Nancy and I walked past Arnie’s Jerseys and Stuff. It’s the local sports memorabilia store. We usually ignore it, not being fans of the teams, the old players, or the markups. This time I stopped, staring at the Ernie Banks Cubs uniform shirt. It was part of a display of Cubs items. After they won the World Series, everyone became a fan. But the price on the Banks jersey made me stop.
As I stared, I heard a voice behind us.
“Chicago fans are irrationally faithful. Just like my friend Nathanael.”
It was Saint John.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Year after year, Cubs fans kept watching for a winning season. They kept showing up to worship at Wrigley, even when there was no hope of a positive outcome to the season. People learned the names of people who would never wear rings, never hold pennants, never play baseball in November.”
I grinned. “Billy Williams, Don Kessinger, Ernie Banks, Glenn Beckert, Randy Hundley, Ron S…”
John held up his hand. “You learned those when you were 9 years old. How many more years after than before they won the World Series?”
“Irrationally faithful,” he said. “Like Nathanael. We grew up together. He was looking for the Messiah, learning details, memorizing Torah, keeping faith. But like you and the Cubs, I’m pretty sure Nathanael thought Messiah would ever come.”
“What makes you think that?” I asked.
“Because when Philip told him that Jesus was the Messiah, Nathanael pushed back. ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ was his first question. Can anything of value come from around here, from where we grew up.”
“But if Nathanael was such a doubter, why did Jesus accept him?” As I said it, I realized that we almost always talk about accepting Jesus, not the other way around.
“Jesus knew his heart, knew that Nathanael wanted to believe in someone. He just didn’t want to be disappointed again. And Jesus knew that wasn’t going to happen.”
I looked at him, uncertain.
“Jesus was the certainty for irrationally faithful people. Nathanael’s healthy skepticism about pretenders was grounded in a desire to be proven right.”
“Like the people who wept when the 2016 Cubs won,” I said.
John smiled. “Ah, but so much more.”