John 1:43-51 - Philip & Nathanael Follow Christ

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“Philip & Nathanael Follow Christ”

John 1:43-51

Philip’s experience (v.43-44)

A.     He was sought by Jesus personally (v.43a)

1.       Jesus Himself went forth and sought Philip—Philip was not seeking Jesus there is none who seeks God (Romans 3:11).

2.       Jesus traveled a long distance to find Philip

a.       Galilee was a long distance away & shows how far Christ will go to reach a soul.

b.       Every believer should go any distance to reach a person, no matter how depraved that person is.

c.        There are too many people in this world that seem to be unreachable: alcoholic, poor, prisoner, lowly etc.

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

3.       Jesus is seen in fulfilling His mission in seeking and saving Philip.  He came into the world for the very purpose of seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10; John 10:10; John 18:37; 1 Timothy 1:15). 

"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10 NKJV)


"I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 NKJV)


Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." (John 18:37 NKJV)


This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15)

B.     He was called by Jesus personally – He called Philip to “follow Him” (v.43b)

              (The results of following Jesus)

1.       Proves that one belongs to Christ

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27)

2.       Shall receive the light of life.

"I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12)

3.       Will be with Jesus where He is – in heaven.

"If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. (John 12:26)


"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

C.     The City of Bethsaida (v.44)


Bethsaida: Jesus carried on a large ministry in Bethsaida, but the gospels tell us nothing about the city itself. The city was denounced by Jesus because of its rejection of Him (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13). (Cp. Mark 6:45; Mark 8:22; Luke 9:10; John 12:21 for other references to the city.)

II.                Philip’s first concern: Nathanael (v.45a)

A.     Philip Followed the Example of His Lord

1.       Jesus had just challenged Philip to “follow” Him, to become just like Him, and he did.

2.       Following the example of Jesus, Philip did exactly what Jesus had done to Him, he found his friend Nathanael.

3.       Philip became a personal soul–winner like his Lord!

a.       It is impossible not to witness if one is truly saved (John 15:26-27)

b.       Laborers are needed (Matt. 9:37-38).

c.        The Pharisees were strong in witnessing to their religion. How much more should believers be (Matt. 23:15)

Thought 1. One of the strongest lessons to be learned from the Scribes and Pharisees is zeal in evangelism.

1)       They had a willingness to go.

They who held to a false religion were so willing to go. Why are we, who know the truth, so unwilling to go? Where is our zeal to reach people?

2)       They were willing to go anyplace.

They traveled worldwide to reach just one convert. Where is our willingness to go as missionaries? As witnesses? Where is our willingness to go even around the corner?

Thought 2. The Pharisees should also cause us to search and evaluate our hearts and our religion.

1)    Are we teaching the truth? Are we adding to or taking away from God’s revelation, that is, from His Word?

2)    Are we actually doing just what God has called us to do: to live and work as servants and messengers of God and not as lords of religion and saviors of the world?

Thought 3.   There is a crown for soul winning (1 Thess. 2:19-20)

1)       The crown of rejoicing awaits the person who will be able to present souls to the Lord in that day. Let us all ask God to touch our hearts and help us to win souls for Him. He will if we will only ask in sincerity.

2)       We must be fishers of men (Matt. 4:19).

3)       There is joy in heaven & joy in the presence of God over one sinner who repents (Luke15:1-10)

III.             Philip’s conviction: Jesus was the One prophesied (v.45b)

A.     Note Four Points About Philips Decision

1.       Philip was extremely joyful – “We have found Him”

2.       We have the instruction Manual to Life.

a.       Paul told Timothy in the last days evil men & imposters will grow worse & worse, deceiving & being deceived,

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17 NKJV)

3.       Philip and Nathanael knew the Scripture.  They were familiar with the prophecies of the Old Testament.

a.       This means that Philip and Nathanael “Studied to show themselves approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15).”

b.       This means that Philip & Nathanael “desired the sincere milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2-3).”

c.        They “hungered & thirsted after righteousness (Matthew 5:6).”

4.       Jesus was identified as the Messiah John 1:45 See (p.5-6) of this study for Prophecies concerning Jesus.

B.     Knowledge: Grounded in the Great Truths of Scripture

C.     You Must Be Planted (Psalm 1 cf. Colossians 2:6-7)


1.       The believer is to be rooted and built up in Christ (v.7). There are two pictures in this statement.

The picture of being rooted is that of a tree.

a.       The believer is to be like a towering tree that has its roots deeply planted in the ground.

1)       The ground provides strength against wind and storms

2)       The ground is nourishment for life. The believer is to draw his nourishment and strength from Christ.

3)       Psalm 1:1-3… Jeremiah 17:5-8 … John 15:1-5… Ephesians 3:14-17

4)       Do not uproot yourself or your roots will never go deep!

The point to note is this: the emphasis upon a strong attachment and a flow of nourishment and life from Christ to the believer. That is, the believer is to:

1.    Walk in a continuous, unbroken communion and fellowship with Christ.

2.    His life and mind are to focus upon Christ without interruption.

3.    Draw all nourishment and strength from Him. This is critical, for there is no other permanent nourishment or strength—not that

lasts forever and imparts eternal life to the human soul.

D.     Hard Work – Matthew 25:14-27 cf. Matthew 9:35-38 The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few.

E.     Be Programmed for Rejection 2 Timothy 2:1ff.

1.       Do not be ashamed of Christ – 2 Timothy 1:8, 12, 16…Psalm 40:9-10; 119:46

2.       Turn away from rejection – Acts 13:45-52

3.       To warn man, then leave them alone – Luke 9:3-5

F.      Characterized by Love – 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

The Witness of Nathanael, 1:46-49

IV.              Nathanael’s experience (v.46)

A.     It was Nathanael’s close friend Philip who shared the good news with him (cp. John 1:45).

1.       Nathanael heard the gospel from someone who cared for him very deeply (Romans 10:17).  

2.       Nathanael was so loved by Philip that he was the first one with whom Philip shared the most important experience of his life.

                (Pass it On) – when is the last time you brought someone to Jesus, or reached out & said, “Come & See”

                Often times brand-new Christians are the most zealous Christians.

a.       We should always be bringing people to the Lord.

b.       If our zeal is not growing along with our knowledge & understanding of God & His Word, something is wrong.

You may say, “but I am miserable at witnessing, I have tried & failed.”  You & me both!

a.       Failure is often the way to success, first you find out how not to do it, then you find out how to do it.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV)

b.       When you fail, you can look at it as actually succeeding.  How?

c.        When someone asks you a question that you do not have an answer to, that’s all right.

d.       Andrew didn’t know much, but he knew enough to bring his brother to the Savior

e.        Philip didn’t know much, but he brought Nathanael to Jesus.

Is there any reason why you & I shouldn’t do the same?

“The Holy Spirit will move them first by first moving you.  If you can rest without their being saved, they will rest, too.  Bur if you are filled with agony for them, if you cannot bear that they should be lost, you will soon find that they are uneasy, too.  I hope you will get into such a state that you will dream about your child or you hearer perishing for lack of Christ, and start up at once and begin to cry, ‘O God, give me converts, or I die.’ Then you will have converts.”                         

                                                                                      —Charles Haddon Spurgeon

B.     Nathanael was a man of despair and prejudice (v.46a)

1.       He rejected Philip’s testimony and did it in a negative, skeptical spirit: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

2.       Apparently he was a man who had tried and followed so many voices in the world that he had just lost hope.

a.       So many voices in the world promise the path to life and fulfillment and joy and satisfaction (Matt. 7:13-14).

b.       However, their claims are soon discovered to be false, and they still leave the human heart empty and wondering.

c.        A person caught up in despair wonders about the real purpose, meaning, and significance of life.

Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh----that at that time you were without Christ… having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12 NKJV)

3.       The prejudice [partiality] of Nathanael is seen in his slur against Jesus because Jesus was from Nazareth.

a.       Nathanael was apparently a crowd-follower. He had allowed himself to be influenced by others.


For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:11 NKJV)

God shows personal favoritism to no man. (Galatians 2:6)

"For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. (Deuteronomy 10:17 NKJV)

"You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. (Deuteronomy 16:19 NKJV)

4.       Nazareth: a town of lower Galilee where Jesus spent His boyhood (Matt. 2:23).  

a.       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.

b.       Nazareth was despised by the Jews because it was on the border of Gentile country and was so commercially touched by Gentiles.

c.        It was despised by the Romans because its citizens were a conquered people.

Ø       The angel appeared to Mary & informed her of the forthcoming birth of Christ (Luke 1:26-38).

Ø       Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:19-22) to escape the murders of Herod the Great (Matt. 2:13-18).

Ø       Joseph brought the baby Jesus to Nazareth where they had lived (Matt. 2:23).

Ø       Here Jesus was brought up as a boy (Luke 4:16), & spent the greater part of His life (Mark 1:9; Luke 3:23).

Ø       Apparently Jesus was received as a young man in Nazareth (Luke 2:42; 4:16).

Ø       But this changed after He began His ministry, His own town people rejected Him twice ( Mark 6:1-6; Luke 4:28-30).

                (Luke 4:14-30) – rejection of Nazareth


                (Matthew 13:54-58) – His hometown

Ø       Luke says they were going to kill Him (Luke 4:28-29).

Ø       Jesus loved them in a very special way because they had been His friends, and He wanted to do so much for them. But He was unable to do anything, for they rejected Him

5.       There seem to be three major reasons for their rejection.


Reason 1: they did not understand the source of His wisdom and power (v.54-56).

Reason 2: they were offended because of Him (v.57).

Reason 3: they did not believe Him (v.58).

               (Unbelief results in some bitter fruit)

1)       Unbelief hurts the unbeliever.

a)       The unbeliever loses life—life abundant in this world and life eternal in the next world.

2)       Unbelief hurts the unbeliever’s neighbors and friends.

a)       Imagine all the good that could be shared and experienced by the neighbors and friends of an unbeliever if he just trusted Christ!

b)       Imagine the difference on a personal scale: fewer tragedies, trials, temptations, broken homes, bankruptcies, diseases, and accidents; less envy, jealousy, prejudice, disappointment, discouragement, loss, and disruption.

c)       Imagine the difference on a global scale: fewer wars, savage beasts, terrorism, broken treaties, and , poverty, hunger, and death.

3)       Unbelief hurts Christ. It cuts His heart.

a)       He longs to give life and to help us along day by day.

b)       But as in Nazareth, He is often denied the right to show His love and power to the unbeliever.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37 NKJV)

Jesus wept. (John 11:35 NKJV)

Lets go back to John 1:46b, where Philip says, “Come & see”

C.     Nathanael was Still Invited to follow Jesus despite prejudice (v.46b)

1.       No matter what the sin is, we must still go and invite men to “come and see” Jesus.

a.       There is nothing like a personal experience – (Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good).

b.       A lot of people have formed opinions without ever trying, without ever tasting, without ever seeing.

c.        Come & experience the promises of God, the Word of God, it is something to participate in.

V.                 Nathanael’s confrontation with Jesus (v.47-48)

A.     Jesus knew him: His beliefs and character (v.47)

1.       Nathanael was a man without guile (dolos).

a.       This means he did not deceive, or mislead people.

b.       He was straightforward, open and honest, not deceptive or hypocritical.

c.        This trait had just been demonstrated in his response to Philip. He would not hide his true thoughts (John 1:46).

Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalms 32:2)


Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. (Psalms 24:3-4 NKJV)

B.     Jesus knew him: His innermost being—all things about him (v.48)

1.       Jesus exercised His omniscience.

a.       When Jesus revealed His knowledge of Nathanael, where he had been and what he had been doing, this was enough to convince the man that Jesus indeed was “the Son of God, the King of Israel.”

b.       His experience was like that of the Samaritan woman at the well, she said…

"When He comes, He will tell us all things… Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" (John 4:25, 29 NKJV)


Fig Tree—Worship: in Palestine the fig tree stood for peace, security, rest, and worship (cp. 1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4). Very often a man would seek solitude and worship under his fig tree. No doubt this is what Nathanael had been doing. When Jesus told Nathanael that He had seen him under his fig tree, He was telling Nathanael that He knew everything about him, even the deepest longings of his heart. Jesus knew Nathanael’s despair and sense of hopelessness; He knew his longing for peace and release and freedom. That was enough to cause Nathanael to give his life to Jesus forever.


Think About This: Jesus knows everything about every man.

                    Nothing escapes His watchful eye, not even a single thought.

a)       This offers great hope to those who trust Christ. Christ can help him by meeting his need and giving purpose and direction to his life.

b)       This is a great warning to the man who goes his merry way, thinking his sin is hid and will not be judged.

"For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. (Luke 12:2 NKJV)

For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13 NKJV)

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5 NKJV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10 NKJV)

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.   And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (Revelation 20:11-12 NKJV)

And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 NKJV)

C.     Nathanael’s conviction: Jesus was the Son of God (v.49)

1.       How quickly Nathanael confessed Jesus as Lord.

"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32)

"Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. (Luke 12:8 NKJV)

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 NKJV)

Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:23)

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:15 NKJV)

VI.              The Witness of Jesus Himself, 1:50-51

A.     The Mediator (v.51a)

1.       Jesus Himself claimed to be the Mediator, only way to heaven (John 10:7-8; 12:44-45; 14:6)


"Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. (John 10:7-8 NKJV)

2.       This is a picture of Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28:10-22).

3.       It is a picture of open access into the very presence of God: the door of heaven is open and the angels are ascending from earth to heaven. Jesus was saying...

a)       He is Jacob’s ladder; the ladder is a symbol of Him. He is the One who opens heaven.

b)       He is the One who reaches from earth to heaven, the One by whom man has his communication carried up into heaven.

B.     Jobs Cry for a Mediator (Job 9:32)

1.       Job knew the only hope for man would be some kind of mediator who could stand between God and man.

2.       The cry of Job is answered in the New Testament, for Paul wrote to Timothy "There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus."

a.       He can lay His hand upon God for He is the Son of God.

1)       He said of Himself, "I and the Father are one."

2)       "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, the same was in the beginning with God." Thus He can touch God.

3)       "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth." He can thus touch me.

b.       In Hebrews 2:16 speaking of Jesus we read:

For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.   Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.   For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:16-18 NKJV)



c.        John writes in his first epistle:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life---- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us---- (1 John 1:1-2 NKJV)

d.       Jesus is the answer to the cry of Job. He is the Mediator who can stand between God and man and lay His hand upon us both.

1)       He is my Advocate who stands before the Father to plead my case.

2)       Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would make intercession for the transgressors.

3)       Paul asked:

Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:34 NKJV)

4)       He can touch God, I can touch Him.

e.        Christianity is not a religion but a relationship.

1)       It is not another case of finite man trying vainly to reach out and touch an infinite God.

2)       It is the infinite God reaching down to touch finite man, and by that touch restoring him, and bringing him into fellowship with the infinite God.

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