The First Disciples

Posted: November 16, 2014 in John
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John 1:35-51, “The First Disciples”

What’s your testimony?  How was it that you came to faith in Jesus as Christ the Lord, the Son of God?  Everyone has a story.  Even if you’ve known Jesus since childhood, there was a moment in your life that your faith became real.  It was no longer the faith of your parents; it was your faith.  For others, you were not raised a Christian, and there was a definitive moment you went from not believe, to knowing the truth – to knowing the living Lord Jesus Himself.  There came a moment that you knew Jesus is God, that He died on the cross for you, and that He lives today as the Lord.  What was that moment for you?  Do you remember what it felt like?  Do you remember who it was you simply had to tell afterwards and share it?

The end of John chapter 1 describes that moment for the first disciples.  Only 5 men are mentioned, but this was the moment they each met Jesus.  There was a moment for each of them when they first came to faith.  Obviously they didn’t totally grasp everything about Jesus at first.  Their theology would grow the more time they spent with Christ, and there would be other times that their faith would actually waver and shake a bit.  Their walk with Jesus was not perfect (whose is?), but their walks had a beginning.  This was their beginning.

How did it all happen?  Someone introduced them to Jesus – they saw Jesus for themselves – they came to faith – and many times, they brought someone else along with them.

The experience of the disciples can be ours as well.  After all, whenever anyone comes to faith in Jesus, they become a disciple of Jesus.  You may not have the official theological title of “Apostle,” but if you are born-again, then you are most definitely a disciple.  And discipleship is something that can be shared – it is an activity in which we can engage.  In fact, Jesus commanded the church to disciple (make disciples) of every nation by going, baptizing, and teaching.  So disciples go make other disciples.  That doesn’t mean we save anyone.  We’re incapable of saving anyone, but we can bring them to the God who can and does.

Let’s see how it worked with the first disciples.  This is their testimony – this is the story of how their walk began.

John 1:35–51
35 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

  1. The apostle John begins by concluding the testimony of John the Baptist.  This was the first testimony he recorded after finishing out the glorious prelude to his gospel.  When the apostle John opened his book, he began by looking at the Eternal Word of God (the Λογος) – the very expression, revelation, and essence of God.  He is God Himself who created the world, and then entered the world when He became flesh and dwelt among us.  We in the world (and particularly the Jewish nation) did not recognize the Word of God when He came, even as He showed Himself as the Glorious Light of God, but those who did recognize Him and receive Him experienced the never-ending grace of God and became the children of God.  It was at that point that the apostle John began his narrative, describing the first person to testify of the Son of God in their midst.  John the Baptist came for the express purpose to prepare the way for the Lord, acting as a royal herald for the Divine King.  The people of Judea recognized the prophetic word and role of John the Baptist, and the high-minded religious rulers came out from Jerusalem to question him, wondering if perhaps John himself was the Messiah-King to come.  John clearly stated he was not, and that as great a role as God had given him, the coming Messiah was infinitely greater than he.  John wasn’t even worthy to untie His shoes.  At some point, Jesus did come to John to be baptized, and John recognized Him to be the Messiah because God gave heavenly confirmation.  The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, remaining upon Jesus, and God the Father specifically confirmed Him to John.  Thus John knew without a doubt that Jesus was the One.  He was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (1:29)
  2. It was the very “next day” that Jesus came to John once more, and John again proclaimed Jesus to be “the Lamb of God.”  Remember John’s role: he came as a herald of the King.  He was the one shouting in the wilderness, telling people that God’s promised King (the fulfillment of all of the promises to Israel) was approaching, and that they needed to prepare themselves to receive Him.  In this, John’s primary message (as recorded in the synoptic gospels) was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 3:2)  The glorious King of Israel was on His way, and the Jews (and all the nations of the world) needed to be ready.  That’s a message speaking of someone coming in power; yet when John actually sees Jesus and identifies Jesus to his disciples (and others), he spoke of someone coming in total humility.  He is a “Lamb” – He is a sin-sacrifice.  How does this make any sense?  Jesus has been referenced as the Λογος – the Light of God – the only begotten Son – the Christ.  He will yet be referred to as the One prophesied in the law – the Son of God – the King of Israel.  Those are all glorious titles and identities, and Jesus is indeed all of those things.  But in addition to all of His glory as God and King, He is also a sacrificial lamb.  Can a king be sacrificed on account of his rebellious subjects?  Can a king be slaughtered for the benefit of his enemies?  This King can!  The One worthy of all heavenly and earthly glory became a sacrificial Lamb to be slaughtered for our sins.  That is the humility and love Jesus demonstrates for you.  Is it any wonder why our salvation is called “grace”?
  3. So John sees Jesus once more, and he points Jesus out to his disciples.  He specifically tells the two men with him to “Behold” Jesus as that Lamb of whom John had testified.  He basically says: “Look at Him.  He’s the One.”  John never wanted to draw attention to himself; he always wanted to point people to Christ, and he does so again here.  John isn’t interested in protecting his ministry or his numbers; his whole purpose was to declare Jesus, and that’s what he did.
    1. John didn’t try to build John’s kingdom.  His business was the kingdom of God’s.  So is ours.  When we do outreaches, we want people to get saved.  Would we like them to come to our church?  Sure!  We’d love the opportunity to help them grow in their faith and to share the love of Jesus with them.  But ultimately, it’s not about growing our numbers; it’s about the kingdom of God.
  4. Notice the example John sets in sharing Jesus (which is going to be picked up by others): John simply points Jesus out.  Obviously John didn’t hesitate to preach the gospel – he was known for it.  But when John had the opportunity to just let people look at Jesus, that’s what he did.  By far the best evangelistic strategy is to have people see Jesus for themselves.
    1. We don’t have the physical incarnate Jesus in our midst, but we do have the presence of Jesus among the church.  He promised that He would be with us always, even to the end of the age.  The Holy Spirit of God indwells us individually, and the aroma of Christ radiates from us wherever we walk in the world.  Like John the Baptist, we have the opportunity to simply show Jesus to people.  We don’t have to get caught up in a lot of debates when we just show Jesus.  We don’t have to memorize a bunch of systems if we can just show Jesus.  So let’s do it!  Jesus said that all the world would know we are His disciples by our love for one another.  When we love each other as Jesus loves us – when we faithfully share the truth of Jesus in love and humility – then people won’t be looking at us any longer; they’ll be looking at Jesus.  At that point, like John the Baptist, we can simply say “Behold the Lamb of God!”

37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?”

  1. John the Baptist identified Jesus, and that was all it took.  The two disciples that heard John speak left John’s side and “followed Jesus.”  That’s not to say that John lost all of his disciples that day; he had disciples of his own seemingly to the day of his death.  (It would be interesting to learn why the other stayed with John, rather than also go follow after Jesus.  Perhaps we’ll get the opportunity to ask them in heaven.)  But these two particular men did leave, and go follow a new Teacher.
  2. The picture here is both literal and symbolic.  The two men did literally follow Jesus as He walked, and Jesus had to turn around and prompt them with a question.  But their physical walking reflects the spiritual state of their heart as well.  They were no longer looking to John the Baptist as their primary “rabbi”; they were now turning to Jesus.  When Jesus asked them what they were seeking, it’s not because He didn’t know what was on their hearts; it was giving them an opportunity to express their faith and desire to follow after Him – which is exactly what they said when they asked Jesus where He was staying.  Obviously they weren’t getting an address to take back and report to John; they wanted to know where they could find Jesus, meet with Him, and perhaps even stay with Him as His disciples, if Jesus would have them.

39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

  1. Jesus welcomed them to follow Him, and invited them to come see for themselves.  At this point, it’s obvious this is not about an address; Jesus could have just told them where His bed was, and gone on His way.  Instead, Jesus gave them something far better than information; He gave them His time and presence.  He invited the two men to come along with Him, and spend the day with Him.
  2. Scholars disagree on the meaning of “the tenth hour,” depending on whether or not they believe the apostle John is using the Roman method of counting time, or the Jewish method.  If it was the Roman time, then they went to Jesus’ house (or the house in which He was a guest) at 10am.  If it was the Jewish time, it was 4pm.  Considering that the apostle John was likely living in Ephesus in the 80s-90s, and also the comparison with John’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion with the other gospel accounts (which all show a very distinct timeline), it seems more likely that John is using the Roman method.  In the end, the actual hour isn’t all that important; it’s the fact that the exact hour is recorded.  We know the identity of one of these two former disciples of John the Baptist as Andrew (vs. 40); it seems quite likely that the other man was the apostle John himself.  It would seem highly unusual for one of the disciples of John the Baptist to meet with Jesus for an entire day and leave unchanged, and we also know that the two pairs of brothers (Simon Peter & Andrew, and James & John) were acquainted with one another through their fishing business.  John never names himself in his gospel, so leaving himself unnamed here would be consistent.  With all that said, whoever the man is, he remembers the very moment he first met Jesus.  Even the time of day was burned into his memory.
    1. Do you remember the hour?  Do you remember the moment, and the way you felt?  Do you remember the zeal?  It seems that so often, this can fade for us as we grow “older” in the faith.  Of course “older” doesn’t necessarily mean “mature.”  Time goes by, and we lose some of that excitement we had to know Jesus.  It doesn’t have to be that way!  The church of Ephesus seemed to experience a bit of that, and Jesus called them to remember their first love (Rev 2:4-5).  They could remember the point from where fell, and then go back to it.  The same with us.  Do you remember what you were doing when you had that zeal?  Go back to it.  Spend that time in prayer and true worship again.  Grab hold of the hand of Jesus like you did before, just as you did the very hour you were first saved by Him.

40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ).

  1. Andrew certainly had zeal!  After spending the day with Jesus, he knew he had to let someone else know.  Andrew couldn’t have this all to himself, so the very first thing he did was go tell “his own brother Simon.”  We’re not told all of the conversation – but just the one sentence seems to have been enough to peak Simon’s curiosity.  Why Andrew was a disciple of John, and Simon was not, we don’t know.  Perhaps Simon did follow John, but just wasn’t around at the time.  Or maybe he had heard Andrew and John the Baptist talk so often about the coming Messiah that Simon had stopped paying attention.  We simply aren’t told all of the background.  Yet whatever was in the past changed with a single sentence: “We have found the Messiah.”  Everything that John the Baptist had been preaching was true!  The Messiah had been found, and his brother Andrew had actually met with Him.
  2. The apostle John translates the Hebrew “Messiah” into Greek for his Greek readers.  If John had been writing for English readers, he would have written something like “Anointed One” or “Anointed King.”  Remember that “Christ” is not Jesus’ name, but one of His titles.  When we call Him “Christ Jesus,” we are basically calling Him “King Jesus.”  Both ancient Hebrew kings and priests were anointed with oil as a symbol of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, setting them apart for their appointed service unto God.  From that aspect, all kinds of people could be said to have a messianic role.  Yet there was a specific Messiah / Anointed King that was expected to be revealed to Israel: the promised Son of David who would sit on the throne forever.  When an ancient Jew would speak of the Messiah, he wouldn’t be referring to any of the kings; he was referring to a specific King.  Thus what Andrew was saying to Simon was “We’ve found that specific King that we’ve been waiting for.”
    1. BTW – if you’ve turned away from your sin, and received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you can say the exact same words.  You have found the Messiah!  You have found the King of Israel, and He is the Lord who saved you.  You have the same message as Andrew, worship the same Jesus as Andrew, and you have the same opportunities as Andrew to go tell others about Him.
    2. Interestingly enough, whenever Andrew is shown in the gospel of John, he’s always shown bringing someone to Jesus.  Andrew may not be the most famous of apostles, but he certainly has a wonderful legacy!  May God raise up many more “Andrews” among us!

42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

  1. Andrew brings Simon to Jesus, and the first thing Jesus does is give Simon a new name.  That in itself is interesting.  How would you like to go to someone, stick out your hand to shake and introduce yourself, but before you get the words out, the guy you’re meeting already tells you that your name is changing?  That would be pretty brazen for anyone…anyone except the Lord.  Jesus knew Peter before Simon Peter knew Jesus.  Jesus had a plan for Simon Peter before Simon ever had faith.  Jesus knew what Simon would become.  Jesus certainly knew Simon’s weaknesses and failings, but He also knew that in the weakness of man, the power of God is made strong.  And God would be shown to be incredibly strong in the life of Simon Peter!  Through that once-weak disciple, God would declare Jesus to the entire city of Jerusalem, and even introduce Gentiles to Christ.  Truly this disciple would not always be weak and unsteady, but he would be a Rock (Cephas/Peter), founded upon the chief cornerstone of Christ Jesus.
  2. Simon didn’t even know it yet, but Jesus knew the glorious plan He had for the man.  Jesus didn’t see Simon as what he was, but Jesus saw Peter as the man that God intended for him to be.  We see ourselves and see our weaknesses.  God sees us and sees potential.  God looks upon us as men and women He has created in His own image, and He knows exactly what He can do with us when we are yielded to the Holy Spirit, and humbly submitted to Christ.  God knows how He wants to use us to showcase His glory, and to testify of His Son, even when we cannot see that in ourselves.  If God can use someone like Simon and make him Peter – if God can use someone like Saul and make him Paul – think about what God can do through weak vessels like you and me.  The possibilities are amazing!
  3. It would have been good enough to stop there, but Jesus wasn’t done finding new disciples…

43 The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.

  1. Remember that Jesus had been in the region where John was baptizing, Bethabara/Bethany beyond Jordan (1:28).  Scholars are not certain of the precise location, but it was definitely south of Galilee.  This is now the 3rd day since the priests and Pharisees came questioning John about his own identity, and now Jesus is looking to go north.  His ministry is about to begin in earnest, and He is doing His final preparations, including gathering the initial disciples (though they won’t receive an “official” call for quite some time, according to the synoptics).
  2. The next person that becomes a disciple is “Philip,” whom Jesus found and personally invited to follow Him.  We’re not told if this was Philip’s first encounter with Jesus, or if he had previously heard anything about Jesus as the Messiah.  The apostle John seems to hint at the idea that Philip was already aware of Jesus, and perhaps either Andrew or Peter (or even John himself) may have said something to Philip about Jesus already.  Philip and two brothers were from the same city (“Bethsaida”), so they likely all knew each other.  Plus, when Philip approaches Nathanael, he uses the plural “we have found,” perhaps indicating that he wasn’t alone in this.
  3. In any case, Philip is given an invitation by Jesus to follow, and Philip has to make a decision of faith.  Will he follow, or won’t he?  Philip had obviously been waiting for the Messiah, just as Andrew had (as is clear in vs. 45) – would he be willing to trust by faith that Jesus is He?  Jesus had given the same choice to Andrew and the other disciple, when He said “Come and see.”  Jesus never forced anyone to follow Him; He just extended the invitation.  It was up to those who heard the invitation to be willing to take a step of faith, leave everything else behind and go follow Jesus.  But the choice was worth it!  If Jesus truly is the Messiah, then He is the Son of God, and eternal salvation can only be found in Him.  As Peter would later say to Jesus, “Where else would we go?  You alone have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:68)  Leaving the things of our lives behind to go follow Jesus is the most profitable decision we can ever make.  What we gain in Jesus is so much greater than anything else we might lose.  When Paul looked back over his life with the Philippians, he looked at all of the prestige & power of the world that he had when he was once a respected Pharisee leader in Israel.  In view of what he had in Christ, everything else was dung (the literal word he used! Σκυβαλα: refuse/dung/the stuff you scrape off your shoe!).  What Paul gained in Christ was worth everything.
    1. If you haven’t done it yet, make the decision to step out in faith and trust Jesus as your Lord.  He is worth it all!  Sure, you could turn away from Jesus now and gain all kinds of pleasures and stuff from the world, but what would that get you after you die?  In regards to true discipleship, Jesus made it clear: Matthew 16:26, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" []  Yes, discipleship means we deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus – but that is worth our very soul.  If you value your soul, trust Christ as your Lord.  HE values it…so much so that He died on the cross that your soul might be saved.  Do you?

45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

  1. Like Andrew, Philip also found it impossible to stay silent.  He had to go tell someone, and he went and “found Nathanael.”  This is the only mention of Nathanael in the gospel of John (apart from Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the disciples), and his name is not even found in the synoptic gospels.  Most scholars believe it’s likely that Nathanael in John is the same person as Bartholomew in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Perhaps Bartholomew was his last name (son of “Tholmai”), or perhaps like other people of the day he was known by two names.  In any case, he was a friend of Philip, and Philip dearly wanted his friend to have the same hope that he now had in Jesus.
    1. Friends tell other friends about Christ.  How could we not?  If we love someone, then we want the best for them.  If we love someone, we don’t want them to spend eternity in hell.  Obviously we’re not going to be able to force anyone to come to Christ and be saved, but the very least we can do is share Jesus with them in the first place.  Let them be the one to refuse Christ, rather than us being the one who neglected to share Christ with them.
  2. Philip’s statement of Jesus is longer than Andrew’s, but he basically says the same thing.  The Messiah IS the one whom Moses and the Prophets wrote about in the Scriptures.  Prophecies about the Promised Savior of Israel & the world can be found in every book of the Old Testament.  Even when the Messiah is not directly mentioned (as in the book of Esther), the idea of deliverance and the plan of God is still clearly seen.  The entire Bible is about Jesus from Genesis to Revelation.  When we read the Bible (including the Old Testament), we read the word of God the Father concerning God the Son…they all testify of Him.  From the very beginning of time, God wanted people to know of His plan of deliverance – how He would set the fallen sinful world right again, and so He always spoke of the Promised One.  That Promised One is Jesus.  He IS all of our hope.
  3. Interestingly, Philip knew a bit of Jesus’ background, though what he states is somewhat incomplete.  It’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s definitely uninformed.  Yes, Jesus was raised in Nazareth, but that wasn’t His town of birth.  He was known as a Nazarene, even though He was born in Bethlehem (the city of David, according to His royal birth).  And although Jesus was certainly the adopted son of Joseph, He was not Joseph’s physical seed.  This may have been all that Philip knew at the time, so that is what he shared with Nathanael.  The bottom line is that Philip wanted Nathanael to know Jesus, so Philip just blurted out what little he knew.
    1. Don’t be afraid to share Christ just because you might be uncertain on some facts.  Far better to take people to the real Jesus and be corrected along the way, than to never open up our mouths about Jesus at all.  (Besides, we can always learn more about Jesus just by reading our Bible.  If the only thing we can do is quote Scripture verses to someone, that is more than enough – and likely far better than any words we can think up on our own!)

46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

  1. Nathanael’s first response is one of skepticism.  “Nazareth” was thought of a backwater little town, and viewed with derision by others in Judea.  When people were first giving names to Christians, the believers were called “Nazarenes” as a way of insulting them.  (Today, people are still called “Nazarenes.”  Many Christians take it as a badge of honor, even as the name of their denomination.  Other Christians living in Muslim-dominated lands are referred to as “Nazarenes,” and some are currently experienced harsh persecution at the hands of ISIS.  Their streets and houses are marked with the Arabic letter “Nun,” which stands for “Nasrani,” the Arabic word for “Nazarene.”  Pray for persecuted Christians!)
  2. Many people are skeptical when they first encounter the gospel.  What’s the best way of handling skepticism?  Philip does the same thing Andrew did with Simon Peter: he took Nathanael to Jesus.  Nathanael may have been skeptical for all kinds of reasons, but Philip didn’t debate him or try to defend the reputation of Nazareth.  Seeing Jesus trumps all kinds of objections, so Philip invited Nathanael to come and see for himself (using the same words that Jesus used with two disciples of John the Baptist).
    1. For all of the questions that some skeptics have, the one thing they cannot argue against is their own personal experience.  Once they’ve personally seen the love, power, and glory of the Lord Jesus, their supposed objections all melt away.  Maybe that’s you – if so, the Bible has something to say: Psalm 34:8, "O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" []  Experience the goodness of God for yourself.  The best way to know the truth of Jesus is to come to Him by faith and see Him for yourself.

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”

  1. As with Simon Peter, Jesus demonstrated supernatural knowledge of Nathanael before Nathanael even got the chance to say anything.  Nathanael approaches Jesus, and Jesus immediately commends him as a true “Israelite,” without “deceit.”  Obviously Jesus isn’t saying that Nathanael had a perfect righteousness, earned through the law; Jesus is simply commending the character of Nathanael’s faith.  Nathanael wasn’t a hypocrite.  He was something that sincerely sought the Lord God as he was taught by his fathers to seek God, and he did so humbly and without trickery or manipulations.  The patriarch Jacob/Israel was originally known as a man of guile & trickery, as that’s how he stole his brother’s blessing.  The psalms declare the man blessed whom the Lord has forgiven of sins and in whose spirit there is no deceit (Ps 32:2).  That was Nathanael, and Jesus knew him well.
  2. Jesus knows all of us well.  He knows the sincerity of our hearts (or the lack thereof).  Jesus knows when a person’s skeptical questions are real, or if they are just fronts for something else.  With this one statement, Jesus demonstrated that yes, something good can come from Nazareth.

48 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.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”

  1. Nathanael is amazed, and perhaps still a bit skeptical.  He had never known Jesus, so how could Jesus know so much about him?  Maybe Jesus was just blowing smoke, or trying to give undue flattery.  How could the Man from Nazareth possibly know so much of his character when he had never met him before?  The answer: this is no ordinary man.  Jesus knew Nathanael before Nathanael even heard the name of Jesus.  Before Philip had called Nathanael, Jesus already knew him.  Actually, it goes back further than that.  As the Creator God, Jesus knew Nathanael before the very foundations of the earth!  (Just like He knows you and me).  Jesus was the One who knit Nathanael together in the womb of his mother.  Jesus knew Nathanael better than Nathanael even knew himself.
  2. The proof Jesus gives is the reference to seeing Nathanael “under the fig tree.”  What this actually refers to, no one knows.  Some have seen this as a reference to Nathanael’s time of prayer and meditation (apparently the phrase was used that way by some ancient rabbis).  Perhaps this is simply another demonstration of Jesus’ supernatural knowledge, referring to a time and place that only Nathanael and God would know.  Whatever the original reference pointed to, it made an immediate difference in Nathanael’s life.  All of his skepticism is gone, and Nathanael comes to saving faith in Jesus.
    1. THAT is the power of taking someone to Christ, and showing them Jesus.
  3. What’s the extent of the change in Nathanael?  He goes from sneering a the idea of anything good out of Nazareth, much less as Nazarene Messiah, to affirming Jesus to be his rabbi (teacher) and that He is “the Son of God…the King of Israel.”  Some have objected to Nathanael’s statement, saying that there’s no way Nathanael understood what he was saying & that he was just speaking in emotional bluster off the cuff.  There’s no doubt that all the disciples would go through their own questions and doubts, but there’s also no reason to undermine Nathanael’s confession of faith.  Nathanael obviously was a student of the Scriptures (as acknowledge by the way Philip first described Jesus to him), and he was a sincere worshipper of God (as Jesus said when first meeting him).  Even if Nathanael’s understanding of Jesus was still to grow, there’s no reason that he couldn’t have seen Jesus as who He truly is: the Son of God & King of Israel.  After all, there’s a time in every believer’s life that he/she came to faith.  There’s a moment that we went from unbelief to all belief.  When you first asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, it’s doubtful you had any understanding of the eternal relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit in the inner-workings of the Trinity, or that you had a comprehensive knowledge of how Jesus will reign as King over the restored nation of Israel and all the world in the Millennium and beyond.  All we knew at that point is that Jesus is God, that He died for us, and that He’s true.  Whatever the Scripture said of Him, it was true too…even if we didn’t understand what it all meant.  That’s where Nathanael was, and he joyfully put his faith in Jesus as all of his objections fell to the wayside.
    1. No one needs a perfect knowledge to be saved; we just need to know Jesus.  That’s where we need to take a step of faith and trust Him as Lord.

50 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.” 51 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.”

  1. Jesus’ response to Nathanael is wonderful.  In our terms, He basically says, “If you thought that was good, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” J  Jesus had given Nathanael one small glimpse of His own supernatural knowledge and identity as the Lord God.  That was enough to bring Nathanael to faith, but there were far more powerful signs yet to come.  Nathanael would witness Jesus turning water into wine – feeding thousands with a handful of bread and fish – healing the diseased – raising the dead – and most importantly, coming back from the dead Himself in the glorious resurrection.  All of those things would be far greater than His demonstration of prophecy.  That was only the beginning.
  2. Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t say anything specific about the coming cross and resurrection, or even any of His other physical miracles.  The one thing Jesus states is a reference to dream experienced by the patriarch Jacob when God confirmed His covenant promise with him. Genesis 28:10–12, "(10) Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. (11) He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. (12) He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it." []  God then identifies Himself to Jacob, gives him the promise of the land, of many descendants, and of a special descendant through whom all the world would be blessed (the Messiah).  God gives Jacob the promise of His presence, and the assurance that every word would be fulfilled.  Jacob awakes, saying that the presence of God was in that place & he never knew it, and called the place “Bethel,” “House of God.”  OK – so what does any of that have to do with Jesus and Nathanael?  Simple: when Jacob left home to go find a wife for himself (actually fleeing for his life because of how he tricked his brother), God revealed Himself to Jacob showing His communication with the earth.  The angels (messengers of God) were ascending & descending the heavenly ladder.  This is what Jesus tells Nathanael that he will see.  Not a dream or vision duplicating that of Jacob’s, but of God’s communication with the world.  How would God reveal Himself to Israel?  Through the Word (Λογος) – through His only begotten Son.  Jesus IS the revelation of God to the world, and everything that Nathanael initially confessed to be true of Jesus would be demonstrated true of Him.  If Nathanael thought that a simple prophecy would confirm that Jesus is the Son of God, just wait until he saw what was still to come.  At that point, there would be no doubt that Jesus is the Heavenly Ladder – the revelation of God, and the Way, the Truth, and the Life as the only way to God.

Five men each met Jesus that day.  There were two disciples of John the Baptist: Andrew & possibly the apostle John, who remembered the meeting so well that even the time of day was recorded.  There was Simon, who was brought by his brother Andrew, and given a new name and new identity by Jesus – even if Simon couldn’t see it yet for himself.  There was Philip, who was directly called by Jesus and who made the decision to follow Him.  And there was Nathanael, skeptical at first, but all doubt removed when he encountered Jesus for himself.  There would be more to come for these men, and some of them would go through tremendous failings, but this was the very first moment they came to faith & it was a moment that they would never forget.

What about you?  What was your moment?  What happened when you first came to faith?  Maybe you were like Andrew and (potentially) John, and someone pointed Jesus out to you.  Maybe you were like Peter and Nathanael, and someone physically brought you to an event in which you finally saw Jesus for yourself.  Or maybe like Philip, Jesus revealed Himself to you through an avenue you didn’t expect.  As a believer in Christ, there came a singular moment in which you knew Jesus, and wanted to live your life for Him.  When was it?  Do you remember how you felt?  Do you still feel the same way?

If not, why not?  Take the opportunity to remember your first love – to remember the zeal and passion you had for the Lord Jesus.  Remember the joy you had when you realized you were forgiven, saved, and been made a child of God.  That isn’t something that needs to fade over time; that’s something that you can live in every day of your life.  Let’s be done with all of the excuses & supposed reasons why things are different.  The circumstances of our life may have changed, but our Savior has not.  We can worship and serve Him today with the same passion as we did when we were first saved – no excuse necessary.

Not only can we remember what it was like to first come to Christ, we can also help others do the same.  We can make evangelism so complicated and scary, can’t we?  Even the very word “evangelism” makes some people squirm.  Yet all the word means is to tell other people good news.  It’s as simple as taking people to Christ, and then getting out of the way so that they can see Him for themselves.  Maybe that’s done by handing out a tract – maybe it’s by inviting someone to church (or better yet, bringing them with you) – maybe it’s by taking the time to invest in someone, loving them unconditionally as Jesus does, steadfastly inviting them to know Jesus for themselves.  That’s not complicated at all.  How would you introduce someone to a friend or family member?  Do the same thing with Jesus.

For some of you, today is the day that YOU have seen Jesus.  You’ve heard His voice speaking through the Scriptures.  You’ve seen His love poured out on the disciples.  You’ve even seen His love through various people around you.  You know that He is real, and that He is God…so now, take the next step and follow Him.  “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”  You will never know until you experience Jesus for yourself.  You may have questions – let Jesus deal with them and answer them, but don’t let them stop you from knowing Jesus.  God has a plan for you and a purpose for you, just as He did with each of the disciples.  But you will never know it until you follow Jesus by faith.  Turn away from your sins, leave those things behind, and place your faith in Christ today.


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