In the Gospel of John chapter one Jesus meets Nathaniel. It is interesting that prior to meeting Jesus, Nathaniel asks “can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Three verses later, he is confessing that Jesus is “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel.”
What happened that Nathaniel would make such a drastic change? Jesus said upon meeting him that he had already saw him underneath the fig tree. Jesus response is one that follows us through the Gospel, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” I especially like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of that statement “You haven’t seen anything yet.”
The very next story in John reports that Jesus turns the water into wine. I wonder what Nathaniel’s reaction was to that. Since this was even greater than being seen underneath the fig tree, he may have thought this was what Jesus meant when he said “you haven’t seen anything yet.”
In chapter four, Jesus heals the son of a royal official. In chapter five, a man diseased for thirty-eight years. Now, Nathaniel is probably thinking, I have seen it all. Jesus was right, I hadn’t seen anything before I met Him. But, then in chapter six, five thousand hungry people are fed with five pieces of bread and two fish. Then he sees Jesus walking on the water. Now, he must think, I have seen everything.
But then in chapter nine, he sees a man who was born blind. John reports that “since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.” Why not? We know the answer to that, because it is impossible. But Jesus wipes his eyes with mud and asks him to go wash and he “came back seeing.” And Nathaniel must have been standing by remembering the words of Jesus, “you haven’t seen anything yet.”
In chapter eleven we have a graveside scene. This is a funeral service. Jesus arrives with his disciples. John wants us to know that Lazarus has been dead for “four days.” He wants to make sure we know this so he shares it again. We know what it means to be in the grave for four days. We don’t need to be told. When in the grave four days, it means you are dead. Lazarus is history. It’s over for Lazarus.
But we want to be careful. Since we know that the bible can never mean what it was not intended to mean, we want to make sure that we understand what it was intended to mean. It was intended to mean that… Lazarus is dead. John wants to make certain that we grasp this, so he repeats it twice. He knows that once we have already heard the story, we may take for granted that a dead man can come back to life. John knows that it is impossible to make a dead man come back to life. So he emphasizes the point that there is no hope for Lazarus.
It is in this context of hopelessness that Jesus says, “let us go to him.” It is in this context that Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life.” It is when life is over for Lazarus that Jesus asks “where have you laid him?” It is in the midst of an impossible situation that Jesus “being deeply moved within, came to the tomb.” Maybe Martha was right, Jesus was too late, if Jesus had only been there, her brother would not have died. Still Jesus said “remove the stone” and “Lazarus come forth.”
John doesn’t stutter. He doesn’t try to build suspense. He just tells us what happened. “He who had died came forth.” But even this is only a pale anticipation of what is to come.
I do not have a recipe for turning water into wine. I don’t know how five thousand people could share five pieces of bread and two fish and still have leftovers. I do not know how a man born blind can wash mud from his eyes one day and suddenly see. All I know is that this is what the bible claims to be reality.
Nothing in this life prepared us for what happened at the Bethany cemetery that day. This was not the funeral service those in attendance were expecting. Who would have thought that one who was just buried over the weekend would come back to life? I wonder if Nathaniel was standing there in the crowd thinking about that first day he met Jesus and heard the words “you haven’t seen anything yet.”
The disciples never imagined that Lazarus would ever join them in worship again. They were not expecting to stop over in Bethany to join Lazarus for lunch. But John wants us to know that when Jesus returned to Bethany, they had a meal in his honor. Martha was there, she was serving (you know how Martha is). And Lazarus was there also. The story reminds us that when God is involved some things happen that we could not imagine. Perhaps on that day, if those present would have asked “how do these things happen?” they would have received a response like “you haven’t seen anything yet.”
In this reading of the Gospel, Nathaniel is found under the fig tree. The amazing thing about this is not where he was, but that Jesus said he saw him there. Later, we discover that this is really not an amazing thing at all for we “haven’t seen anything yet.”
As we follow Jesus through this Gospel, we discover that this is an understatement. Water into wine, feeding five thousand with five pieces of bread and two fish, making blind eyes see, raising a dead man. These aren’t things that just happen. In comparison, being seen underneath a fig tree doesn’t seem so impressive anymore.
As we continue to live out the Gospel, we obviously believe that Jesus continues to see us even when we are not aware. I am struck by this as I reflect on my own journey. From the Chillicothe Hospital the day I was born until this moment – he saw me.
Each one of us can be equally certain that he saw us. He saw you this morning. He saw you during your weekend activities. He has been watching your entire journey to this point. He may be calling you to something that you’ve never dreamed possible. Are we willing to respond to the God who walks into impossible situations and calls “come forth!” No matter what, be assured – “you haven’t seen anything yet.”