Philip and Nathanael (John 1:43-51)

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Come and see

In verse 43, Jesus found Philip. Then in verse 44, Philip said, “We have found the one that Moses wrote about.” Who found who? From our perspective, we find Christ. But, from Christ’s perspective, he finds us. He wasn’t lost. We were lost and he found us. Jesus told three parables in Luke 15 about searching for the lost and the joy of finding them. Remember that Jesus came seeking the lost. That shows how much he cares. Then those who are found are deputized to seek more lost. That is just what Philip does. He goes and tells Nathanael about Jesus. Nathanael responds with doubt. No self-respecting Messiah would come from Nazareth.

Notice that Philip doesn’t try to have a theological debate with Nathanael, he just invites him to come and see. He just lets Jesus show himself.

The apostle John arranges things in his gospel with purpose. Here at the beginning of the gospel, we have a disciple of Jesus responding with doubt. Jesus proves himself and the disciple responds with a proclamation of Jesus as the Son of God. At the end of the gospel, Thomas doubts the resurrection, but Jesus appears to him and Thomas says, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)

The interaction between Jesus and Nathanael is hard for us to understand. Jesus is making a play on words referring back to Jacob (Genesis 28). Remember, Jacob was a deceiver. His name in Hebrew mean usurper. He had an encounter with God in Genesis 28 and named the place Bethel (house of God). He had a dream in which he saw angels going up and down a stairway between heaven and earth. God promised the land to Jacob in that dream. Years later, Jacob had another encounter with God and the Lord renamed him Israel. (Genesis 32:28)

Jesus says that Nathanael is a true descendant of Jacob (Israel), but he is not a man of guile like Jacob. This familiarity confuses Nathanael and he asks how Jesus knows anything about him. Jesus says that he saw Nathanael under the fig tree. Some people interpret this to mean that Jesus is saying that he saw Nathanael as a baby. Maybe, but don’t bet the farm. Nathanael is doubting. If Jesus said, “I saw you as a baby”, I think Nathanael would have dismissed Jesus as a crazy Nazarene. But, look at Nathanel’s reaction to Jesus. This comment immediately convinced him that Jesus was the Son of God and the King of Israel. I believe that Nathanael had some kind of encounter with God and it was under a fig tree. Maybe he had been in the shade of a fig tree and had been reading the Genesis account of Jacob. Whatever it was, it showed Nathanael that Jesus had knowledge that only could be known by God.

Nathanael proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God. Then Jesus basically says, “That ain’t the half of it bubba.” (my paraphrase) He goes back to the Jacob account and inserts himself in it. He essentially says that he is the bridge between heaven and earth and Nathanael will be a witness to it.

So, what do we make of all this? We could focus on the mission of finding the lost.
But, what strikes me today is the revelation of who Jesus is. The closer we get to him the more we realize how much more there is to know about him. Everytime I have a new revelation of Jesus and respond with “Oh wow!”, I get a glimpse of how much more there is. It is Jesus who reveals himself to us. If we will just go and see, we will respond like Nathanael.

Article originally posted by Pastor Cliff on Wednesday, July 30, 2008 

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