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John's Gospel is a very theological Gospel.
Right from the beginning John wants us to understand the deep meanings of what Jesus said and did, and the significance of just who Jesus is.
The opening of his Gospel makes it very clear that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".
In John’s Gospel, there is no nice narrative of the birth of Jesus, like you find in Matthew and Luke, there’s no introduction to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, as you would find in Mark's Gospel.
If you’ll notice John’s Gospel starts off differently.
John’s Gospel (or the Johannine Gospel) was written to give a deeper understanding to the simple story of what Jesus said and did.
John tells us how Jesus had begun to gather disciples to follow Him.
Just a few verses earlier in this first chapter of John, Jesus walks towards John the Baptist.
As He does so, John cries out, “Look the Lamb of God”!
And after hearing this, two of John’s disciples follow Jesus.
And these two are Andrew and Peter.
John continues to tell us that the next day, Jesus finds Philip and simply says, “Follow me”.
And John records that Philip went with Jesus.
As you read this text it ought to dawn on you that there must have been something very special about Jesus whom they never met until now—and yet they are instantly willing to leave what they know and possibly love in order to follow Jesus, whom up until now they did not know.
It ought to make you think: What was it that was so special about Jesus to these disciples?
Was it His charisma?
What was it about Jesus?
Was it the way He carried Himself?
Was it His confidence?
Was it the way He taught and preached?
These three men, Andrew, Peter, and Phillip had no problem following Jesus after meeting Him for the first time in their lives.
In fact Phillip saw something in Jesus that was so amazing to him until he had to run and tell his BFF by the name of Nathanael.
John with his theological profundity tells us that, “Philip found Nathanael” and when he found him—he proceeded to tell him all about Jesus.
And here’s what he said, he said, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
Nathanael responded to this good news in a negative, skeptical, and reactionary manner.
Nathanael was a little prejudice, without thinking he uses a slur against Jesus because Jesus was from Nazareth, he scornfully asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
In the eyes of Nathanael, Nazareth is quite an undistinguished place.
This was a common behavior in the first century, people were normally judged based on where they grew up.
If Jesus were from a more appropriate location—it’s possible Nathanael would have been a little more responsive to Phillip’s excitement, but Jesus was from of all places—Nazareth.
The Jews despised Nazareth because it was on the border of a Gentile country, Nazareth was sometimes called “Galilee of the Gentiles”, and the Jews were so deeply prejudiced against the Gentiles that they considered anyone or anything touched by a Gentile to be unclean in the sight of God.
Thus, the Jews despised Nazareth because it was on the border of a Gentile country and so the Gentiles geographically touched it, which caused Nazareth to somehow be considered unclean as well.
But thank God for Phillip, for continuing to offer Nathanael this life changing invitation despite Nathanael’s obvious prejudices.
Phillip did not stand around to debate with his good friend Nathanael concerning the pros and cons of Nazareth—he simply said, “Come and see”.
The Greatest Invitation Given To This Generation—(V39-46)
The phrase “come and see” occurs twice in this first chapter of St. John’s Gospel.
When two curious disciples of John the Baptist asked Jesus where He was staying, the Lord said, “Come and see” (v.39).
Here, Jesus extended an invitation and the invitation He extended was an immediate one, it was while the disciples were deeply attracted and focused on Jesus, they were invited to Jesus by Jesus because of their open need for Jesus.
When we take a look at this particular verse we cannot help but notice that Jesus did not postpone their request nor leave them hanging.
He said, in so many words, you can follow me right now; at this very moment!
This glorious invitation did not rest only with the two disciples, this very same invitation is being offered today.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt.
11: 28).
Who is to come?
The weary and the burdened—those of us who are laboring and heavy laden, those of us who are weary, exhausted, extremely tired, despaired, disenchanted, disenfranchised, disgusted, disapproved of, overlooked, talked about and criticized, rejected, affected, infected, dejected, weighed down, ready to quit and call it a day can all come to Jesus Christ!
Here in the text, I think Nathanael was simply exhausted.
Many of us are like Nathanael today, many of us need our very own fig tree to sit under and rest—because we are exhausted with life and the things of life.
And some of the things that cause exhaustion for us are…work; sometimes we are being overburdened with too much to do.
We are exhausted and disheartened; we feel a sense of hopelessness when we look around us and see so much worldliness and carnality (fleshly pleasure).
It’s almost enough to make you think about canceling your newspaper subscription and just shutting off your TV set.
Because everyday you are a witness to the power of the blatant sin that openly takes place in our communities.
We witness the power of money and material possessions, the emptiness of fame and fame seekers, rules and regulations, and even the rituals and traditions of Church can sometimes give us the blues.
It makes us want to find a fig tree somewhere, and just sit there in order to be by ourselves and then contemplate on life and what it’s all about.
Phillip seemed to know just what his dear friend needed—and so he said, “Come and see”!
2. A Confrontation With Jesus—(47- 48)
Jesus knew everything about Nathanael beforehand, He knew what Nathanael believed in and what kind of character Nathanael possessed.
This is seen in Jesus calling Nathanael an “Israelite indeed” in essence; Jesus was paying Nathanael a huge compliment.
Even after Nathanael’s rude and reactionary behavior, and after Nathanael’s clear prejudice towards Him, the Lord still gives Nathanael a wonderful compliment.
Now, just what did Jesus mean when called Nathanael an “Israelite indeed”?
He was saying that Nathanael was the epitome of an Israelite, and he was everything an Israelite should be because he believed in the promises of God.
Nathanael wanted desperately to live up to the standards God had set for Israel—and Nathanael was so desperately waiting for the promised Messiah.
Could this be the true Messiah his friend Phillip is so excited about it?
There is still some doubt, even with Philip—although Phillip believes Jesus is the Messiah; he was looking at the flesh side of Jesus, because he refers to Jesus as the son of Joseph and not the Son of God.
Jesus knows everything about everyone.
Nathanael is no exception.
Jesus knew Nathanael’s character; He knew that Nathanael was a man without guile.
In other words, he did not deceive, try to bait in or mislead anyone.
He said whatever he thought without hiding his thoughts; he said and acted upon exactly what he felt.
When we look back at Nathanael’s question to Phillip in verse 46, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
we can see for ourselves just how straightforward he was and did not hide his thoughts.
One of the great tragedies today, is that there are so many who are full of guile.
Now days you have to watch what they do and not what they say.
It’s this way on our jobs, in our homes, and especially in politics.
And unfortunately even in the Church.
The Psalmist said, “Blessed in the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile (Psalm 32: 2).
When Jesus confronted Nathanael it really startled him, he quickly asked, “how do you know me?”
This is a normal question given the circumstance.
If someone approached you; you’ve never met him or her; you have no idea whatsoever as to whom they are and they call you by your name.
Most likely the first thing you will ask is how do you know—have we met?
Another thing that must have startled Nathanael was, Jesus knew that he was Israelite Nathanael thinks this to be very strange, but wait until he hears the rest of Jesus' answer.
Here again, Jesus knows everything all the time, and He knew where Philip found Nathanael.
Nathanael was under the fig tree literally and spiritually.
Israel is
the fig tree symbolically and that is the teaching Nathaniel was under
at the time.
In Palestine the fig tree stood for peace, security, rest, and worship.
Very often a man would go seek solitude and worship under his fig tree.
Micah 4: 4 tells us, “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.”
This means that when Jesus returns there will be no more want.
There is sufficient food in the world to feed everyone.
All we lack is the will.
When Jesus returns no one will lack for needs.
No more war.
No more poverty.
Children of God share the blessed hope in Jesus Christ, because they know that this world is NOT their home.
When Nathanael was sitting under his fig tree he was most likely contemplating life and daydreaming about the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
No one but Jesus knows exactly what he was thinking while under that fig tree.
Maybe he was thinking along the lines of the great song sung by the late Mahalia Jackson, “Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world” or “In that great getting’ morning” whatever Nathanael was thinking at that moment I believe hope was on his mind.
Exactly what Nathanael was meditating on that day I really don’t know—but Jesus knew without one doubt what Nathanael was dealing with while sitting under his fig tree.
Jesus knows what you’re dealing with today under your fig tree; He knows all your hopes and your dreams and your aspirations.
John Piper said, “Jesus not only knows all people thoroughly as they were and are today, he also knows what people will think and do tomorrow.
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