Summary of passage: Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael as disciples in Galilee. Philip is called first and he tells Nathanael who wonders if anything good can come from Nazareth. Jesus knows Nathanael instantly and tells all that they will see heaven open and the angels of God ascend and descend on him.
10) John the Baptist, Andrew, and Philip. Their faith, their strength of character, their heart for God, their commitment and perseverance for Christ.
11a) Nathanael upon hearing that Jesus was from Nazareth wondered how anything good could come from Nazareth. This is an honest and a prejudice response. Nathanael, however, keeps an open mind and does follow Philip to come and see. Nathanael asked Jesus how he knew him and we’re told Jesus saw Nathanael meditating on Scripture under the fig tree. So he knows all about Jesus and asks questions. And Nathanael declares Jesus truthfully who he is: The Son of God and the King of Israel.
Thus, Nathanael does not allow prejudice to get in his way. He investigates until he has his answer. He thinks for himself. Imagine if Nathanael hadn’t of followed Philip. He would have missed Jesus! Don’t let that happen to you!
b) Personal Question. My answer: I think and question a lot. I’m pretty honest. We’re all born prejudiced in terms of making judgments on others. It’s something we work our whole lives at to overcome.
12) The stairway that linked heaven and earth was made possible by Jesus, who is the bridge (or the ladder) between heaven and earth. This is what Jesus is referring to when he declares he’ll be the one in the middle, “the way, the truth the life” (John 14:6). Heaven open means the disciples will see heaven’s testimony about Jesus as plainly as if they heard an announcement from heaven.
Conclusions: The testimonies and the different ways people come to Jesus is prominent here. All of our paths are different and all of our journeys are different. As long as the path leads to Jesus, none of it matters.
Great example of overcoming prejudice and thinking and investigating for ourselves. Our minds make unconscious judgements but we can consciously override them and see people for who they truly are. Great lesson!
End Notes: Philip, Andrew, and Peter were all from Bethsaida. Undoubtedly, they all knew each other as 2000 years ago villages were small and close-knit. This is not the first time Jesus has met Philip. He’s met them before but here John is recorded the formal invitation by Jesus to Philip to follow him. This we know from the other gospel accounts of this incident.
Nazareth was a town of ill-repute in the ancient world. It was small and dinky. Could anything good come from such a place? This is how God works. He takes the unexpected and makes it big. Great analysis of this scene HERE
The Greek verb follow here has the sense of perpetuity. “Keep on following….”
Bethsaida means “House of the fisherman” or “Fishertown.” It’s very close to where the Jordan River enters the Lake of Galilee. See map of Bethsaida in relation to Nazareth HERE.
Philip declares Jesus the one Moses wrote about in the law.
Rabbi is the Hebrew word for teacher.
Nathanael is the same person as Bartholomew.
Jesus compliments Nathanael by saying there is nothing false or no deceit within him.
“Under the fig tree” was a phrase Rabbis used when meditating on Scripture. Hence, most likely Jesus saw Nathanael in prayer. He could have been under an actual fig tree as well.
Then Nathanael recognizes Jesus as the Son of God.
Jesus says there is greater things to come. This applies to us today. Do you believe it? Do you believe there are much greater things to come with Jesus?
Why does Jesus quote Genesis here and reference Jacob’s dream? Perhaps this was the very Scripture Nathanael had been meditating on under the fig tree.
Jesus calls himself many times the Son of Man. This references Daniel 7:13-14 where the King of Glory who will judge the world is called the Son of Man, a messianic title. It is Jesus’ favorite self-designation. It is used 81 times in the Gospels and never used by anyone else but Jesus here.
Fun Fact: “Truly I tell you” occurs more in their Gospel than in any other Gospel and nowhere else in the New Testament. John is the only one who prefaces the phrase with “very” a total of 25 times.
Conclusions to Lesson 2: Here we see 4 ways to come to Jesus:
- Andrew by the preaching of John the Baptist.
- Peter because of his brother.
- Philip who was called directly by Jesus
- Nathanael who personally encountered Jesus
We also see 4 different testimonies to the identity of Jesus:
- John the Baptist testified Jesus is eternal, the man uniquely anointed with the Holy Spirit, the Lamb of God, and the unique Son of God.
- Andrew testified Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.
- Phillip testified Jesus is the One prophesied in the Old Testament.
- Nathaniel testified Jesus is the Son of God and the King of Israel.
We see all of Jesus’ titles in one chapter in the Bible. Do you still doubt who Jesus is?