Can Anything Good Come Out of Nazaareth?

Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →

Can Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth?

JOHN, the Book, the Man – Part 3

January 29, 2007    Dr. Rick Isbell

READ – John 1: (40, 41,42a) 42b-51


1:42. When Jesus . . . looked at Simon (v.47), He knew the man’s character and destiny.

-          Jesus gave him the Aramaic name Cephas.

-          Peter is the Greek translation of Cephas (“rock”).

-          Simon’s name in Hebrew was probably Simeon

-          No reason is given here for the change of his name from Simon to Cephas.

-          The common understanding is that his name indicates what God by His grace would do through him.

-          He would be a rock-like man in the church during its early years (cf. Matt. 16:18; Luke 22:31-32; John 21:15-19; Acts 2-5; 10-12).


1:43-44. Though the first disciples were from Galilee, Jesus had called them in Judea where they were with John the Baptist.

-          On His way north to Galilee, Jesus called Philip to be His disciple.

-          Philip’s hometown of Bethsaida was on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee and was also where Andrew and Peter were born.

-          Politically speaking, Bethsaida was not much

1:45. Philip’s testimony to Nathanael stressed that Jesus is the Promised One of whom Moses and the prophets wrote.

-          Philip called Jesus . . . the son of Joseph which is what the disciples would have believed at this time.

-          Yet Nathanael would soon recognize that He is “the Son of God” (John 1:49).


1:46. Nathanael momentarily stumbled over the lowly origin of the Messiah.

-          Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?

-          Nathanael knew of the poor reputation of Nazareth.

-          Surely the Messiah would come from Jerusalem, Hebron, or some other prominent city.

-          Philip was wise enough not to argue, he gently invited his friend to meet Jesus: Come and see.

-          He knew that Nathanael’s questions would then be resolved.


1:47. Jesus, having supernatural knowledge (v. 42), called Nathanael . . . a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false or (dolos, “deceitful”) unlike Jacob (v. 51 with Gen. 28:12).


1:48. Nathanael was puzzled as to how Jesus knew about him.

-          Jesus said He knew exactly what Nathanael was doing before Philip came up to him;

-          he was under the fig tree.

-          This expression often meant to have safety and leisure

-          Perhaps here the fig tree was a place for meditation

-          Psalm 139 elaborates on the theme of God’s knowledge of a person’s life in every detail.


1:49. Jesus’ supernatural knowledge moved Nathanael to confess Him as the Son of God and the King of Israel.

-          He understood that this future Davidic King would have God’s Spirit on Him (Isa. 11:1-2) and thus would have supernatural knowledge.


1:50-51. Jesus promised Nathanael a greater basis for belief, probably referring to the miracles to come in chapters 2-13.

-          It can be inferred that Nathanael was meditating on Jacob’s life, particularly on the incident recorded in Genesis 28:12. Jacob saw the angels going up and down a ladder.

-          But Nathanael would see . . . the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

-          Just as Jacob saw angels from heaven communicating with earth, so Nathanael (and the others) would see Jesus as the divine Communication from heaven to earth.

-          The Son of Man, replacing the ladder, as God’s link with earth

-          Jesus used the term “Son of Man” of Himself more than 80 times.

o   It speaks of His humanity and suffering and His work as “the ideal Man.”

-          I assure you –or- I tell you the truth

o   (“Verily, verily,” kjv) occurs 25 times in John and always calls attention to important affirmations

o   When Jesus says, “Verily, Verily,” then you better take notice.

1.  Jesus knows who we are – 1:47

Philip went to Nathanael

-          We are not made aware of why he goes to Nathanael.

-          Probably, they were very good friends.

-          Philip is very convinced that Jesus is the Messiah!

-          “This is the guy!”

-          “He fulfills all the prophecies.”

-          “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 possibly was getting a little excited about all this, until Philip tacked on that last piece of information.

-          Nazareth?

-          “Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?”

-          Nathanael was from Cana, just a few miles away.

-          As far as he was concerned, coming from Nazareth was like coming from the wrong side of the tracks.

-          Kind of a cross-town rivalry.

-          Nazareth was a dusty, little village, hardly worth the acknowledgement.

But there was something more to Nathanael’s skepticism

-          Apparently Nathanael was knowledgeable about spiritual matters and Scripture and knows there is no prophecy about the Messiah and Nazareth.

-          So he is possibly concerned that this is not the right guy and that Philip may be just a little over anxious.

But as we see in this passage, Nathanael was about to learn that God often surprises us by providing the answers to our life’s questions in the most unusual ways and places. 

-          He was about to meet a guy that would later say in Matt 10:30 that He even “knows the number of hairs on your head.”

Jesus described Nathanael’s heart and character:

-          nothing false about this guy

-          not a deceiver

-          not one to play the politics game in spiritual matters

-          didn’t have to guess where you stood with him

-          He was straightforward.

Jesus said:

-          Nathanael was a true son of Israel

-          a very high compliment

-          Romans 9:6 refers to fact that just because you come from a nation of God’s people, does not automatically make you one of God’s children

-          Like America still claims to be a Christian nation… do you think everybody in Memphis, Tennessee today is a Christian?

You Christian relationship with God is not established by your citizenship in a nation

-          It is not established by your birth parents

-          It is not established by who you marry

-          It is not even established by what church you join

-          It is only established by you accepting the free gift of eternal life that God offers lovingly to you.

Jesus knows who you are today.

-          He is not shocked by who you think you are

-          Nor is He impressed with who you think you are

-          He knows you at church

-          He knows you at home

-          He knows you in the light

-          He knows you in the dark

-          He knows you when you are happy

-          He knows you when you are down

-          He knows you with you live in victory for Him

-          He knows you with you pretend you don’t even know Him

He knows WHO we are!


2.  Jesus knows WHERE we are – 1:48

In that same passage of Scripture in Matthew about the ‘hairs on your head’ Jesus states that even if a sparrow falls in the field, God sees it and knows where it is.

Then Jesus testifies that He saw Nathanael under the fig tree.

-          Being under the fig tree, in ancient Jewish times, could be either literally or figuratively

-          Literally, it would be sitting under a fig tree for shade

-          Figuratively, it would mean a lace of reflection, study and meditation.

o   You were under the fig tree if you were looking for God.

The later is probably what happened here… maybe both together

-          Maybe Nathanael was sitting under a real fig tree contemplating on the things of God

-          Praying, asking God to reveal Himself to him

-          Seeking direction for some aspect of his life

-          But it is pretty obvious that there is some spiritual experience or inner thing going here that nobody but Nathanael knows about

-          …except for Jesus

Nathanael’s conclusion is quick and decisive…

Vs49 – “Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Nathanael doesn’t hesitate in his conclusion

-          He attributes to Jesus a religious title, “Rabbi.”

-          He attributes to Jesus a divine title, “Son of God.”

-          He attributes to Jesus a national, sovereign and messianic title, “King of Israel.”

-          He sounds pretty convinced to me.

It seems that his heart was ready to hear from God.

-          Sometimes we miss God speaking because we are not listening

-          We ask for an answer and then don’t even recognize it when it lands in our laps

We are like the atheist who said he surely did not believe in God after he almost died one time.  His friend asked what happened, said he was driving across the desert in Arizona when his car broke down and he began walking for a couple of days in the blazing sun.  He ended up barely crawling through the sand, near death’s door and he called out to God, “If you are real, please save me from this terrible death.”  His friend said, “Well obviously you are here so God must have done something.”  “He did not,” the atheist said.  “Just as I was about to go under, this wild haired Indian came riding by on a giraffe and rescued me.”

Are you like that?

-          Wouldn’t recognize a miracle if it rode by on a giraffe?

The good news today is that Jesus knows where you are.

-          Maybe you are in a dessert of your life right now

-          Maybe you are in a dessert of

o   Fear

o   Sorrow

o   Shame

o   Guilt

o   Anger

o   Hatred

o   Lust

o   Worry

Jesus is not out searching for you… wondering “Yoo-hoo… where are you.”

-          He knows exactly where you are

-          He knows what it will take to bring you back

3.  Jesus knows WHAT we can be  - 1:42b

42b When Jesus saw him, He said, “You are Simon, son of John.  You will be called Cephas / Peter / ROCK”  


-          He was the third disciple called by Jesus (VS 42)

-          Peter was Andrew’s brother (VS 40)

-          He was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee
He had a doubting personality or a I know best personality

o   Remember when the disciples were fishing, had caught nothing and Jesus said, put your net on the other side of the boat

o   Simon Peter thought that was a silly idea… doubtful

-          He was quick tempered

-          He made rash, often poor decisions

o   Matthew 26:51 “And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus (Peter) stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.”

Simon was a man of many faults and shortcomings, but Jesus had that supernatural way that He still has today to look into the very heart and character of a man, woman, teenager and child and see what they CAN be…

What they WILL be if they surrender to HIS plan for their lives

When Peter later declares that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God…”

Matthew 16:17-19

“…Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” “And I also say to you that you are Peter,(Petros the Rock) and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…”

Jesus told a man who

-          Sometimes seemed weak

-          Out of control

-          Would briefly deny that he ever knew Christ when the going got tough during the cross

-          Is not even mentioned as having been around the cross

-          that HE would be used as a rock upon which Jesus would establish the church.

When our senior adult went to Branson, we heard the very popular Southern Gospel Trio, Greater Vision, sing.  The lead spokesman talked all about the group and pointed out the kind of tall, goofy looking member of the group and drew attention to the fact that he never said much, but he wrote most of their award winning songs.  The spokesman said, “Can you believe God would use something like that to write such great music?”

To which the songwriter responded, and can you believe that God even used a mule to talk?

The point here is simple, God can use anybody for anything
Peter was by all accounts should be remembered as a failure

-          Despite all of that, Christ still used him

God used this failure to

-          Raise the dead

-          Heal the sick

-          Cast out demons

-          Preach under the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit and see thousands flock to the church in belief

Wouldn’t you like to be THAT kind of failure?

Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more