January 5,

The first disciples 

The next day he [Jesus ] decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jn 1,43-51

All the prophets of the Old Testament had been originated from the Judea and the Messiah, according to the prophecies, would have to be born in that region, as Jesus says to the Samaritan woman: “You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews” (Jn 4,22). In fact, Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, even if Mary and Joseph had brought him soon to Nazareth in Galilee, where they lived. Nathaniel, who later became the apostle Bartholomew, did not know these facts and, therefore, when Philip told him that he had found the Messiah, “Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth” he, who was a simple and immediate spirit, replied: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”. Bartholomew, whom Jesus had already seen under the fig tree to quietly rest, was used to say openly what he thought. Jesus says of him: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him”. Also Philip was a guy like that and this affinity made them friends. In subsequent times, when Jesus will begin to speak of the Father to the apostles, Philip, with equal frankness, will answer to him: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (Jn 14,8). Who knows how they were feeling, at the beginning, Bartholomew and Philip, to be with “navigated” people as Judas and Matthew, or concrete like Thomas, or with that idealist of Simon, the Zealot, a revolutionary against Rome! Moreover, even Simon, we can imagine, would have not favourably considered Matthew, who was a tax collector on behalf of the Romans. And also Peter, James and John, who had to pay the taxes on the fish which they fished, would have not much appreciated the company of Matthew. However, Jesus will choose as apostles these people so different and not even friends with each other. They, with the exception of Judas, will face the world to proclaim the gospel and they will die as martyrs. If we think that, along with Paul and a few others, these characters were to be the first church, we realize the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Even today!

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