John 1:35-36 – The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
We now continue our study of chapter one, in which John the apostle is giving testimony about the divinity of Jesus.
In our last post, John the apostle was relating an eyewitness account of the testimony of John the Baptist. John the Baptist confirmed for the religious leaders (Pharisees sent from the Sanhedrin) that he himself was NOT the Messiah, nor a reincarnation of Elijah, nor another Prophet. The Baptist described himself as simply a voice, crying out in the wilderness, paving the way for the Messiah.
The Baptist also testified that when Holy Spirit landed upon Jesus in the form of a dove, it was a sign from God that he was the long awaited Messiah. John the Baptist confirmed Jesus as the Messiah publicly a number of times.
As we pick up in verse 35, we find that John the Baptist was standing with two of his followers. We know that one of them was Andrew (verse 40), and as we mentioned in our introduction, it is quite likely that the second was John, who would later become the apostle John and the writer of this gospel.
As they are standing there, the Baptist watches Jesus walk by. The Greek word for watch means ‘to attentively behold, to earnestly fix your eyes upon’. In other words, it was not just a passing glance. John knew he was looking upon the Messiah, the Son of God and the deliverer/redeemer of mankind. John then proceeded to do what he always did – point others away from himself and towards Jesus, the Lamb of God.
John 1:37 – The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
The words spoken by the Baptist were clearly blessed of God – there had been no miracle, no flash of lightening, no angles singing; just a few simple words that created a hunger/desire within these two men to understand Jesus and his message. That inward desire manifested itself in their actions – they immediately left John and followed Jesus.
John 1:38 – Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), where are you staying?”
Don’t you just love the response of Jesus? As soon as the two disciples began to pursue him, he turned to meet them. He wasn’t too busy. He didn’t have an assistant check their credentials or degree of religious training. He didn’t require an appointment. He immediately responded to their heartfelt desire to know him!
Rather than putting them on the spot, Jesus speaks first. His question (What are you seeking?) could be paraphrased this way – “What is your petition or request? What would you like to tell me? What would you like to ask me?”
In essence, Jesus was inviting these men to open up their minds and hearts. He wanted to hear their thoughts and ideas regarding the Messiah. He wanted to know how they interpreted current events. He wanted to converse and fellowship with them. He wanted to open the scriptures and reveal the truth about Messiah.
In their response, they address Jesus as ‘Rabbi’, which is a Jewish title of respect or honor given to teachers of the law. Although they do not yet recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of that law, they are willing to believe the testimony of John the Baptist, who points them to Christ. At that point, they can discover Jesus for themselves.
Their response to Jesus (where are you staying) indicates that they were ready to spend some time getting to know Jesus and his ways. They weren’t in a big hurry to have an answer within a minute. They were willing to open their minds and hearts and embark on a journey to find knowledge and truth.
I believe Jesus is calling us to the same kind of relationship. He has unknown depths of wisdom and knowledge. He has answers to all of mankind’s greatest questions. And he turns to us and asks, ‘What are you seeking?’ He is making us the offer of a lifetime – to embark on a close, intimate journey with him, as he reveals answers to the questions that are deep within our souls. Does that sound like an exciting journey to you?
John 1:39 – He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
In the Jewish way of keeping time, the tenth hour refers to roughly 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Since 6 pm was considered sunset, the disciples had a choice – either come back in the morning, or stay the night with Jesus.
Before we go any further, let me ask you a question: Have you ever put something off until tomorrow, only to find that tomorrow never comes? Do you have a goal that you have always planned to accomplish, but you haven’t done a thing about it in the last 10 years? If so, chances are you will never do that thing!
In this situation we see that the disciples could have put off meeting with Christ until ‘tomorrow’, but they did not. They probably had busy lives, just like we do. But they put aside their work, hobbies, friends, etc in order to connect with Jesus. They were truly searching for spiritual answers.
What a wonderful lesson for us! Much to our shame, we often find reasons to put off spending time with Christ. We often look for a ‘more convenient time’ (Acts 24:25) to research or consider spiritual matters. And sadly, every time we delay, we miss out on an opportunity to fellowship with the Father, Son and Spirit. Furthermore, with the instability in our society today, we need to spend MORE time gaining wisdom from Jesus, not LESS!
John 1:40-41 – One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).
John now begins to tell us how the disciples were gradually brought to Christ. Andrew is one of the first to follow Jesus, and as soon as he hears about the Messiah, he brings his brother Simon (Peter).
This is a common occurrence. Once a person finds Jesus, they are so thrilled, delighted and amazed with him, that they cannot help but share this good news with others. And so it goes… one invites another, who invites still another and Jesus accepts all of them, giving them the power to become sons of God (John 1:12).
When was the last time you shared the good news with someone else?
John 1:42 – He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
When Andrew brings his brother to Jesus, Jesus immediately identifies him as Simon, son of John (your translation may say Jonah or Jonas). Jesus also delivers a prophesy regarding Simon – his name would later be changed to Peter/Cephas.
Let’s discuss this name change a bit further. It is not uncommon to re-name a person based on a past event. For example, when the patriarch Jacob wrestled with God all night, he was renamed Israel which means ‘he who prevails with God’ (Genesis 32:26-28). Keep in mind that it was the event itself that prompted the name change; the event occurred first, and the name was changed afterward. But in this scenario, Jesus is actually foretelling the future. He declares that at some future time, Simon’s name will be changed to Peter.
Currently, Simon is rash, headstrong, fearful and inconsistent. But Jesus sees Simon not as he is right now, but how he will be. Before the crucifixion Simon Peter denies Christ three times and flees from the scene of the cross out of fear. He, along with the other disciples, hid in fear of the Romans (John 20:19). But after the day of Pentecost when Holy Spirit filled Peter and the others, Peter transforms into the bold, consistent, fearless leader that Jesus knew he would become.
So, how do you view yourself? Your spouse? Your children and/or grandchildren? Do you only see their current failures and struggles, or do you envision them as Jesus does – successful, productive citizens and spiritual generals in the kingdom of heaven?
Your words have tremendous power (Proverbs 18:21). So be sure to speak words of success, love and encouragement over your family every day. Tell them not to give up or be discouraged; remind them that eventually they will overcome their current obstacles and be victorious. Want to sow seeds of greatness into their lives? Use your words to paint them a picture of their future success!
John 1:43-44 – The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Jesus recognizes that it is his time to leave Judea where he has been baptized by John. No doubt there were those who wanted him to remain close to John the Baptist, hoping to see more and greater confirmations that he was the Messiah. There were also those who would have wanted him to travel straight to Jerusalem, so that he could assume the public role of Messiah that they envisioned for him.
But Jesus has other plans. He is busy doing his Father’s will. At this time, he is revealing himself as Messiah to those who will later become his apostles. This is not the actual calling of these men to be apostles (you can read about that in Matthew 4:18). It is simply the time in which they become fully convinced that Jesus is truly the divine Son of God and redeemer of mankind.
John 1:45 – Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Phillip, fully convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, shares the good news with another friend of his – Nathanael (who is also called Bartholomew or son of Tholomew).
What causes Philip and the others to be fully convinced that Jesus is the Messiah? I think it is a combination of more than one thing.
To begin with, we know that Andrew and another disciple (most likely John) were originally followers of John the Baptist. This tells us that they were spiritual seekers. They were looking for truth and spiritual reform. Religion was not just a thing relegated to some dusty corner of their lives; it was an integral part of who they were. It affected their daily lives and the fortunes of their nation.
Their search for truth led them to John the Baptist. Because they followed John the Baptist, they witnessed John’s confirmation of Jesus as the Messiah. This led them to seek an audience with Jesus, which resulted in an invitation to spend the night with him. And during the discussions of that night, it is probable that Jesus opened the Old Testament scriptures (the Law and the Prophets) to them, showing that he was the fulfillment of all that had been prophesied about the Messiah.
Once Andrew and John were fully convinced, they told the good news to Peter, who told Philip, who then told Nathanael.
So let’s ask ourselves this question: Would any of this have happened to these men if they had not been actively seeking the truth? Do you think they would have found the Messiah while sitting at home, complaining about the Romans and the taxes and the corrupt priesthood? Do you think revelation knowledge of the Messiah would just have come to them as they read the evening news?
What about us? Are we actively seeking a fresh encounter with Holy Spirit in our own lives? Do we spend time at the feet of Jesus, asking for wisdom to help us turn our nation around before it self-destructs, or are we just sitting around complaining about government mismanagement? Will we find the answers to our personal and national problems by listening to the news media?
Matthew 7:7 – Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
My personal opinion is that we will never ‘stumble’ onto the answers we need for ourselves or for our nation. It will take a definite effort on our part. The good news is that Scripture supports the idea that God is found by those who actively seek him.
Jeremiah 29:13 – You will seek me [God] and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Let’s face it – what we have done in the past is not working. Let’s turn to the source of all truth for the answers we so desperately need in our own lives and in our country!
John 1:46 – Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Clearly, Nathanael had some preconceived ideas about Nazareth.
Generally speaking, Nazareth was not the most prized real estate in that region. It was an obscure village of Galilee. It was far away from Jerusalem, thinly populated, mountainous and wild. It was surrounded by Gentile nations and the Jews considered it a wicked place. To be identified as a Nazarene was an expression of contempt among the Jews. All in all, they would be prone to immediately dismiss anything or anyone who came from Nazareth, including Jesus.
So we find that Nathanael could have rejected Christ based on his own preconceived ideas. What preconceived ideas do you have about revival or Holy Spirit or the supernatural or angels or miracles? Are these ideas preventing you from finding the truth?
Nathanael took the time to ‘come and see’ before making a decision on the matter of the Messiah. Can we do the same to spiritual things we don’t fully understand?
John 1:47 – Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
Our translation says that Nathanael had no deceit in him. Your translation may say “guile”. The root meaning is deceit, fraud or hypocrisy. According to Jesus, Nathanael is exactly what he seems to be – a true Jew, who fears God and obeys his law.
Jesus seems to be making a distinction here. There were many Jews who boasted in their heritage. Because they were physical descendants of Abraham, they considered themselves holy and accepted by God. Yet, these same people were often hypocrites; far removed from the faith of their fathers. Despite being children of Abraham, many of them would soon become bitter enemies of the cross.
Thus, Jesus makes a distinction between those who profess to be Jews and those who are truly Jewish in their hearts. The same distinction can be made of Christians. There are those who claim to be Christians for one reason or another, but they are hypocrites who lack true faith, devotion and love. On the other hand, there are also true Christians who have integrity of heart before God and man. Let us always strive to be like Nathanael!
John 1:48 – Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Having never met Jesus before, Nathanael naturally wonders how or where Jesus could have known about his character.
The answer Jesus gives Nathanael blows his mind! Jesus says he has ‘seen’ Nathanael under the fig tree. In the original Greek, Jesus refers to it as “THE” fig tree, not simply “A” fig tree. Thus, it was not just any old fig tree, but a very specific tree, which Nathanael knew well.
Scholars speculate that the fig tree was the personal place of daily prayer and/or devotion of Nathanael. It was the place he routinely went in order to commune with God. We might refer to it as a personal prayer closet. It was here that Nathanael released his thoughts, prayers, dreams, desires, motivations and secret feelings to God.
When Jesus declares he has ‘seen’ Nathanael there, he is clearly not referring to the act of physical sight (II Chronicles 16:9). Jesus is saying that he had knowledge of all the prayers and communion that Nathanael shared with God. In order for Jesus to know this, he had to be divine.
John 1:49 – Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
The words of Jesus quicken Nathanael’s spirit. He knows that Jesus has spoken the truth and that he actually is the Messiah, the Son of God. And because of his understanding of the scriptures, Nathanael correctly proclaims him the King of Israel (According to scripture, if Jesus is the Messiah then he is also the King of Israel).
While this is true, it also reflects the limitations of Nathanael’s thinking. Jesus came not only to be the savior and king of Israel, but of the entire world – Gentiles as well as Jews!
John 1:50-51 – Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Nathanael had based his faith in the divinity of Jesus on one revelation – that Jesus knew what he had spoken to God in secret.
But Jesus was going to furnish much, much more abundant proof than just that! All of the apostles were soon going to witness vast numbers of miraculous events. The blind would see, demons would be cast out, thousands would be fed, storms would be stilled, Jesus would be resurrected, and on and on and on.
However, scholars are somewhat mystified by the exact words of Jesus here in the book of John. We can’t point to any specific time when Nathanael saw a literal vision in which heaven was opened and angels were ministering to Jesus. Of course, this does not mean that this event did not occur (John 20:30). It also does not mean that this particular event has yet taken place. Perhaps Jesus is referring to something that will happen during his second coming.
One thing we can be sure of is that Jesus still desires to reveal himself, his power and his glory to his present day followers. If we want to know Jesus in this way, all we need to do is seek him!
Let me offer you some encouragement:
The scripture says that John the Baptist ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah; he pointed people to Christ. No matter what our individual ministry may be, we too need to operate in that same spirit and power.
We don’t need to put on strange clothes, eat unusual food and separate ourselves from the world in order to do so. All we need to do is live in a state of thankfulness for all that Jesus has done for us. When we do, we will find that our conversation and our actions will automatically reflect what Christ has done for us and this in turn will open doors of opportunity for us to share that good news with others.
I encourage you to meditate on the goodness of God and watch doors open up for you to testify about Christ.
Let me offer you some relief:
God is not finished with you yet! In today’s study we noted that Jesus knew Simon would one day become Peter; his character and spiritual man were going to grow and change.
Likewise, you are not going to be the same person next year that you are right now. Neither are your spouse and/or your children. So make sure you take the time to speak words of life, success and encouragement to everyone in your household, regardless of their current situation. Recognize the potential in those around you, and sow seeds of greatness into your loved ones!
Let me offer you some strength:
Today’s lesson demonstrates a biblical principle: Those who truly seek will find. Picture yourself in Andrew’s shoes as Jesus turns to him and asks, ‘What do you seek’?
What do you want from the Lord? Health? Answers to problems? A spouse or a child? A financial breakthrough? A spiritual gift?
I am NOT saying that God is going to answer every prayer you pray in the manner in which you want. But I am saying that God will communicate with you; he will give you answers to your questions, even if the answer is ‘no’. So if you are seeking Him and his will in a situation, don’t give up! Strengthen your resolve. Stay in communion with Jesus until he reveals the answer to you. You’ll be glad you did!