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Monday, July 21, 2014

Philip and Nathanael -- New Disciples -- John's Gospel

The calling of all of Jesus' disciples went in stages:
  • They were called but returned to their everyday life.
  • Then they were called to ministry. They must leave all to go with Jesus. Luke 5
  • Some were chosen to be apostles. Matthew 10:1-4; Luke 6:12-16 
  • After His resurrection, Jesus taught them how to fish His way to bring in the great catch. (John 21:6) When they did it Jesus' way, they brought in a catch so great that they were unable to haul the net to the shore. It is Jesus' resurrection power and doing things His way through obedience to His Word that will bring in the great harvest during the time of the end.
  • They were called to make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28:18
  • None of Jesus' disciples came without the Father and the Holy Spirit drawing them to the Son. The Godhead always works in harmony and agreement.
          The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow Me.”  Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael 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. John 1: 43-45
    Jesus found and called Philip to follow Him. Philip was also from Bethsaida, the house of fish. The first thing Philip did after believing in Jesus was to find Nathanael and tell him about Jesus.
           Philip was the disciple to whom Jesus said, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” There were 5,000 hungry people gathered to see and hear Jesus. (see John 6:5) Jesus already knew what He was going to do to feed them, but He would test Philip's faith in Him. Philip's lack of faith in Jesus was evident in his response, “Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.” v7 He also showed a lack of understanding and faith in John 14:8. Jesus was explaining the way to the Father to Thomas after which Philip asked, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus gently rebuked Philip saying, “Don't you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father?' Don't you know that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me.” vv9-10 As Christ is in the Father and the Father is in Him as One, Christ is in us and we are in Him as one. Philip didn't grasp this oneness yet.
           Philip along with Andrew brought some Greeks to Jesus. These Greeks said to Philip and Andrew, “We want to see Jesus.” (see John 12:20-22) Philip was an evangelist and a soul-seeker. (See Acts 21:8) He brought both Jews and Gentiles to Jesus.
            Philip is not mentioned again until the Upper Room in Acts 1:13. The 12 chosen ones and others were praying in one accord. The Holy Spirit came down and empowered them for ministry. Once empowered, Philip went to Samaria to share the good news of Jesus. God performed many signs and wonders through Philip and many were saved and baptized. 
           Philip also brought the Ethiopian (gentile) to Jesus. This man was reading Isaiah 53:7-8 about the Messiah being led like a lamb to the slaughter. The Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip who Isaiah was talking about. Philip used that very scripture to tell him about Jesus who is the fulfillment of the scripture. Then as they traveled on, they came to some water and Philip baptized the Ethiopian. (see Acts 8:30-39) He was doing what Jesus commissioned him to do.
           Philip continued to travel to various areas to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. Salvation is of the Jews but it is not just for the Jews. Jesus made that clear by His actions.
    Nathanael was the first Jewish convert that Philip brought to Jesus. God used Philip to bring both Jews and Gentiles to Christ. Nathanael came from Cana of Galilee where Jesus performed His first miracle at the wedding. Nathanael means “gift of God.” Many think that Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same person because Nathanael is not mentioned in the other three gospels but Bartholomew is. Bartholomew is always closely connected to Philip, as Nathanael was.   Nathanael is listed as one of the apostles in John.
           Philip describes Jesus to Nathanael as the one whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote about. The Law and the Prophets represent the whole Older Testament. Jesus Himself told the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:27 that He was throughout the Older Testament scriptures. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning Himself. Nathanael was a student of the Torah, so Philip saying that Jesus is the One Moses and the Prophets wrote about would interest him. 
           Philip also introduced Jesus to Nathanael as “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 
           Nathanael had a negative reaction at first. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nazareth was a small village of uncultured people. Cana of Galilee, Nathanael's hometown, was not far from Nazareth. In biblical times, there was often rivalry between towns so Nathanael didn't have good feelings toward Nazareth. His judgments of Nazareth made him think that nothing good could come out of that place.
           Jesus grew up in Nazareth, but was born in Bethlehem. Nathanael being a student of the Torah knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem and come through the tribe of Judah so he questions whether Jesus is the true Messiah because of Philip's description of Him.  
           In spite of the amazing teaching of Jesus and the miraculous signs and powers He performed, the people of Nazareth did not believe in Him. (see Matthew 13:54) Jesus began His ministry there but the people threw Him out of the synagogue and were even plotting to kill Him by throwing Him off a cliff. (see Luke 4:16, 24) In His discourse to them, Jesus said that no prophet is accepted in his hometown. Why? He is too familiar. He is seen in his earthly life – the son of Joseph, not in His spiritual life and power as the Son of God. Many times people see anointed ones in Christ's body in the same way. Because they knew us “when,” they don't recognize the spiritual gift and anointing in us and sometimes reject it. Jesus is far more than the so-called son of Joseph, He is the Son of God. Philip saw Jesus as the son of Joseph, but Nathanael eventually saw Jesus as the Son of God, the King of Israel. People today also sometimes don't see Jesus as He is in all of His power and glory as the Son of God. They reduce Him and relate to Him as just a man because we are human. We tend to see others as we see ourselves.
           Instead of debating or arguing with Nathanael, Philip just says, “Come and see.” In other words, come and see for yourself if a good thing can come out of Nazareth! Each one of us must see Jesus for ourselves. Jesus wants us to share what we have seen and heard with others, but people must also study the Word and see for themselves. A person can testify of Him or even bring you to Jesus, but ultimately we must all see Jesus for ourselves. He will reveal Himself progressively to each one of us through the Word, the Spirit of Truth, anointed teachers, pastors, evangelists, apostles, prophets, signs and miracles and revelation knowledge. He will open our spiritually blind eyes.
Jesus reveals Nathanael's character and heart
     When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, He said to him, “Here is a true Israelite in whom there is no guile (deceit).” John 1:47 Jesus knew Nathanael's character and heart. Nathanael truly loved and worshiped God and was honest. He had no pretense or false estimation of himself like some of the Jewish religious leaders. Instead of being a light and blessing, these religious leaders saw their chosenness pridefully as a privilege. The power and authority went to their head and as a result their attitude trickled down to the other Jews.  Some of them viewed their status in a similar way. After all, they were the chosen ones so they must keep it for themselves.  This is even happening today. God is no respecter of persons. He doesn't exalt one nation over another or one person over another. We are all, Jew and Gentile, seen alike in the eyes of God because we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God. God is not impressed with our race. He is impressed with our heart and character, just as Jesus was with Nathanael. Romans 2:28-29: A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from man, but from God.  Jesus praised Nathanael, the humble, righteous Jew.
           Nathanael was not a hypocrite but an honest and sincere man seeking the Truth and worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth. Jesus attests that there is nothing false in Nathanael. Psalm 32:2: Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him, and in whose spirit is no deceit. Perhaps Nathanael, the Torah student, remembered Isaiah's prophecy of the Messiah in Chapter 53, verse 9 that there would be “no deceit in His mouth.”
           Nathanael asks Jesus, “How do you know me?” v48  Jesus who is not just Man, but also fully God sees and knows all.  Jesus responds to Nathanael, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” v48 The Jews believed that one who has Divine revelation is a true prophet of God. In the heat of the desert land of Israel, men and women would go to the shade of a fig tree to study scripture, ponder, mediate and pray. A fig tree bore fruit before the leaves came, so they were a perfect place of shelter and peace under its leaves to communicate with God and study His scriptures. Praying for the Messiah to come as the consolation of Israel was every Jew's desire. Nathanael could have been praying for this too. The Messiah was talking to him!
           At the revelation of Jesus about Nathanael's heart, character and being under the fig tree, Nathanael declared, “Rabbi (Master and Teacher), You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” John 1:49   Philip knew Jesus as the son of Joseph at this point, but Nathanael knew Him as the Son of God, the King of Israel. “King of Israel” is a term used for the Messiah – the Anointed One of God. Philip saw Jesus as the prophet that Moses wrote about, but Nathanael saw Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus is far more than a Prophet, He is the very Word of God brought to life (Living) and the Son of God who will fulfill all of the promises of God from Abraham to David and throughout the Older Testament scriptures. The very gospel of John is written to testify that Jesus is the Son of God. Nathanael saw this even before Peter and the others. He had great spiritual depth. 
Jesus'promise to Nathanael
       “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that. I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” vv 50-51
     Perhaps Nathanael was reading and studying about Jacob's ladder in Genesis 28 when he was sitting under the fig tree. Jacob was full of deceit until he wrestled with the spiritual Man who broke Jacob's fleshly willfulness so he would walk with God as Israel. (see Genesis 32:22-32) Nathanael, on the other hand, had no deceit.
            Jesus called Himself the Son of Man because Jesus was that spiritual Man who wrestled with Jacob and then changed his name to Israel which means “one who strives with God.” Jacob would no longer walk in deceit and his fleshly ways. He will now walk with God and His ways. As the Son of Man, Jesus is every man because He created us. As the Son of God, He is the only One begotten of the Father who is holy, righteous and good.
            Jacob rested upon a rock when he had the dream of a ladder whose top reached into the heavens and angels were ascending and descending on it. (see Genesis 28:10-13) After Jacob awakened from this dream, he anointed the rock with oil and named the place Bethel which means “house of God.” Jesus is the Anointed Rock of God in whom God is housed.  Jesus is saying, “I am that dream!” Jesus is also the ladder as the bridge between heaven and earth -- the spiritual and the natural. Jesus is giving this revelation knowledge to Nathanael, the righteous Jew. Jesus promises Nathanael that he will have even deeper revelation knowledge because He met and believes in Jesus the Messiah who is the fulfillment of all of scripture – the Living Word. 
            At the ascension of Christ, two angels dressed in white came down and told Jesus' disciples that He will come back the same way He left. The heavens opened and He ascended in a cloud of glory and the heavens will open and He will descend in a cloud of glory at His second coming.   
            Notice that Jesus said to honest Nathanael, “I tell you the Truth...” Jesus only speaks Truth. There is no guile (deceit) in Him because He is God of whom it is said that He is “not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent.” Numbers 23:19  No, Jesus is holy and pure as God , Truth and as Man. 
Fruitful Vines and Fig Trees
     Fruitful vines and fig trees symbolize spiritual fruit, rest, peace and prosperity. The fig tree also is symbolic of Israel. Jesus cursed the fig tree in Matthew 21:19 because it was full of leaves but had no fruit. A tree with no fruit is useless. Jesus told the religious leaders who were full of pride and arrogance that they were white-washed sepulchers. In other words, they looked good on the outside but inside they were full of pride. Jesus wants us to allow Him to circumcize our hearts so we are full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and are a benefit to His Kingdom and others.
            Jesus' commendation and revelation of Nathanael's heart was, I am sure, music to Nathanael's ears. May we all with unveiled faces long to hear “well done my good and faithful servant” from our precious Savior and Lord.
            Lord, we thank you for Nathanael and his godly example of a righteous life. Help us to be like him. Amen

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