I know that’s a provocative statement, but I think I can back it up.
Contrary to what some may believe, the Southern idiom “Bless your heart” isn’t always a grave insult of your intelligence. It can be. Oh, yes, it certainly can be. However, “Bless your heart” is a subtle saying, with many gradations of meaning within it. Sometimes, it can be a straight forward blessing, as when someone is going through a tough time, one might say, “Bless your heart! Let me give you a hug. And here’s a casserole.” As a jibe, it can mean something as lighthearted as, “Oh, honey! Your naïveté is so cute!” all the way up to “Oh, my! You’re just a walking contradiction to the process of natural selection, aren’t you?”
What does this have to do with Jesus being from the South? Because Jesus blessed someone’s heart! Yes, He did. In the Gospel of John, chapter one, verses 43 through 51, we read of Nathanael’s first encounter with Jesus. Philip urges Nathanael to come meet the man whom Moses and the prophets wrote about, namely Jesus of Nazareth. Whereupon, Nathanael laid down some snark, “Yeah, right. As if anything good can come from Nazareth.” Jesus knew Nate said that. So, when Nathanael was introduced, Jesus was ready for him.
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” (John 1:47-49 NASB)
Ok, here it comes. Are you ready?
Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” (John 1:50 NASB)
All right! I know the actual words, “Bless your heart” don’t appear in this (or any) translation of the Holy Bible. But there are other things we believe that are not explicitly spelled out in the Bible. Hello! The word Trinity? Not in the Bible.
Read verse 50 again. Can’t you see the amusement in Jesus’ eyes? The corner of his mouth drawn up in a slight smile? The small shake of his head? Here, I’ll paraphrase it for you: “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? Bless your heart! You will see greater things than these!”
Of course, Jesus’ “Bless your heart” for Nathanael was the gentle amusement of a loving parent for the child that is too immature to understand. Then in verse 51, Jesus gets serious. And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51 NASB). Was Jesus alluding to the passage in Genesis 28 about Jacob’s ladder with this or his own ascension into Heaven? I don’t know, but please note that in the original Greek, the “you” in this passage is plural, which can easily be translated as “you all.” What can I say? I told you Jesus was from the South.
This is certainly a lighthearted take on this Scripture passage. But I truly can see Jesus’ gentle amusement at Nathanael’s wide-eyed wonder for such a small display of Jesus’ power. Also, I hope no one is offended at my paraphrasing. This definitely isn’t an authoritative teaching on this Scripture. I mean, bless your heart, if you think this is authoritative teaching, you. . .
Well. You know.