John 1.43

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John 1:43-51
In Bible instruction classes, one of the first topics we study is the attributes of God. When you ask people “What is God like?” They will most often mention that he is loving, or forgiving, or powerful. And he is all those things. But we also point out that he is omniscient and omnipresent. God knows all things. He knows everything about everyone, everywhere in the universe. His is present everywhere, as the Psalmist says, Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. There is no place you can be that God is not.
These attributes of God can be very comforting. The all-powerful God always knows where I am and what I am going through and he always knows exactly what I need, what is best for me, and noting is able to keep him from doing that.
But these attributes of God can be very disconcerting. The all-powerful God always knows where I am and sees not only what I am doing, but what I am thinking. Not a single one of my sins is hidden from him. He has every right to use his unlimited power to justly punish me and give me the Hell I have earned by my sins.
What is true for us was also true for Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathanel. Just like us, Jesus knew everything about them. He knew their every thought and desire, both good and bad. He knew every sin they had committed and even that they would forsake him in the future when his enemies arrested him. Yet, in spite of this, he personally called them to follow him and become his disciples. They were called in Grace, and so are we – called by the one who sees all; called by the one who enables us to see.
When Philip went to his friend Nathanel and told him, “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.” Nathanel doubted. He saw the excitement Philip had. He understood that Philip truly believed what he was saying. He thought he had met the Messiah they had all been waiting for, the one John the Baptist said was about to come. But something about what Philip said made him very skeptical. Did you catch it?
Philip said that this was the one foretold in Moses and the Prophets, the Old Testament Scriptures. But then he said that he was Jesus of Nazareth. Nathaniel didn’t see how those two things went together. If this Jesus really was the Messiah foretold in Scripture, he would not be from Nazareth. He would be from Bethlehem, the town of David on whose throne he would sit. So, he responded, Nazareth! Can anything good come from there? It wasn’t just that Nazareth wasn’t a place you would think would produce an important person—the main thing for Nathaniel was that it was not the place from which the Messiah was to come. If he’s not from Bethlehem he can’t be the true Messiah.
Philip handled Nathaniel’s skepticism in a wonderful way. He didn’t argue with him. He didn’t do anything to try to convince him by his own logic. He simply invited him to come and see for himself.
This is a wonderful example for us to fallow still today. In our world today we meet a lot of skeptics. Unlike Nathaniel, the Skeptics we meet usually aren’t well-versed in Scripture. They have heard what some people say about Jesus or Christianity, they have maybe heard some out-of-context quotes from the Bible maybe used by some teacher or professor to make the Bible seem unreliable and out-of-date. But the majority of people you meet today have never read the Bible for themselves. In fact, many have never been to Sunday school, or even been in a church that treats the Bible as the Word of God. Still today, one of the best things we can do when someone is skeptical about Jesus and Christianity is to invite them to come and see for themselves; to come to a Bible Information class, or another Bible class where people gather around the Bible and actually read what it says. Remind them not to pre-judge what they don’t really know.
Seeing how excited and convinced Philip was, and the fact that Philip didn’t argue with him about Jesus being from Nazareth, Nathaniel agreed to come and see for himself. When Jesus saw Nathaniel coming with Philip, he led Nathaniel to believe by demonstrating his omniscience. He said for all to hear, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” Here is someone who knows and believes the promises of God, a true son of Abraham because he has faith that God would send the Messiah just as Abraham did. There was nothing false in him. That’s why he was skeptical of the mention of Nazareth. He tested everything by the words and promises of God so that he would not be misled by false teaching.
Nathaniel responded, How do you know me? Today we might say, “have we met?”
Then Jesus demonstrates his omniscience to overcome Nathaniel’s skepticism. I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.
What had Nathaniel been doing under the fig tree? The shade of a fig tree was a place that people often went to meditate and pray. Had he been meditating on the promises of the Messiah recorded in Moses and the Prophets? Had he been praying, maybe like Simeon, that he would be able to see the Messiah, the fulfillment of those prophecies, in his lifetime? Had he been contemplating the preaching of John the Baptist and asking that he might be enabled to recognize the Messiah when he did come? We don’t know for sure, but Jesus knew, and by letting Nathaniel know that he knew his inmost thoughts and prayers, things he had not shared with anyone else, his skepticism was overcome. He confessed, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.
Jesus, the one who sees all, who knew everything about Nathaniel, who saw him and knew what he was thinking about as he meditated under a fig tree, enabled Nathaniel to see. He enabled him to see and confess a truth that cannot be seen or confessed without the power of the Holy Spirit, for no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
Consider what Nathaniel was enabled to see – that so many others failed to see. He saw, believed, and confessed, that Jesus is the Son of God. He had just witnessed an example of godly omniscience. But Jesus promises he would see even greater things. He would witness the things we review during the season of Epiphany. He would witness Jesus do things only God can do. He would see him heal every kind of sickness and disease. He would see him cast out demons. He would see him calm storms and walk on water. He would see him raise people from the dead. He would hear the father speak, calling Jesus his beloved Son. All these things would confirm for Nathaniel, as it does for us, that Jesus is truly the Son of God.
Nathaniel was also enabled to see that Jesus is the King of Israel, the heir to David’s throne, the one who would rule on David’s throne forever, the promised Messiah, his savior.
Because he saw, believed, and confessed these things he would also see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. This is a reference to Jacob’s dream, which not only assured Jacob of God’s presence with him but reminds us still today that Jesus is the ladder, the connection, the only way that anyone can pass from earth to heaven.
Jesus is the Son of God, born into this world because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He is the King of Israel, a physical descendant of David, who was betrayed by his own people and crucified under Pontious Pilate. No one can look at these claims and not be skeptical. They sound ridiculous to our human reason. How can a virgin give birth? How can God become man? How can someone who was rejected and crucified save anyone? He didn’t even save himself! The list of things about which we are skeptical by nature can go on and on—Healings? Casting out demons? A resurrection from the dead? How can those things be true?
Come and see.
Though he would have every right to ignore us, even to condemn us for our natural doubts, Jesus still calls us in grace. He still sends someone to invite us to come and see. He sends parents to bring us to baptism through which the Holy Spirit works to enable us to see. He sends Sunday school teachers, Pastors, and others who invite us to come and see what God says about Jesus in his word, and through that word, the Holy Spirit works to overcome our skepticism and enable us to see and confess with Nathaniel, “Jesus, you really are the Son of God. You really are the promised King of Israel. You are the one who knows everything about me, including all my sins and failures, yet you have called me to follow you. You have enabled me to see that as the son of God and son of man you are exactly who you needed to be to pay for all my sins by your perfect life in my place, and by your innocent suffering and death in my place. Through the eyes of faith now, and one day in person, I will see you with the Angels of heaven ascending and descending on you.”
What a blessing to be called in Grace by the one who sees all, and who enables us, through the word and sacraments, to see that he is the Son of God, the king of Israel, our Savior from sin.
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