be an encouragement to others in what you do and say, and that your words will be free from prejudice, racism or cynicism.
  2. Pray for the discernment to see everyone through the eyes of Jesus, and to welcome them with his truth and trust. Pray that barriers which exist within your community may be broken down, and that bigotry be uprooted from every society in the world.
  3. Use this prayer by Michael Counsell:

    “We come before you Lord Jesus like your first disciples:
    unsure of ourselves, and uncertain in our faith.
    We are all different Lord, but you love each one of us for our uniqueness.
    What binds us together is that we have all heard you calling us.
    Make us willing to learn,
    and to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is in the midst of us.”

  4. Use this poem as a meditation. It was written among the homeless and outcasts of Paris by Mother Maria Skobtsova (1891 – 1945) a Russian Orthodox nun, active in the resistance movement, who died in Ravensbrook concentration camp.

    There are no prophecies. Only life
    continuously acts as prophet.
    The end approaches, days grow shorter.
    You took a servant’s form. Hosanna.

    I searched for singers and for prophets
    who wait by the ladder to heaven,
    see signs of the mysterious end,
    sing songs beyond our comprehension.

    And I found people who were restless, orphaned, poor,
    drunk, despairing, useless,
    lost whichever way they went,
    homeless, naked, lacking bread.

Going Deeper
  1. Bethsaida was an unimportant place in the Gentile territory of Galilee. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament and was not thought the sort of place to produce prophets, leaders, kings or Sons of God. There may have been local jealousies between it and Cana and Nazareth, all small communities within this area and from where these men originate. There are also some accounts of false prophets coming from Nazareth, and causing local disturbances.

  2. “Under the fig-tree” was recognised as a place for the study of Scripture and prayer, especially in hot weather. Perhaps Nathanael was a Rabbi? References to fig trees in Micah 4 v 4 and Zechariah 3 v 10 symbolise them as places of messianic peace and plenty.

  3. Some see verse 51 as a later addition amplifying the “greater things” that Jesus promises will be seen by Nathanael. There are hints within this verse of the angels in the wilderness and at the empty tomb; of the identification of the Son of Man with Jacob and thus Israel; of the angels communicating between the Father in heaven and Jesus on earth; and of heaven opening at Jesus’ baptism by John. How many of these references the original Gospel writer meant to imply we cannot tell, but it would seem that he intended to show that Jesus as the Son of Man is the point of contact between heaven and earth, and that eventually the disciples will come to recognise this for themselves.


Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion

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