John 1:43-51


Rev. Dr. Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras
John 1:43-51
January 17, 2021
"In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days, he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus, he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.
So one Sunday, he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. "If Christians have caste differences also," he said, "I might as well remain a Hindu." That usher's prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior."[1]
Many of us value people based on their ethnicity, zip code, and color. Prejudice clouds our judgment. The sin of prejudice is an age-old problem. We have many examples of stories of discrimination in our Scripture. In the reading today in the Gospel of John, we encounter Jesus' disciple Nathanael, who used discriminatory language against Jesus, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Nathaniel undermined Nazareth and its residents. He did not expect the Messiah to come from a village.
According to archeologists estimates, the population of Nazareth at Jesus' time was around 400 residents.[2] Nazareth was a small village settled by a few low-income families. Nathaniel did not expect the Messiah to come from an insignificant village. Maybe he expected the Messiah to come from a big city like Jerusalem, Capernaum, or Caesarea. Some scholars also suggest that the Judeans in Nazareth were strongly influenced by Jerusalem's Jewish and priestly leaders [3] who supported the Romans. It is possible that Nathaniel hated the Jewish religious and political institution in Jerusalem and assumed that Jesus was part of them.
Jesus did not meet the expectations of the Jews, who had a militaristic and priestly character of the expected Messiah. This Messiah, who grew up in an insignificant village, is the Lord and the Savior. Jesus was different than the Jews in Nazareth. He was not a Jerusalem-centered Galilean Jew. Jesus was the Messiah who cared about ordinary and low-income people. He chose simple fishers to be his disciples and to preach the good news about the kingdom of God. Philip said to Nathaniel, "Come and see." When Nathaniel encountered Jesus, it transformed Nathaniel and cleared his clouded mind from prejudice. Nathaniel was captured by stereotyped beliefs and tended to discriminate against people who supported the political and religious institutions in Jerusalem. The Messiah Jesus touched Nathaniel's heart and made him a more understanding and open-minded person.
          Prejudice is a heart issue. The prophet Jeremiah teaches that "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure" (Jeremiah 17:9). To purge our hearts from the sin of prejudice, we need to encounter our Lord Jesus. Through God's grace, our heart will be like Jesus' heart. God is full of love and compassion for every person. In the book of Acts 10:34-35, the apostle Peter says, "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." If the church welcomed Mahatma Gandhi to worship with them, I believe Gandhi would have inspired many people in India to accept Jesus Christ.
"As partisans of our way of life', writes Allport, 'we cannot help thinking in a partisan manner . . . so that the very act of affirming our way of life often leads us to the brink of prejudice."[4] I am sure it is not easy to stop making generalizations about people.  However, unprejudiced Jesus gently confronted the prejudiced Nathaniel and changed him. Jesus did not get upset with Nathaniel or change his mind when calling on him to be his disciple. On the contrary, Jesus saw in Nathaniel a person who is ready to welcome God's grace and follow him. Jesus gave Nathaniel a chance because he knew that Nathaniel desires to repent and follow him. Jesus repeatedly gives us the same chance. Are we willing to take the chance?
To cleanse your heart from the sin of prejudice does not happen through taking workshops on anti-discrimination or by reading articles. You need the help of God to fight this sin. You and I would experience God's grace when we come before the throne of mercy, asking for help and direction. When we commit ourselves to discipleship, the Holy Spirit strengthens us. Our Lord Jesus gives Nathaniel and us an example of loving and respecting all people who may be different from us. He also teaches us that our transgressions are redeemable by the grace of God when we repent. Jesus is still calling each one of us to be his disciple.
Rely on the love of God for you. Depend on God's grace to transform you. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you. I assure you, you will become like Nathaniel, a committed disciple of Jesus Christ.

[2]Mark Allan. Powell, Introduction to the Gospels, ( Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2019), 4.
[3] Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, “What Was Wrong with Nazareth? (John 1.43-46),” Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, October 30, 2012,
[4] Gordon Allport, The nature of prejudice (New York, 1958), p 7