Family Liturgies

John 1: On Noticing


by Erika Marksbury

Scripture Reading
John 1:43-50 (NRSV)

Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?”

Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”

Memory Verse

“Come and see…”/“You will see greater things than these.” – John 1:46, 50

Thoughts on Scripture

Read that dialogue again. Nathanael has his doubts when Philip tells him about Jesus. “From that town? Really?” he asks, pretty sure that he knows all he’ll ever want to know about people who come from there.

But look how quickly Nathanael changes his mind. When he hears Jesus name him – as one in whom there is no deceit – and when he learns that Jesus has seen him, he is convinced. “Son of God!” he cries out. “King of Israel!”

Was he so hungry for attention that he’d name anyone who really saw him “King”? Or was there something about the specifics of what Jesus named – the way he noticed a quality that lived deep inside Nathanael – that convinced Nathanael of Philip’s claims about Jesus?

Nathanael had been ready to discount Jesus based on his hometown, but Jesus, in his first words to Nathanael, indicated that he looked beyond the superficial qualities that often shape our initial judgments. In doing so, he freed Nathanael to do the same – to look beyond – and invited him into a reciprocal knowing, a real relationship. Both men are changed. And even greater things – greater knowing, greater joy – are promised.

Questions to Discuss

-Have you ever seen something good come from someplace you didn’t expect? What was that like?

-Has anyone ever known something about you without your having to say it? How did that make you feel?

– Jesus calls Nathanael “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” If you were the one walking toward him, what might he say of you? What would you want him to say?

– What are some “great things” you have seen? What are some “greater things” you hope to see?

Spiritual Practice

As a family, commit to spending some time – a weekend? a day? an evening? – noticing each other. Come together to share specifics of what you’ve seen, and to affirm one another. You might even try staging a living-room parade, taking turns being the announcer, naming each other’s gifts like Jesus named Nathanael’s: “Here is a girl in whom creativity and cleverness abound!” “Here is a boy in whom kindness and humor are overflowing!” “Here is a partner whose compassion is a gift to the soccer team, the PTA, and me.”


Holy One,
We give thanks for those who notice us. It is wonderful to be known. Open our eyes, our minds, our hearts, that we might notice one another’s gifts, and name one another in ways that bring joy. Amen.


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