43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, which was the hometown of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “How can anything good come from Nazareth?”
“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.
47 As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel, a true Israelite—a man of complete integrity in whom there is no guile nor deceit nor duplicity!.”
48 “How do you know these things about me?” Nathanael asked. “We’ve never met”.
Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.” (John 1:43-51 NLT, MESSAGE, VOICE, NKJV, Amplified)
The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God!
In this story let me share several things I notice.
First, Jesus invites Phillip to follow him, and apparently, Philip does so without much hesitation. Just a few verses earlier we saw that Philip’s hometown buddies, Andrew and Simon Peter had already become his first disciples. These guys had already been followers of John the Baptist, so it should be noted that John did a good job of “preparing the way of the Lord.”
Second, Phillip feels compelled to share his amazing discovery with one of his best friends, Nathanael. “We have found THE ONE promised from scripture!”
This is the effect that a true encounter and relationship with Jesus will cause. Following Jesus is not about some kind of intellectual or religious pursuit, it’s about sharing great news with people you care about.
Third, Phillip’s enthusiasm – he’s a product evangelist – is met with – surprise – skepticism.
Nathanael’s response is “Nazareth!” “How can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Just from reading this in context you might perceive that Nazareth did not have a great reputation, and your perception would be correct. Generally speaking, it’s podunk, it was was a small insignificant town and from an inferior part of the country.
Judean Jews looked down upon their more rural Galilean Jewish cousins. Because – those guys are from the sticks, they live with a lot of non-Jews and considered them country bumpkins.
Now I know about country pumpkin because I’m from Tennessee.
Now, not just to bash on Nazareth, but we were just in Israel and when we visited Nazareth first we saw a really great little first Century replica village that was awesome – but leading up to it, man it was surprising because as one blogger described there is trash and graffiti all over the place. TripAdvisor.com described it is as “ok to see, but kind of dirty and run down”.
These are definitely humble origins. As Dr. Gerald Borchert says in the New American Commentary on this passage, “as far as Nathaniel was concerned the Messiah and Nazareth should hardly belong in the same sentence. There is of course little supporting scripture for a messianic figure from Nazareth, so Nathaniel’s doubt was not without warrant.” p147
Fourth, Phillip’s response is to simply invite Nate to “come and see” for himself, the very same invitation that Jesus had offered his first disciples. I love Dr. Borcherts commentary here also he says, “Evangelism usually is advanced by genuine, concerned, loving proclamation and invitation” ibid
Fifth, then Jesus speaks life to Nate and declares the first of a couple of prophetic words to him. He begins by proclaiming Nathaniel’s true identity.
“You are the real deal, you are a true patriot, you are a man of integrity, there is no b.s. In you”
And Nate was blown away, “How do you know this, we’ve never even met” And Jesus gives him another prophetic word – “I saw you under the fig tree” Now a serious rabbinic student back in those days would study the law under a vine, olive tree or fig tree. This is what Nate was doing, he was a serious man. And Jesus affirmed that in him.
How does Nathaniel respond?
Remember, worship is our response to the revelation of God. He declares the identity of Jesus – not by persuasion or clever argument, but simply by experiencing the life-changing presence of Yeshua!
“Wow! You really are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”
Now, the “he’s a nobody from nowheresville” prejudice was completely blown away. When God is in something, the credentials or lack of credentials from man do not matter. What matters is what God is doing in and through you.
So Jesus gives him one more prophetic promise. 3 sentences, 3 prophecies.
This is nothing. You’re going to see a whole lot more. In fact, you’re going to see what a true Israelite will see. Now the word Israelite means “one who wrestles with God”, and just like his ancestor Jacob, Nathaniel was going to see a glimpse of heaven interacting with earth. That would be Jesus in action.
So my friends, as Zechariah 4:10 says – do not despise the days of small beginnings, your humble origins or your humble circumstances.
When you let the Lord have full control of your life, He can and will redeem any and every aspect of your story for the glory of God. Believe it and receive it, in Jesus name.
Father thank you that just as something good did come out of Nazareth, something wonderful can come from my life story too. Have thine own way Lord, have thine own way. For your glory, may your kingdom come and will be done on earth – and in my little part of it – as it is in heaven. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Daily Worship Devotionals is a 5-minute podcast dedicated to studying the Word of God and hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. Currently, we are following the Christian year calendar as our framework. We’re in the season of Epiphany – the Season of Light and exploring the early life of Christ.