The Cynic

(Part Six in the Disciples Series. Scroll down to begin at the introduction called Different Strokes.)

He leaned against the gnarled fig tree and frowned at the two strutting past.
Tax collectors. Scum. Called themselves Jews? Probably didn't know the law of Moses from the ark of Noah.

His smirk turned upside down again as Philip hurried toward him. Philip was all right, but that girl he was betrothed to...Couldn't he have found someone from a better family? And that running all the time. Athletics. Hmph.Wasn't it time to settle down to a real trade?

"Nathanael!" Philip gasped. He stood before his friend, his face coated in dust and red from exertion. "Wait till you see! We've found the Messiah!"

Nathanael, called Bartholomew by those who didn't know him well, snorted and looked toward the distant hills. "Yeah, right. Another one? You know how many "messiahs" have come along just in my lifetime?"

"This is different. You've got to meet him! He's Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph the carpenter."

Nathanael let out a whoop. "Oh, this is good! Nazareth, huh? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Philip was insistent. He grabbed Nathanael by the tunic and yanked him up. "Come and see for yourself."

Nathanael gave what he hoped was a nonchalant shrug as he found himself propelled along the dusty street after his excited friend.

In the distance, a crowd had gathered and as they approached, a man dressed in white stepped out and stood watching them. Philip halted before the stranger and dropped his grip on Nathaniel's tunic.

Nathanael felt an unwelcome flutter in his chest as his eyes locked with the stranger's.

The stranger smiled in welcome. "Nathanael, I'm glad you came. Now here is a true Israelite, totally honest in every way."

Nathanael took a step backward and his heart did a flip. "What...how do you...how do you know me?"

The stranger smiled, a flash of white against a deeply tanned face. "I saw you when you were still sitting under the fig tree. Before Philip found you."

The world receded. Nathanael's pulse pounded in his ears and he swallowed against an unfamiliar lump in his throat. For the first time in years, skepticism dropped away and he
knew. He knew who this was.

"Y-you're...you are the Son of God!" He hated the quiver in his voice, but he plunged on. "You're the one, the one we've been waiting for. The King of Israel." He looked frantically for Philip, but his friend had melted into the crowd.

It was as if the entire world had disappeared and he and the Rabbi were the only ones left.

The smile widened. "You say that simply because I said I knew you? Follow me, and you will see greater things than that."

The hand on his shoulder was light and friendly but Nathanael felt as though he was on fire. Something shifted deep inside. A humility that was unfamiliar, yet strangely welcome. He felt dirty, ashamed of himself, despite the Rabbi's kind words.

Who was this? How could it be? From Nazareth? Heat flushed his face at the thought of his derisive comment.

The Rabbi turned and began to walk back to the crowd that had gathered to hear him.

As though propelled by an unseen force, Nathanael followed. He could no longer remember what he planned for this afternoon. It had ceased to matter. This mattered. Whatever it meant, wherever this was about to take him, he was in.

The Cynic--
One possessed by a judgmental spirit
and who considers criticism a spiritual gift.


Does that sound uncomfortably familiar? Have you been or are you now a Nathanael? Is there often a running monologue inside your head as you pass judgement on those around you? You excuse it because most of the time, it's accurate. You're just being honest, you tell yourself.

It's interesting that just after Nathanael had expressed his negative opinion about Jesus' home territory, Jesus complimented him on his honesty. Imagine the shame this new disciple must have felt when he realized Jesus had known what he said and did not judge him for it.

Jesus let him know that he understood exactly what was wrong with his newest disciple and intended to transform it into a positive character quality.

It's impossible to spend much time with Jesus and retain a critical spirit.

Are you a cynic? Maybe you have reason to be. Maybe it has become so much a part of your personality that you hardly notice it anymore.

Jesus wants to draw you into his presence and let you learn from him. In his company, pretense and harshness tend to fall away. It's hard to remain prideful in the presence of God.

If you find yourself far more critical than you'd like to be, the solution is found at the foot of the cross. The more time you spend in the presence of Jesus, the uglier your attitudes become to you. Excuses drop away. Pride shrivels in the light of perfection. You see things in a whole new way when kneeling at the cross.

What do your attitudes reveal about how much time you are spending
in His presence?


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