Nathanael & Come and See
October 10, 2021

GET READY FOR THE RESET

Nathanael & Come and See
John 1:43-51

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbcwwCC6Iyw&t=4662s

As we start counting down to our special series on Resetting Our Lives, where we look at resetting, reigniting, and refueling our lives, I’d like to count down by looking at the various people that encountered Jesus, and not only how He reset their lives, but also look at what He said and how it relates to us today.

Last week we looked and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, and the gift of living waters that Jesus provides to spirits that are parched and dry, and how it radically changed and reset her life.

Today, I’d like to continue this resetting process by looking at another person, one who is hardly mentioned within the gospels, but one Jesus chose to be one of the 12 disciples and how He reset his life. And I’m talking about Nathanael.

Read John 1:43-51

“The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 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.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to 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, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

As they were heading back from the Jordan River, Philip went to find his friend, Nathanael, who was from the town of Cana in Galilee.

Now, Cana was just 5 miles away from Nazareth. John identifies Nathanael as from Cana when he lists him after Jesus’s resurrection as one of the 7 disciples who went fishing on the Sea of Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee. John describes him as “Nathanael of Cana in Galilee.”

But even more, in the other 3 gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Nathanael was one of the 12 disciples, but was called Bartholomew, and closely associated with Philip. “Philip and Bartholomew.”

So, which was it, was his name Nathanael, but changed to Bartholomew, like Simon, whom Jesus renamed, “Peter?” Actually, Bartholomew wasn’t his proper name but what is known as his surname. Bartholomew means, “son of Tolmai.” So, you could say that his name was Nathanael, son of Tolmai.

And Nathanael was a person whom Jesus said there was no guile or deceit. In other words, unless you could prove something beyond a shadow of a doubt, Nathanael wasn’t going for it.

And so, when Philip found Nathanael, he said, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45 NKJV)

Philip told Nathanael that Jesus of Nazareth was no one less than the Messiah Himself.

Now, to understand the significance of this statement, it has been calculated that over 300 prophecies of the coming of the Messiah were fulfilled when Jesus came. Just grasp that.

Peter Stoner, Mathematician, did the math and found that the odds of one person fulfilling just 8 of these prophecies, which he spelled out, would be the same as 1 out of ten to the 17th power, or 10 with 17 zeros following.

Further, one doesn’t think of Moses and the Law when speaking about the coming Messiah, but Moses made a remarkable statement in Deuteronomy 18:15 saying, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.”

But who would be a prophet like Moses? It would be someone who would intercede for the people, as Moses acted as a mediator between God and the people. And the writer of Hebrews talks about how Jesus is a mediator of a better covenant than Moses, a new covenant based upon a better sacrifice and a better promise.

And so, Nathanael immediately responded to Philip’s statement saying, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46a NKJV)

Why would he say this? Well, Cana, where Nathanael was from was just 5 miles away from Nazareth. So, Nathanael had a good knowledge and understanding of that community. Further, Cana was a much larger town, of 8,500 people, whereas Nazareth had a population of 400. So, you can imagine Nathanael’s hesitancy or reticence to acknowledge that there was little if any chance that anything or anyone, no less the Messiah, would come from such a backwater town like Nazareth.

Again, why even make this declaration in the first place?

Hearing Philip tell him the Jesus was the one, the long-awaited Messiah, Nathanael had his doubts, especially seeing that the Scriptures clearly indicate that the Messiah’s birthplace is Bethlehem, not Nazareth (Micah 5:2).

But, there are so many like this today, not that they know the prophecies, and doubt Jesus’s Lordship, but because they just doubt when we tell them that Jesus is Savior and Lord, and it is only through Him that a person can be saved and enter into heaven, as Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one can enter heaven except through Him (John 14:6).

Doubts are what we might call faith killers. Now, I’m not a believer in a faith that can’t ask valid questions, but that is not what we see here, nor is it what we encounter most of the time when we share our faith.

Nathanael is basically mocking the thought that the Messiah would even come from a no nothing little town like Nazareth, and not the place of His lineage, Bethlehem.

And so, instead of looking at the facts, Nathanael gives credence to his doubts. He does so by listening more to his doubts and ignoring what Philip was trying to say. And can I just say that listening to our doubts without carefully considering the facts or what is being presented doesn’t work. Instead, it perpetuates the lies that many have convinced themselves are truths. In other words, by repeating a lie long enough, people start believing that it is the truth, and the truth is then the lie.

When such doubt has arisen in my life, which is more often than I’d like to admit, I’ve learned to counter it by speaking the truth of God’s word to my doubts, and then many times I find myself saying to the Lord the same thing the father said when Jesus asked, “If you believe all things are possible,” and the father cried out, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

So, when it comes to these doubts, we need to tell them the truth of God’s word and then we need to take some steps.

Move Forward

Notice that Nathanael accompanied Philip despite His doubts. He moved forward in spite of his apprehension.

At this point I think about the Apostle Paul’s words.

“I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV)

Let me just say that when I start to focus on God and the truth found in His word, and then focus less on my doubts and Satan obvious lies, then I find that God can use me to make a difference.

It is then that I can be an example to others in the words that I speak, the way I walk and talk, an example in my life, the way I act and love others, and finally in my faith and the way I trust God.

This leads me to the next step, and that is our need to depend on God

Depend On God

What fuels our doubts is when we feel inadequate, that we’re somehow not good enough for whatever we’ve been called to do. And guess what, that isn’t wrong. We are not good enough, but God is, and that is why we need to depend upon Him and no longer upon ourselves.

I love what Paul said to the Corinthian Church.

“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5 NKJV)

What I have found is that the more I depend upon my own abilities the worse it gets, and that’s because I’m not realizing that it is the Lord who enables me. You see, my problem, as it is most of us, is that we’re trying to understand life on our terms and not on God’s truths.

Let me just say that we were never created to go it alone. We were made for a relationship with God, and as such we need to depend on Him.

When Nathanael found out that his doubt was met with a simple, “come and see,” Nathanael, to his benefit, put his doubts on hold to find out the truth.

God’s Not Finished

God is not finished with us. Our problem is that we place upon ourselves unrealistic expectations. But we’re not perfect, and therefore, we should never stop growing in our relationship with God.

And while we are masterpieces, we’re unfinished masterpieces, because God’s not finished with us.

I love what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Ephesian Church.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV)

Nathanael was at the point where he felt there was nothing left, more about what Nathanael was thinking under that fig tree in a moment, but when Philip took the time to come and get Nathanael, he realized that Nathanael had a purpose, and that God was not finished with him.

And so, Nathanael’s put his doubts and questions on hold, and followed Philip’s simple and yet profound challenge.

“Come and see” (John 1:46b NKJV)

Philip gave Nathanael the best and only possible answer.

This is what we need to do and say to all those who come back at our witness with doubts and ridicule, and we just want to argue the point. Instead, we should just ask them, “Hey, why don’t you just come and see.” This is what the Woman and the Well did. She said, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29 NKJV)

And so, Nathanael came face to face with Jesus, the Messiah, the King of King and Lord of Lords. And when Jesus saw him, instead of being introduced, he just said, “Behold, an Israelite, in whom is no deceit!” (John 1:47).

Nathanael was a transparent and honest person. And Jesus saw within Nathanael, with all his doubts and questions, someone who was looking for what is real and true and one who refuses to settle for a knockoff version.

He had been looking for the Messiah, as were most every Jew out there, and he had probably seen a lot of fakes in the process. There were a lot of false prophets over the years, and he had had enough.

Using the story of Jacob, referencing Jacob early years as a deceiver, using the story of Jacob seeing the angels descending and ascending to heaven, plus calling Nathanael an Israelite, which was the name given to Jacob after his encounter with God at the river Jabbok, what I found interesting is that one translation has Jesus saying, “Behold an Israelite, in whom there is no Jacob.”

And so, when Jesus said this, Nathanael was shocked wondering how someone could know who he was, that is, who he was deep down, and still never meeting him before.

And Jesus said, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” (John 1:48b NKJV)

Now, most say that it was under the fig tree that Philip found him sitting, but it doesn’t say that. Jesus said that sometime before Philip found him, He saw Nathanael sitting under the fig tree. The question I have is what was Nathanael doing there? What was going on, that caused Jesus to see him?

Now, it is talked about how under the fig tree was a sacred place of prayer, study, and meditation. It could have been that at this time that Nathanael, as he was sitting under the fig tree had doubts, serious doubts about God’s calling, maybe even crying out if God even saw him or heard his prayer.

Now I get this from another biblical figure who sat under a tree in his time of doubt and of God’s calling. It was Elijah, while he sat under the broom tree wishing nothing more than to die.

After God’s mighty victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, where Elijah called down fire from heaven, followed by rain to end the drought, Queen Jezebel threatened to put him to death, so he went a day’s journey into the wilderness and sat down under the broom and asked God to take his life.

But God saw him and met his needs and gave him the strength to take a 40-day journey to Mount Horeb.

And I believe that Nathanael was having the same crisis of faith, wondering if God even saw, and if God even cared. And so, Jesus said, “I saw you.”

In like manner, Jesus sees us in our times of despair when we start questioning our faith and calling, because things are not going according to our liking. And I believe that God sees and doesn’t turn his face away from us, the same that God never turned his face from Elijah or Nathanael.

I see this same sort of cry coming from King David, but also the knowledge that God hears and doesn’t turn away.

“My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.” (Psalm 6:3-4 NIV)

And then David said, “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:9 NIV)

And to what Jesus said, Nathanael had the reset of his life and did a 180 saying, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49 NKJV)

And I love what Jesus goes on to say, that’s because he believed he would see even greater things, and then refers back to Jacob and his encounter with heaven itself as he saw a ladder reaching up into heaven with angels ascending and descending upon it, and thus Jacob made this declaration that the Lord was in this place, and he called it the House of God, saying “this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:12, 16-17)

Now look at what Jesus said, “I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:51 NKJV)

Now, whenever the story is told this is the usual ending, thus missing the significance of what is being said.

Using the story of Jacob was not a sermon filler. It has extreme significance. By Jesus saying that the angels of God will ascend and descend upon Him, he was saying that He was the ladder back in the story of Jacob.

What a beautiful picture this now becomes. Jacob called it the House of God, and that the Lord was there. This is the church. That the Lord Jesus is present within the church. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20 NKJV)

Therefore, it is within the church as we gather to worship God and study His word that the gateway is opened between earth and heaven, as Jesus opens for us the realities of heaven while we’re here upon the earth. He is that ladder and He is that gate. Maybe this is why I love the name horizon for a church, because it is the place where heaven and earth meet.

This is also why I love what Jesus said should be part of our prayer life saying, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

And so, this is why we invite people to come to church, to come and see for themselves, and allow them to experience the reality of God and of heaven for themselves.









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