Perhaps the most fun thing I get to do is watch people encounter Jesus for the first time. They may have heard of him but have not really encountered him. It is a joy to see the light go on for them and to hear their early observations. I have been a Christian for a long time. I cannot remember waking up and not belonging. Inside the Kingdom is my ‘normal’ and I get to see it fresh through the eyes of my friends and appreciate anew what a wonder it all is.
As a spiritual exercise I have been trying to read scripture through the lens of a new comer. Over the years I have developed my own hermeneutic (way of reading and understanding Scripture). I default to my learnings in the past and create difficulty in discovering anything that may lay outside them. This new discipline, which I have learned from my Street Hope friends, involves setting aside preconceived notions and approaching the Gospel story with fresh eyes. This is easier said than done and I often have to stop myself. Like a train I want to run down a familiar track. I stop remove my familiar hermeneutic glasses and intentionally put on my tyro glasses. This inevitably leads me to a place of amazement, and once I stand firmly on this ground of wonder I can pick up my old frames and ‘dig deeper’.
This led me to begin to wonder what it was like for the first disciples, to encounter Jesus. Imagine Nathaniel. He is invited by a friend to meet the Messiah. He picks up his scepticism and trots off with his friend. Jesus meets him with a display of insight into the character of Nathaniel, who is impressed enough that he believes his pal’s extravagant claim that this is the Messiah. Together with the growing gaggle of disciples they crash a wedding in Cana and witness the first “sign” of Jesus’ messiahship as he turns gallons of water into the best of wine. Next he accompanies Jesus to Jerusalem where he witnesses the absolutely extraordinary ‘cleansing of the temple’. Together with his fellow disciples he recalls that the long awaited Messiah would be consumed with zeal for the house of God.
We read all this in a few verses of familiar scripture, but Nathaniel lived this in a few short days. What a mind blowing experience. His entire way of thinking had been revolutionized. There was still much he did not understand but what he had witnessed was more than enough to shatter his view of the world. What wonders his ‘fresh eyes’ witnessed! He probably spent the rest of his life processing it all.
At first reading I envy (a sin I know) Nathaniel, but then it dawns I can have a similar encounter, not just in my past but in my present. His mercies are new each morning and I can and ought to encounter him freshly in the now. My long experience in following him doesn’t preclude a current fresh encounter but only helps me to process the meeting.
I am grateful to be involved with people who experience with wide eyed wonder the Good News of Jesus. They are a gift to me to help me in my own halting walk.