We pick back up in the Gospel of John on the fourth day of Jesus’ first week of ministry with Philip finding Nathaniel and telling him about the arrival of the Messiah.
Philip tells him he has found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph. Which Nathaniel, in turn, asks could anything good could come out of Nazareth? Philip responds, come and see. And Nathaniel chooses to come to Jesus. Notice Jesus did not come to Nathaniel. Nathaniel had to come to Jesus. Nathaniel had to make a decision to come to Jesus so that He could have that experience of knowing Him. Then as the encounter begins, Jesus initiates the conversation.
He declares, here comes an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. The word for deceit, in Hebrew, the word deceit is a euphemism for the name of Isaac’s son, Jacob. Jacob was known as the deceiver. So Jesus essentially said here comes an Israelite in whom there is no Jacob. He meant, of course, here is a man who has a true heart. His decision to come to Jesus is what caused his heart to be set straight. That reminds us of John the Baptist’s ministry, he is said to be a man who made straight paths that were crooked. Crooked hearts being made right. And John indeed did that for Nathaniel here indirectly through that chain of custody we talked about. His heart had been made straight why? Because John the Baptist sent Andrew to Jesus and Andrew then sent Philip to Jesus, then Philip sent Nathaniel to Jesus. That’s how things get done in the body of Christ. That’s how hearts become straight. It’s no stretch to say today if you introduce someone to Christ, you are extending the ministry of John the Baptist, one person further, one generation further as God has permitted. Gospel Of John
John 1:43-51 (NKJV)
Philip and Nathanael
43 The following day Jesus (most likely because of Andrew’s suggestion) wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 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.”
46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”
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 and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
After Jesus calls Nathaniel by name, Nathaniel is taken aback and asks Jesus how did He know this? Jesus says (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), He says I saw you sitting under a fig tree. Once again, notice Jesus’ careful choice of words. They are very purposeful here. Now, who called Nathaniel to come? It was Philip. But Jesus said I saw you sitting under a fig tree before Philip called you. Only now we understand that it was Jesus Himself Who was the One issuing that call, though through Philip. But it was never a human call. And so it is with us, we endeavor to go out to reach others for the sake of the Lord. We may be the ones choosing our words, we may be the ones honing our techniques, and inevitably will be the ones worrying about whether we are doing the right things or not to recruit the most followers. And at the end of it all, the Bible testifies it is not us doing the calling anyway. Jesus calls through us, and so it suggests that an emphasis on certain methodologies must be tempered by an appreciation that God can work through the mouth of a donkey. So how much do our methodologies matter in the end? We should move with the Spirit, we should freely change our focus, we should move our methods and change them as the Lord directs. We should not be uncompromising, we should understand the Lord is working through us and we should remain firm and set on one thing and one thing only, the Gospel as revealed in the word of God. Gospel Of John
Secondly, Jesus mentions a fig tree. That’s an interesting detail because of it’s connection to the thought of being called or more specifically Nathaniel’s heart being made right. Remember that a fig leaf was the way Man and Woman tried to cover their own nakedness after the Fall in the Garden. That was their inadequate, insufficient way to salve the wound of sin. The feeling of vulnerability, of jeopardy before God, of a need to be covered for fear they were in jeopardy should God see their nakedness. Which is a way a body reflecting the inner vulnerability of our spirit. It is the way sin manifests itself in our physical life. The fact they were vulnerable spiritually for their sin came out in the way of a feeling of nakedness in their body. And they did the only thing they knew how to do, they took a fig leaf and covered themselves hoping to stop the felling, but it didn’t work. And God wasn’t pleased with that, their clothing was insufficient from God’s point of view. He provided animal skins, which implies an animal was sacrificed, which implies atonement was available in a limited sense through the sacrifice of that animal. The point being, that there is an atonement that will salve for that wound but it is not going to come from man’s work, it’s only going to come from God providing a Lamb to salve that wound. Gospel of John
The Lamb of God is standing here with Nathaniel and He says I saw you when you were covered only by fig leaves. Now there is no deceit found in you. Why? Because you came and saw Me. Then Jesus offers Nathaniel this great promise, one that is true in a sense for every believer. Jesus says you are going to see many greater things than this. Of course, Jesus was referring to the events Nathaniel would witness in the years he would spend with Jesus up through the resurrection and afterward. But Jesus is also thinking of the marvelous things, I’m sure, that this man and all believers are going to see the day we actually meet Jesus in person. When we are ruling and reigning with Him in the Kingdom. You are going to see things you’ve never imagined the Bible tells us. And we will see the glory of God. Gospel of John
In response to Jesus’ demonstration of prophetic knowledge, Nathaniel exclaims that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Israel. That is a strong reaction, even under the circumstances. That seems a bit strong which is why I think Jesus reacted the way He did. The Jewish understanding of the Messiah did not include a Triune God. That was not a part of Jewish theology. This phrase, when he said the Son of God, it’s literally being uttered I think under the inspiration of the Spirit. I don’t think Nathaniel would have chosen those words naturally. Which makes sense, because Jesus just declared that in Nathaniel there is no deceit. In other words, it would seem to suggest the Lord declared in advance whatever this guy says is true. God obviously inspiring and directing all of that conversation. Gospel of John
And then, of course, Jesus says greater things are coming and then He says all the disciples will see the heavens open and angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. If you are a Bible student you would recognize this imagery. It’s a reference to Jacob’s life. Yet again, remember that scene in Genesis chapter 28 when Jacob has ticked off his family and the deception he did on his dad and his brother seeking to kill him so he has to flee to save his life and his mom sends him to Uncle Laban to go and work for a while. Here he is getting ready to leave the land his father never left. Isaac had never left. And he is starting to worry, what am I going to find when I leave? Is God still with me? Is this the beginning of the end for me? He reaches a point in chapter 28 verse 10 here we see this… Gospel of John
Genesis 28:10-16 (NKJV)
Jacob’s Vow at Bethel
10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven, and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also, your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep (protect) you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken (promised) to you.”
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”
In Jacob’s dream, you notice this ladder (we call it Jacob’s ladder). It was an image given to Jacob in this dream that was intended to reflect God’s promise that He would be with Jacob and He would minister to Jacob even in the midst of this time away from the land and in his trials. And He would do it by means of angels, ministering spirits. When Jacob gets the message through the dream, he wakes up and he responds, why surely God was in this place and yet I didn’t even know it. Jacob hadn’t realized how close God could be to him in his life on earth. That God was capable and willing to descend from heaven if necessary and reach down to the earth through His angels, through His messengers to minister to the needs of a man like Jacob, even in the midst of his trials. God was doing this through intercessors. There is a great picture of Christ in that. In fact, Christ Himself tells us in John’s Gospel that He is the ladder. He changed the dream if you notice. He says you will see angels ascending and descending upon the Son of God as opposed to seeing it on a ladder. He substitutes Himself for the ladder in the dream. Jesus is saying, you are going to see something that Jacob saw but in his day he saw it in a limited form. In your day, you are going to see it in the full form. Jesus is the intercessor Who came to earth to reveal the Father to men. And to make a way possible for men to enter Heaven. Previously, God revealed Himself in that limited form to Israel in the desert, now God is revealing Himself to you in a full form, to you, the Israelites. And like Jacob, Nathaniel declares (in so many words), the Lord is here and I didn’t know it.
This is only the fourth day of the week. But already several disciples have been collected and their awareness is growing that Jesus is the Messiah. And in the first chapter, the identity of Jesus has become John’s main theme. In fact, if you went back and counted he’s used no less than 16 different names for Jesus’ identity in this opening chapter. The point is to emphasize Jesus is the Messiah, John the Baptist is not. But John’s ministry points us to Jesus as the Son of God, as the Son of Man.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
Join our mailing list
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.