June 14, 2015
The title of this morning’s message is “An Invitation From the Rabbi.” An Invitation from the Rabbi.
For some of us who have the opportunity to experience it, there is something special that happens when you realize who might be standing right in front of you or even right next to you.
Growing up in the city of Miami, Florida, and specifically growing up in a Cuban home, there was one thing that undoubtedly you were going to do as you were growing up as a young boy in a Cuban household, and the one thing that you had to do is that you were going to play baseball. No matter what! And I didn’t mind it. It was great. I loved it. I embraced it. In fact, I started playing at the age of four and then continued on to play up into my Junior High years, my High School years and then I played in college as a struggling second baseman. But nonetheless, I played college baseball.
One of these winter breaks that I happened to go back down to Miami, I got in contact with one of my friends and he had the opportunity to be able to hang out with me and everything. He was talking and he said, “Hey, have you had the opportunity to meet Jorge Saez?“ And I said, “No, I haven’t.” He said, “You should get to know him. He actually played some baseball.”
So immediately, the first thing of any college athlete or any person that plays any sort of sports, the first thing that comes to your mind is, “How good is this guy?” “Is he really that good?” So he is telling me, he is looking around and he is saying, “No, you don’t understand, man. He is pretty good.” And I said, “Well, how did you meet him?” He said, “Well, he actually comes to our college youth group…I mean, not college youth group but our college group. You should come and you should get to know him, or whatever.” And I was like, alright.
So sure enough, we had the opportunity to meet and we have a chance to chat and everything. And immediately we kick it off because we are talking about baseball. So all of a sudden, he gives me an invitation that I didn’t realize was coming to me. And he said, “Hey, Paul, would you like to come and hang out with us. Do you want to do some fielding, hit the cages, you know, do some throwing?” So I was like, okay, sure. I will go.
And in the back of my mind you could only imagine what is going through it. I want to see how good this guy really is. Lets see if he is everything that my friend, Eric, is saying he is.
So sure enough, the day comes around and we have the opportunity to go and field and do some hitting and do some throwing. And that day, my complete perspective of what I knew about Jorge Saez changed. I started watching him and how he fielded the ball, how he threw the ball, how he hit. And all of a sudden, I started to realize to myself, there is something very different about this person. There is something very different about the way that he throws the ball, the way that he hit’s the baseball and even the way that he catches. It is completely different than what I do.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Jorge was actually very sought out by the number one juco college in the nation, Miami Dade College. What I didn’t know at the time is that he was playing catcher at that school and that he had a 1.8 popup time. Now if anybody knows baseball, that is fast. Now what a 1.8 popup time is, the moment that George got the ball in his glove, received it, exchanged it to his next hand and threw it to second base, he did that in less than 2 seconds. I don’t know about you, but that is fast. That is very fast.
And all of a sudden, I started realizing that he was also being sought out by another school to go and play. Finally, Jorgie had his big moment and he happened to be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays!
So I learned something very significant that day. One, I wasn’t that good at baseball. And two, he really was. He really was. I had no idea that I was in front of a professional athlete and how good and how much of a difference it actually is.
The same thing arises with our story today with our encounter today. There are few men for the very first time that they have the opportunity to get to know a certain individual. They may have heard about Him in the Old Testament, but they never had the opportunity to actually meet Him. But some might have said that they actually recognized Him. And for the first time in their lives, they were going to have the opportunity to visit and meet with someone that would radically change their life.
The book of John, specifically in Chapter 1, is full of an amazing introduction and what the introduction is, it is all about Jesus Himself. So what does Jesus do and what is my goal for this morning for all of us to understand and learn and dig into God’s Word? It is simply this, that Jesus decided to go to Galilee for one purpose and one purpose alone. He decided to go to Galilee to seek out these two men, Philip and Nathaniel, men who may have recognized Him, and He did so, solely for the purpose for them to know Him and to truly know who He is. That was His whole purpose.
And here is the amazing thing: Even today, Jesus extends that very same invitation that those who may recognize who Jesus may be, He is giving the invitation even today to us, that for those of you who may recognize Him, He is calling you today in order for you to truly know Him.
So turn with me in your Bibles, and I hope you have them, to John Chapter 1 and we are going to consider Verses 43 through 51. And when you are there, say “Word.” We don’t often get an opportunity to say that, so any time that we do, we relish it and we try to say it as well.
Verse 43. Notice what the text says. “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee.” (And that is very significant and important. Jesus took the initiative to do something.) 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.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”
Our first point for this morning the following is that Jesus gathers His disciples. Jesus gathers His disciples. Now before we jump into this point, lets give a little bit of context as to what is going on, because there is a lot. We are the back end of a couple of days that have occurred within Chapter 1 of John, okay. John introduces in one of the most climactic ways in Verse 1 that Jesus is the Word that became flesh. He is the eternal Word, okay.
Afterwards, John the Baptist comes on the scene and titles Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. And then John the Baptist goes and introduces the Lamb of God to some of his disciples, specifically to Andrew and possibly even John.
And then, all of a sudden, Peter gets an encounter with his brother, Andrew, and they are asking him, hey, you should come and take a look at who this individual is. And all of a sudden there is an interaction between Peter and Jesus and then Peter begins to follow.
So at this point, at this moment, at this time, you have a couple of guys that are already with Jesus when Jesus went to go find Philip in Bethsaida. We can more than likely allude to the fact that it was Peter that was with him, Andrew, his brother and John. And we can tell that it is John because John writes with such detail within this first chapter. You can see it all over the place. He knows what Jesus was called. He knows the actual pattern of days and the next day they went here, and the next day they went over here. John wouldn’t have known that if he wasn’t exactly at that moment and at that time with the group.
So then we arrive here when Jesus gathers His disciples. And He is at this junction with these other men to find one specific person. Jesus goes and He finds Philip. That is our point right under the first point. After He gathers, He is continuing this work and Jesus is finding Philip.
Now here is the interesting thing: We get to learn a little bit about who Philip is. Now there is not a whole lot that is said about Philip, but lets do a quick character study on Philip and I will explain why this is significant afterwards.
Philip was actually from Bethsaida and we see that because it is mentioned within the text. Philip was the pragmatist. If you remember, in one of the encounters with Jesus where he asked Jesus, “Where are we going to buy all of this bread for all of these people to have food?” And then he is the one who is kind of figuring out, I don’t know how this is going to work. How are we going to put this together, Jesus? This doesn’t make sense.
You also remember that Philip was the one who told Jesus, just show us the Father and that will be enough. And then how did Jesus respond to him? Jesus said, “You have been with Me this long and you don’t realize that seeing Me is seeing (who?) the Father.” That makes so much more sense now because you realized how much time Philip had already spent with Jesus. Philip was probably a fisherman. You can see that in John Chapter 1. He was probably one of the few that went back with Peter to go fishing after they realized that they hadn’t seen Jesus for a couple of days.
John MacArthur describes Philip this way. This is interesting. “Philip is the classic process person. He was the facts and figures guy. He was the “by the book” guy. He was the practical minded one, a non-forward thinking individual. He wasn’t a visionary. He was a pragmatist. He was the kind of guy that was the corporate kill-joy. He was the pessimist. No, No, No, we can’t do that. Be careful. You don’t understand. It is in the policy book. You have to make sure that we don’t do that. That was Philip.
And why is that important? Why do we need to know that about Philip? Notice who Jesus sought after. Was it the religious elite? No. Was it the important individuals? No. Philips was your classic, normal, ordinary young man. That is who he was. And like many of us, we have so many different characteristics of who we are and what we bring to the table. But notice, did that matter to Jesus? Not one bit.
Jesus knew who He wanted to find, decided to seek after him and sought him out and then began to tell him some of the most encouraging words that he could hear. Notice what the text says in Verse 43.
“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, (what?) ‘Follow (who?)Me.’” Now you have to understand, this word is of absolute significance. This isn’t just something you jump over. We have to stop and park here and find out what did Jesus actually mean when He said this.
Quickly, the word “follow” can mean something as simple as to accompany someone or to go alongside of. And that is what the word “follow” can mean. At least to our ears. So quickly for us, when we hear that word, the first thing that comes to our mind is, okay, where, who, how long and what are we doing? That is the first thing that comes to mind. Why do we ask those questions? Because that might actually determine whether or not we are going to do what? We are going to follow.
But this wasn’t the case to a Jewish ear. You have to understand, the words “follow Me,” to a Jewish young man was absolutely significant. There came a point for every Jewish young man, that after he finished certain amounts of schooling, that if he made the cut, he had the opportunity to be able to go and further his study with the Rabbi. So some of the most significant words that a young man could ever hear was from a Rabbi, come and follow me. Why? Because they would have the opportunity to their lifetime to be able to learn more about God’s Word. And then have the opportunity to one day, do the same thing with some other young men and say to them, follow me.
Now this was absolutely significant. Robby, in his upcoming book, stated the following and this is very interesting. He says, “When we see Him at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus, He is walking along the shore of the sea of Galilee enlisting disciples with the call, come follow Me. Now follow me is the word “LECH AHARAI” which literally means to walk after me. Okay. It was a technical term in Hebrew for becoming a disciple.
Now here is the interesting thing. This meant literally, leaving it all. When they heard this, they were hearing that the call to discipleship often meant leaving Father, Mother, Wife, Children, Relatives, Friends, for the purposes of traveling the country under adverse and austere conditions. This was the call. So when he is hearing these words, this is what is being processed through his mind. Wait a second. You are asking me to follow You? Yes.
Now did Jesus have credibility to do that? Absolutely. Why? Where did Jesus leave? Well, He left the comforts of what? Heaven. Did Jesus leave the family that He had as well? Absolutely, He did. So did He have the authority to say this? More certainly because He was living it. He did so. He did it even Himself.
Now this isn’t just a physical follow, this is a lifetime follow. And this is what Philip was hearing. And for all of us, we know what this means. This is very practical for us, because here at Brainerd Baptist Church, we know what D Groups mean. We know that it is a 12-18 month commitment, that when somebody asks you, hey, would you like to be in a D Group, we know that it is not just going to be something that you follow…you know, I will see, I will think about it..but rather, it is going to be an intensive time where you are going to seek after the Lord for 12-18 months with a group of people and you are going to study the Word of God. You are going to memorize scripture. You are going to pray with each other. You are going to keep each other accountable and at the end of this process, what are we going to do? We are going to replicate it. We are go and do the same thing. We are going to commission them to do the same thing.
So what this doesn’t mean is that this doesn’t mean that, well, I agree with Jesus or I kind of resonate with Jesus, or I like Jesus, or I think Jesus is a good person or a good teacher or even, Jesus is my home-boy. That is not what this meant. What this meant is that it was an actual call to discipleship. It was a call for them to go after Him and follow Him for the rest of His time.
Now, this is what is even more significant about this. Within the first chapter of John, you have 13 different ways in 51 verses that Jesus is described as. He is described as the Messiah, as the Prophet, as Jesus, by His very name which is Savior, the Lamb of God, the One who baptizes with the Spirit, the chosen Son of God, the Rabbi, Christ, or the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Son of Joseph, the Nazarene, the Son of God, the King of Israel and then Jesus Himself calls Him the Son of Man.
Now why am I saying all of that? Let me bring it back to a very, very practical understanding for them. For a Jewish young man, for Philip to follow a Rabbi or to be a disciple was one thing. Okay. I am going to go ahead and I am going to follow this individual and I am going to learn from him. I am going to commit my time with him. I am going to follow him and then one day repeat the process. But to be a disciple of Jesus was something radically different. Why? Because not only are you following a Rabbi, you are now identifying with who He is. And if you haven’t noticed, when Jesus came on the scene, those were the 13 titles that they were also hearing as well.
So mind you, this was the weight of what it meant. You mean to tell me that I am going to follow the One who has claimed to be the Lamb of God? Yes. You mean to tell me that you are associating with this individual who is saying He is the Son of God? Yes.
So now you are changing your identity. You are absolutely right. I am committing my life to following the One who is claiming to be the Son of God. And that was amazing.
This is why I agree so whole heartedly with Bill Mounts. He is a Greek scholar and commentator who says the following: “Thus the following is not only a description of movement, but it is also a representation of salvation. To follow Christ means to accompany Him, to learn from Him, and to respond to His voice.”
Each of these guys were responding to the voice and the call of their Savior. In other words, what is he saying with all of this? He is actually following someone that he is believing in. Here is the truth - you wouldn’t follow someone that you wouldn’t believe in. But they did. They did. And that was the significance.
So what happens? Philip does the one thing that will change his life. He follows and he follows after Jesus.
Now here is the interesting thing that happens, because immediately in our text, we go from Jesus finds Philip. He calls him to follow Him. And the very next verse, what does it say? Notice what it says.
“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.”
What we don’t see in this text, but actually happened was, they traveled from Bethsaida all the way to Cana. So during this time, Philip, who is the pragmatist, who is the by-the-books individual who wants to know every detail, got the Old Testament survey course of his life, with Jesus Christ Himself. And during this time, he is traveling with Jesus in order to inquire and it is not just him, now all of a sudden you have a couple of guys with them that want to know everything about Jesus Christ. And I mean everything. You can only imagine those kinds of conversations that happened.
So what does Philip do? Here is our second point under the first one, is that Philip goes and he finds Nathanael. Now, this didn’t happen by happenstance. More than likely, Philip and Nathanael knew each other at one point or at one time. So Philip wasn’t shooting in the dark doing dart board ministries, saying to himself, well, lets see who else I can find. He knew exactly who he needed to go to and he knew that he needed to find Nathanael because he knew he had to tell him something absolutely significant.
So, real quick, another quick character sketch here. Who exactly is Nathanael? For many of us, we hear the name Nathanael and we wonder to ourselves, okay, who is that? Because I have heard of Bartholomew but I haven’t heard of Nathanael.
Now here is the interesting thing. Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same person. Notice what Leon Moore says. “Bartholomew is not really a personal name but a patron name. In other words, it was a surname. This was the family name that Nathanael inherited from his father. We would hear it something like this back in the day, the son of Tolmi. It is similar to Barjona, the son of Jonah. It would be like us hearing Joseph’s son or John’s son. Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same person, so don’t get too caught up with that. They are one and the same. Okay.
Nathanael as well was probably a fisherman. And we hear from Jesus Himself that he is an Israelite. Now that is absolutely significant as well. Why? Because of all the things that Philip could have told him, what did he tell him? We have found the One from the Law and the (what?) the Prophets. This was significant because if he is an Israelite, he knew the Old Testament. He had an active knowledge of who wrote the Old Testament and all the different things that were written within the Old Testament. And that was absolutely significant.
And the last thing is, we know he is from Cana because in John 21:2, it specifically says that Nathanael was from Cana in Galilee. So that kind of seals the stones there of where Nathanael was from.
Now real quick, lets look at how significant this is because you can’t just gloss over this one statement that was told to Nathanael. Philip drops a huge bomb in front of Nathanael and he tells him, “We have found the One in whom Moses and the Law and the Prophets speak of.” Now this was huge. This is the same thing as saying, hey, by the way, everything that we know about the Old Testament, the embodiment of the Messiah is standing right in front of us.
Now you can imagine, for Nathanael, this threw him back and he would have said, Okay, that is a loaded statement. But mind you, what else would have Philip said? He just took the course in Old Testament Survey, right, so he is just saying as much as he can as fast as he can to Nathanael to get his attention.
But what does Nathanael do and how does he respond? Notice what the text says. Nathanael responds, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Now the one thing that we can see here within this text is apparently there was some sort of stigma with Nazareth. Nathanael knew it and he had some presumptions. He didn’t talk well about Nazareth. He said, can anything good come from it? And we have to ask ourselves this question. Can we blame Nathanael for responding this way? I don’t think so. I think Nathanael was thinking something differently when he was thinking about where the Messiah would actually come from because to a Jewish ear, when you hear Nazareth, you wonder to yourself, okay, I don’t know if that sounds all that significant. Perhaps Nathanael thought of Micah Chapter 5 and Verse 2. If you have your Bible, turn there very quickly. Micah Chapter 5 and Verse 2.
Notice what it says in Micah. It is a difficult one to find. It is back there in the Prophets. Notice what it says.
“But you, O Bethlehem.” Notice what it says. “But you, O Bethlehem, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth from Me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient of days.”
This, for Nathanael, would probably have been what he was waiting to hear or what he was looking for. This would have been a far more reputable city in Nathanael’s ears because he would have probably recognized this. Why? I mean, there are some significant individuals that came from Bethlehem. Who else was born in Bethlehem? Does anybody know? David. King David.
So you mean to tell me that the ruler, the next Messiah of Israel, the one who is to come is from Nazareth? This would have not made any sense at all to Nathanael for that moment in time. But, here is the thing, Nazareth actually is very significant and Nathanael would have to learn that down the road in his life.
How do we know that Nazareth is actually that significant? Well, we get it from the actual term of what it means. Nazareth means shoot or shoot Ville. It almost even sounds like branch. Now you say, well, Paul, where do you exactly get that from? Well, turn quickly to Isaiah Chapter 11 Verse 1. You will see how the connection comes together. Isaiah 11 and Verse 1. Notice what the text says.
“There shall come forth a (what?) a shoot (there it is) from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” And then we look over at Isaiah 53, so turn over a bunch of chapters over to 53. Notice what Isaiah 53, and we all know this text. It is a very memorable text. It says, “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”
Think about what just happened here between Philip and Nathanael and you will see the connection. Jesus didn’t come from anywhere that was highly esteemed. Jesus wasn’t an individual that you would look at and say, okay, I can see how this fits together. It wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like that at all.
But what is so significant is this is actually a fulfillment of prophecy. This is something that needed to happen and was exclaimed that would happen. So lets take one final chapter and look at in Matthew Chapter 2 and Verse 23 and you will finally see the whole connection of how it fits together. And this was amazing.
In Matthew 2:23 it says the following. “And He went and lived in a city called (what?) Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the (who?) prophets might be fulfilled, that He would be called a (what?) Nazarene.”
Now here all of a sudden it all comes together. And that was a specific location because Joseph and Mary had to go there. But that was a fulfillment of prophecy. So at this point, Philip knew these things and he was more than excited to go and share these things with Nathanael. But Nathanael hung himself on one detail, on one miniscule thing and here is the amazing thing. If he would have just continued to say, you know what, Philip, I hear what you are saying, but I am sorry to hear…this isn’t very significant for me. I apologize but I don’t think this is the Messiah. He would have missed it if he would have continued that. But thanks be to God, he didn’t, because God was pursuing after him.
You know, isn’t it amazing that a lot of times we have many people who will hang themselves on one detail and miss the Messiah altogether. I have had different conversations and one of the ones that is most memorable for me in different conversations that I have had where people say to me, Paul, if you can answer me this one question, then we can start talking. And I said, okay, what is the question. He goes, Did Adam have a belly button? And I am sitting there and I am saying, okay, hold on a second. You want me to figure out whether or not Adam had a belly button. For some of you that is like, wow, I never thought of that question. It is actually a pretty good question. I don’t know if Adam had one. We will ask a doctor. I have no idea or maybe we can ask Robby when he comes back. But nonetheless, I am sitting back and I am thinking to myself, hold on a second. You are going to hang yourself on a detail. You are going to think about a question. Eternity is at stake and you want to know if Adam had a belly button? Really?
And then the conversation continues on and we start thinking about the stuff and I redirect that person to understand who Jesus actually is and just move away from those theological gymnastic contests that we have between other people.
But what does Philip do? This is amazing. He does something so simple. He could have continued and argued with Nathanael and could have said, well, you don’t understand. I know this. I know that. He says two simple, three, I am sorry, simple words to Nathanael. What does he say? Come and (what?) see.
Now what is interesting is that Philip was using a Rabbinic technique that most Rabbis would use at that moment in time. They would use the words, come and see, to introduce new information or provide some sort of solution to a problem that they were talking about.
The way we would hear it today is, we would say something like this: listen, I know that you think I am crazy right now, but I just need your attention for five minutes. Can you just come over here and look at this. That is all I want you to do. Just come over here and look.
So what does Nathanael do? He does the brave thing and he does what Philip asked him to do. He goes and he follows. And it is at this point where Jesus is almost done gathering His disciples and then all of a sudden He is going to blow Nathanael’s mind. And this is our second point.
Jesus displays His divinity. Jesus displays His divinity. This is going to be amazing because all of a sudden Nathanael is going to understand something about Jesus that he never knew before.
One thing that we have to consider is the fact that Jesus knows Nathanael inwardly. Jesus knows Nathanael inwardly. Jesus does what only Jesus can do and He strikes directly into the heart of Nathanael and He exposes something about him.
Notice what the text says. Specifically here in Verse 47. It says, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and He said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’”
Now the key word here is the word “deceit” which means without guile or to be genuine or an honest individual. Some translators would say that Nathanael was a straight shooter. He would say how it is because he was always honest with what he had to say.
Now take a step back here for a second. The God of the Universe sees Nathanael coming towards Him and gives him one of the best compliments you can get from Jesus. You are a genuine and honest individual! I mean, think about that. The God who knows everything looks Nathanael dead in the eye and says, you are a man of integrity.
Now, I don’t know how I would have responded. Maybe I would have responded like Nathanael. But what does he say to Him? “Jesus, how do You know me?” Now would this be any surprise that Jesus would know something like this? No. Not by any means whatsoever. He knew exactly who Nathanael was. How do we know that He knows that? How can we understand and answer that question, how do you know me?
Well, it is simple. Jesus knows and God knows every person’s heart. Now, what does that exactly mean when we say, well, God knows our heart and God knows who we are. Well, if you take a quick cursory overview of the Old Testament and the New Testament, you realize that the word “heart” is actually very significant. In fact, the heart was the seed of emotions. It was where your thoughts were. It was where your mind went to. It was where you processed things. It is where you plan things. It is where you even kept your motives. That is where everything is stored within your heart.
We know this because we start doing this as we grew up as kids. When we are going to make a promise, what do we say? I am going to cross my (what?) my heart. In relationships this happens to us. A young lady will come around and something happened with her boyfriend and they come back and she is crying and what does she say? He broke my heart! It all dwells within there. All the promises, all the desires, everything is stored within our heart.
So what I want to do is I want all of us to feel what Nathanael could have possibly felt at that moment and at that time. Notice what II Chronicles 6:30 says. This is amazing. You don’t have to turn there but just look at the screens. “Then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose (what?) heart you know, according to all his ways (not a few) but all, for you, and you alone, you only know the hearts of the children of mankind.”
David felt this as well one day. Notice what it says in I Samuel 16:7 and we all know this verse. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on the appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but (what does the Lord do?) He looks at the heart.”
Notice what I Corinthians 4:5 says, “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” Wait a second, Paul, you mean to tell me that He even knows my motives? Oh, yeah. So you mean to tell me that last week when I was thinking about and I was going to do…yeah. You mean that when I was talking with that individual and we were having that…yeah. He knows that as well.
And then to put the cherry on top, this is amazing. Look what Luke 16:15 says. “And he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.” Yes, even God knows the spiritual condition of every individual. To those who aspire to think that they can justify themselves before God, even that He knows because He knows every person’s heart.
Now this should be a huge encouragement or something sobering for us to hear before God knows all of us. I don’t know how else to say it other than the fact that Jesus Christ knows you and He knows everything about you.
So Jesus knows Nathanael inwardly and then again, He is going to blow his mind and He is going to say that Jesus knows him outwardly. So that is our second point under that. Jesus knows Nathanael outwardly.
Notice what the text says right after he says, How do you know me?” Before Nathanael even has an opportunity to speak, Jesus answered him in Verse 48 and He says, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Now this was absolutely significant because at this point, Jesus wasn’t close enough to Nathanael for him to know exactly where he was. Wherever Nathanael was, it was out of probably his view. So here, just like before, Jesus is demonstrating His omniscience, the fact that He knows everything.
Now if you do a quick search on fig trees in the Middle East what you learn about these fig trees is that some of them are different but a lot of them often were a great place to provide shade for someone to get under and to provide cover. And some of these fig trees were actually low enough that you would have to go underneath them and basically put your back on the trunk and kind of sit there or relax or even seek the Lord or pray.
My wife would do this often. I don’t know if they are the same ones, but as she was growing up, she would do that. They would literally hide in the fig trees on purpose so that nobody would find them.
But what is interesting in this text is that Philip…I am sorry, Nathanael was not around the fig tree, but he was what? Under. So this was something that was personal, a specific place to Nathanael that only he would know where that would be. And what is interesting is that Philip actually had to find him, so you knew he was searching for him.
Now what is interesting is that this blew Nathanael’s mind because only God who is omniscient and can know everything and see everything, could make such a declarative statement to say, Philip saw you, but I saw you before he even found you. That is what God told him and at this point, Nathanael makes an absolutely amazing declaration. He says the following things about Jesus.
“Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’” All of a sudden his eyes were opened and he had no more arguments to say. He knew that this was the Son of God, the King of Israel. So he makes his declaration and right after Jesus encourages His disciples.
This is our last and final point here. He encourages His disciples. Notice what Jesus says. “Jesus answered him, ‘Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe?” Now Jesus isn’t criticizing Nathanael. He basically said it this way, “Brother, you haven’t seen anything yet. If you think this is a crescendo, wait until later because you are going to see some other amazing things. “You will see greater things than these,” is what Jesus said.
And then finally in Verse 51 He says, “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.” Now couldn’t have been an even more better encouragement towards His disciples. If these guys were studying their Bible well, and they knew it, this would have taken them all the way back to Genesis Chapter 28. In Genesis Chapter 28 we hear the story of Jacob and Esau.
Let me give you a quick context so that we know exactly what Jesus is kind of saying. At this point in time, Jacob is running away from his brother Esau because he is scared to death because he took his birthright. So Jacob does the one thing that makes sense in his mind. He says, alright, I am going to take a 43 mile trip away from everybody so that he can’t find me. And at the end of this trip, he finds this valley that is filled with stones and after a 43 mile trip, he decides to grab a stone, put it on the ground and said, okay, I am going to sleep on this.
Now you know you have to be tired if you are going to sleep on a stone. I mean, that must be exhausting for you to be at that point. So here at this point, Jacob is sleeping and God visits him in a dream and he gives them this vision of angels that are ascending and descending on a staircase that is resting on the earth and going upward to heaven. And what God was basically saying to Jacob at this moment at this time is that though you may feel alone and scared and thinking that I am not even with you because of what you have just done, I want you to take a glimpse of how heaven is actually operating, not just for this world, but for you. The angels of heaven are ascending and descending all around you. And basically what is being said here is that this is My encouragement to you that I am with you and that I am there to provide for you and I am there to protect you at this moment in time.
Now what is interesting is this, when the disciples heard this phrase, they didn’t hear a staircase. Jesus said something different. He says the angels are ascending and descending on who? On the Son of Man. Now what is interesting here is that most Greek scholars agree that the ladder or the staircase that has been replaced is with Jesus. Jesus now becomes this ladder for all of us where we have every blessing that comes from heaven flowing through Himself. So He is telling His disciples, listen. Be encouraged because the God that was with Jacob is now with you. And the man that was encouraged then will be encouraging for you and He will be with You.
Now why would He say something like that? Well, unbeknownst to them because this is all brand new. I mean, they are in the honeymoon stage. We found the Messiah! Oh, my goodness! You have no idea! In the back of Jesus’ mind, He is thinking to Himself, you have no idea what is to come because this journey isn’t going to be easy. In fact, it is going to be difficult. We will have victories. You will see great things. But we will also have an opportunity for you to see that the Rabbi you are following now is the same Rabbi that is going t be crucified for you. And that is the difference. So He encourages them to know that He is with you, always with you.
So here is my encouragement for even today. Sometimes here is what happens. We pray often, God be with us, God be with us, God be with us. Listen, God IS with you. He never leaves you and He never forsakes you.
R. Kent Hughes says the following. “We have desupernaturalized life to the extent that we do not see God. God is in this place. We do not know it. We go to work and we do not know it. We go to school and we do not know it. We have personal relationships and we do not know it. All the time God is there, but we do not know it. This mentality even intrudes into the church. We sing the great hymns. We pray together and worship together. But we do not really know He is there. Tragically, our Christianity thus becomes an empty, monotone Christianity that is not interesting to the world or even to us.”
That is the danger with it is that we don’t realize who we have in front of us and who we have with us, it can become dull sometimes. Listen, be encouraged. The God that was with Jacob and the God that was with the disciples, is the same God that is with you. And why do we need to hear this is because life isn’t easy and life has its tragedies and life has its hardships and life has its hard times that we have to walk through. And the one thing that we need to cling on to is the fact that God is there with us, always. Amen?
Two quick walking points and then we will be done. The first one is this: what do you share with someone that you love? Share with them the same thing that Philip shared with his friend, come and see. And here is the interesting thing. Philip had all the credibility in the world to say that to Nathanael. Why? Because he followed Jesus. He left everything. He said, come and see my life because if I didn’t believe in this Person, I wouldn’t be following Him in the first place.
So what we do is a lot of the times the only gospel that people may hear is by our very own lives. But we can’t just leave it there, we have to tell people why we live and why we follow the Rabbi. So we have to share with our words what the gospel is.
And here is the final one. Come to the only One who truly knows you. Come to the Only One that truly knows you.
Now this can be a sobering fact because we wonder to ourselves, well, Paul, I don’t know if I want God to come to me because He knows all of me. Listen, the verse does not say, but in our righteousness, God…or when we were good, God came to us. It doesn’t say that. It says, “But while we were yet (what?) sinners, Christ loved us and He came and He died for us.” That is what it says. So don’t be discouraged by that. On the contrary, God already loves you and He knows you. And He knows everything about you. So one of the most encouraging things I can bid and tell all of you is, go to the One that truly knows who you are.
Now here is the invitation and here is the question: If you haven’t followed Christ, this couldn’t be a better opportunity for you to do so. This is the introduction, this is the first steps that you would take towards God. The same call that He is giving and He gave to these men is the exact same call that He is giving to you. The question is, would you come and would you follow Christ?