Philip and Nathanael. 1:43-51


Jesus continues to gather a band of followers. Philip is invited to "follow" and Philip invites Nathanael to "come and see."

The passage

v43-44. Jesus is about to head for Galilee and invites Philip to come with him. All we know of Philip is that he comes from Bethsaida. He, like most of us, becomes one of the less than outstanding disciples.

v45. Clearly Philip thinks that Jesus is the messiah and so he searches out Nathanael to tell him the news that he has met the coming one, the one whom Moses and the Prophets wrote of. Nathanael may well be the common name for the Bartholomew (son of Tolmai) referred to in the synoptic gospels, but of course, Jesus had many disciples, not just the twelve apostles. In 21:2 John tells us that Nathanael comes from Cana.

v46. Despite the face that there is no scriptural support for Nazareth being the home of the messiah, Nathanael responds with the comment, "So, something good can come out of Nazareth." Obviously he doesn't have a high regard for the town. Philip, in common with the Rabbis of his time, uses the formula expression "come and see" - check it out for yourself.

v47. Jesus has heard Nathanael's comment and so his word's of greeting reflect this knowledge. Jesus' words may well be tongue-in-cheek, or at least a "here's a forthright person who says what he thinks." It is unlikely that Jesus is making a comment about Nathanael's moral superiority.

v48. Nathanael is taken aback by Jesus' comment and asks how he knows about him. Jesus tells him that he saw him under the fig tree at the time Philip spoke to him. The word "before" may not mean before in time. There is no point in Jesus seeing Nathanael "before" he meets with Philip. It is most likely that Jesus is simply saying that he knows what Nathanael said when met with Philip. The only significance in the fig tree is that Jesus knows the actual tree Nathanael was under at the time he made his comment.

v49. Although, on this occasion, Jesus' insight is possibly little more than overhearing what was said, Nathanael responds with a confession of faith, proclaiming Jesus as messiah. The two phrases he uses are equally messianic titles.

v50. Even Jesus doesn't think his insight is earth shattering, but if Nathanael is willing to follow Jesus as a disciple then he hasn't seen the half of it.

v51. Jesus now declares what amazing things Nathanael will get to see. Jesus uses the imagery of Genesis 28:12, the vision of Jacob's ladder. Nathanael, along with the other disciples, will see the real Jesus, they will get to glimpse Jesus on his heavenly throne surrounded by ministering angels.

Truth and attitudes

Having moved from the idea of objective truth, Western society now grasps at a relative plurality of ideas. Of course, although we now affirm diversity, it is a diversity selectively filtered through a politically correct mesh.

A paper on the changing face of education noted that "a child today could come home from school and find the attitude of their parents wrong." In an age where divine truth is no longer recognized, it's interesting that so many educationalists believe they have cornered the truth market with their correct attitudes.

The paper quoted from a social history textbook of the 60's using it as an example of "wrong attitudes." "Since those far-off days men have changed the landscape. Densely wooded country has become prosperous farmland, swamps and stony outcrops have been transformed into cities and rivers are being turned in their courses to provide irrigation and power to a rapidly developing industrialized nation." From a pragmatic point of view, this information factually represents the development process, but it fails to promote the politically correct environmental attitudes of the thought police.

An insight into significant truth will inevitably affect the way we see everything, but the trouble is, what is true for one person is not necessarily true for another. In a pluralist society, truth and justice is like beauty; it is all in the eye of the beholder. The question facing modern society is whether we can live with this plurality, or whether we will continue to escape into the notion, "I think and it is true."

Philip invites Nathanael to discover significance in Jesus. "Come and see," he says. Nathanael really doesn't think that Nazareth could produce anything that is significant, but he checks it out, none-the-less. Jesus, as always, is his unsettling self and so Nathanael soon sees and believes. "Well, you ain't seen nothin yet" says Jesus. The disciples will inevitably gain an insight into the person of Jesus, and that insight will affect the way they perceive everything about them. Jesus is a heavenly man, in fact, a divine man who has entered our time and space. His origin determines the significance of his words and work, and once his words and work are our focus, everything is subsumed by them. The only question then is whether we can live with others whose significance lies elsewhere, or maybe the question is whether they can live with us and our wrong attitudes.


How does faith in Christ affect our attitudes?

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