Nathaniel, a True Israelite

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

We are still near the Jordan River where John the Baptist has been baptizing and calling listeners to repentance. 

When Andrew and John (Peter’s brother)  see the Baptist nod toward Jesus and declare him to be the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, Andrew and John follow Jesus.

We learned last week that Jesus finds Philip and he, too, becomes a follower. Philip in turn finds his friend, Nathaniel.

Nathaniel’s name means “God has given.” Truly, God had given Nathaniel a desire to study the Holy Scriptures including the prophesies  that pertain to the Promised One. We first see Nathaniel sitting under a fig tree. It was very common to get away from the stifle of small houses and sit under the broad, cooling branches of a fig tree.

        

Philip finds his friend sitting under the tree and excitedly tells Nathaniel,

“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 1:45

Nathaniel is from Cana and evidently there is a bit of a rivalry between Cana and Nazareth. Nathaniel’s first recorded words are,

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” John 1;46

This is a bit humorous in that both towns are very small and rather insignificant. At least Nazareth was at a cross road along trade routes, and Cana is off by itself, but you know how rivalry can be.

Philip doesn’t argue with him; he merely says,

“Come and see.” John 1:46

Reluctantly, Nathaniel gets up and follows Philip. When Jesus sees Nathaniel approaching, he says of him,

“Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” John 1:47

Though prejudiced, Jesus knew Nathaniel’s heart. He wasn’t tainted by hypocrisy. His heart was circumcised; he knew the prophecies of the coming Messiah and looked toward that hope.

“How do you know me?” Nathaniel asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathaniel answered, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!”

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:48-51

This reminds us of Jacob’s dream with angels ascending and descending on a ladder, but in Jesus’ comment, he is the ladder.

It is interesting that three days later, Jesus goes to Cana where he performs his first miracle. No doubt Nathaniel stands nearby witnessing this confirmation of following Christ. How like our Lord to give affirmation when we step out in faith.

In all the groupings of disciples, Nathaniel is listed as Bartholomew (son of Tolmai or Bar Tolmai).

Various reports have Nathaniel ministering in Turkey and/or Persia and India, and particularly in Armenia where he was likely martyred.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Peter – Name Change

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week (in Peter, Part One), Andrew went to his brother, Simon, and declared to him that he had found the Messiah. We are given no comment from Simon. Not “You’ve gotta be kidding!” or “What makes you think that?” or “Praise the Lord!” Nothing.

We are told that Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, so I guess he was at least willing to come and see Him.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John, you will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter.) John 1:42

Thus the beginning of name changes for a few of the disciples. “Peter” meant stone or rock. He was anything but a solid rock early on with his impulsive, unstable personality, but in Acts he became the pillar of the early church. Jesus named him not for what he was but for what, by God’s grace, he would become.

How refreshing to know that God sees beyond the meager person I am to what He knows I can become when I submit to His power in me. After all, God created you and me with the gifts, personality, and interests we have. He sees our potential. Nothing can bind us if we stay connected to the vine. He can produce abundant fruit in us.

Well, back to our story. The next day, Jesus decided to leave from the area where John the Baptist had been preaching and go to Galilee, more specifically Bethsaida, Peter and Andrew’s hometown. Jesus seeks out another hometown boy, Philip. Maybe Andrew had also talked to Philip; we don’t know.

Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” John 1:43

Philip evidently had enthusiasm and faith because he, in turn, went to find his friend Nathaniel. He told him,

“We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and whom the prophet also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” John 1:45

Nathaniel gives us his famous line,

“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46 (NAS)

Philip persuades him to come and see. Thus we hear the conversation between Jesus and Nathaniel (later called “Bartholomew.”)

“Here is a true Israelite in whom nothing is false.”

“How do you know me?”

“I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

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 of the Son of Man.” John 1:47-51

John, Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathaniel. Now there are five. No matter how untrained or unrestrained we are, God sees where we can be more than where we are. He can use us whether our personality is quiet and calm or boisterous and loud. He has a plan for each of us, beyond where we are today. He simply says, “Follow me.”

Next week, we’ll go to a wedding!

~ Joyce ~