This is part 3 of 49 parts video series covering the Gospel of John. Here Jesus called his first disciples – John, Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael. Look closely how the disciples described and testify about Jesus.
John 1:35-51 (GNT)
JOHN 1: 35-51 (GNT)
The First Disciples of Jesus
35 The next day John was standing there again with two of his disciples, 36 when he saw Jesus walking by. “There is the Lamb of God!” he said.
37 The two disciples heard him say this and went with Jesus. 38 Jesus turned, saw them following him, and asked, “What are you looking for?”
They answered, “Where do you live, Rabbi?” (This word means “Teacher.”)
39 “Come and see,” he answered. (It was then about four o’clock in the afternoon.) So they went with him and saw where he lived, and spent the rest of that day with him.
40 One of them was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 At once he found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah.” (This word means “Christ.”) 42 Then he took Simon to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “Your name is Simon son of John, but you will be called Cephas.” (This is the same as Peter and means “a rock.”)
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come with me!” (44 Philip was from Bethsaida, the town where Andrew and Peter lived.) 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one whom Moses wrote about in the book of the Law and whom the prophets also wrote about. He is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
46 “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” answered Philip.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, he said about him, “Here is a real Israelite; there is nothing false in him!”
48 Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered, “I saw you when you were under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 “Teacher,” answered Nathanael, “you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus said, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you when you were under the fig tree? You will see much greater things than this!” 51 And he said to them, “I am telling you the truth: you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up and coming down on the Son of Man.”
Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).
a. John stood with two of his disciples: The Gospel writer tells us that one of these two was Andrew (John 1:40). The other of the two is not identified, but for several reasons it is reasonable to think it was John the Gospel writer himself, who appears several times in his Gospel, but is never specifically named.
i. “Who the other disciple was, is not certain: but considering (1) that the Evangelist never names himself in his Gospel, and (2) that this account is so minutely accurate as to specify even the hours of the day, and in all respects bears marks of an eye-witness, and again (3) that this other disciple, from this last circumstance, certainly would have been named, had not the name been suppressed for some special reasons, we are justified in inferring that it was the Evangelist himself.” (Alford)
b. Behold, the Lamb of God! John already said this of Jesus in John 1:29. Perhaps by this time – after Jesus had returned from His temptations in the wilderness – John said this every time he saw Jesus. To him, it was the most important thing about Jesus.
c. And they followed Jesus: The text does not specifically say, but the implication is that these two disciples did this with John’s permission and direction. John the Baptist did not care about gathering disciples after himself. He was perfectly satisfied to have these disciples leave his circle and follow Jesus. It fulfilled his ministry; it did not take away from it.
d. What do you seek?…Come and see: Jesus asked these two disciples an important and logical question – and a question He continues to ask to all humanity today. For the answer, Jesus directed them to Himself, to live with Him, not to John or anyone else (Come and see).
i. What do you seek? “It was not an accident that the first words which the Master spoke in His Messianic office were this profoundly significant question, ‘What seek ye?’ He asks it of us all, He asks it of us to-day.” (Maclaren)
ii. “He probed them to find out whether they were motivated by idle curiosity or by a real desire to know him.” (Tenney)
iii. Jesus did not refer them back to John the Baptist, even though he knew a lot about Jesus. To be Jesus’ disciple, they must deal with Jesus directly. So Jesus invited John and Andrew to be a part of His life. Jesus didn’t life a cloistered, ultra-private life. Jesus taught and trained His twelve disciples by allowing them to live with Him.
e. Now it was about the tenth hour: This was such a memorable occasion for writer that he remembered the exact hour that he met Jesus. This is a subtle clue that one of the two disciples who came to Jesus from John was the apostle John himself.
2. (40-42) Andrew brings his brother, Simon Peter to Jesus.
One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).
a. He first found his own brother: Andrew met Jesus, and then wanted his brother Simon Peter to meet Jesus. Each time Andrew is mentioned in the Gospel of John, he is bringing someone to Jesus (also at John 6:8 and 12:22).
i. Through the centuries, this is how most people come to faith in Jesus Christ. A Peter has an Andrew who introduces him to Jesus. This is natural, because it is the nature of Christian experience that those who enjoy the experience desire to share their experience with others.
ii. ” ‘Andrew finds first of all his own brother Simon’: which implies that afterwards the brother of the other of the two was also found and brought to the same place and on the same day.” (Trench)
b. We have found the Messiah: This was a simply yet great testimony. Andrew knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the long expected Savior of Israel and the world.
c. You shall be called Cephas: In giving Simon a new name (Cephas or Peter, meaning A Stone), Jesus told Andrew’s brother what kind of man he would be transformed into. Before Jesus was done with Peter, he would be a stone of stability for Jesus Christ.
3. (43-44) Jesus calls Philip to follow Him.
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.
a. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me”: If we only had John’s Gospel we might think that this was the first time Jesus had met these men from Galilee. The other gospel accounts inform us that Jesus had met many of them before; yet this was His formal invitation to Philip.
b. Follow Me: There was nothing dramatic recorded about the call of Philip. Jesus simply said to him, “Follow Me,” and Philip did.
i. “The verb ‘Follow’ will be used here in its full sense of ‘follow as a disciple’. The present tense has continuous force, ‘keep on following’.” (Morris)
ii. “Bethsaida means ‘house of the fisherman’ or ‘Fishertown’. It lay a short distance east of the point where the Jordan enters the Lake of Galilee.” (Bruce)
4. (45-51) Nathaniel overcomes prejudice to follow Jesus.
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.”
a. Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote: This was Philip’s testimony as a witness of Jesus Christ. He declared that He as the Messiah and the Savior predicted in the Old Testament.
i. “Nathanael is today generally understood to be the same person as Bartholomew, one of the Twelve; Nathanael being the personal name, Bartholomew (son of Tolmai) the patronymie.” (Trench)
b. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Nathanael responded to Philip’s announcement with prejudice. Hearing that Jesus came from Nazareth, Nathanael thought he had no more reason to think that He might be the Messiah or anyone important.
c. Come and see: Instead of arguing against Nathanael’s prejudice, Phillip simply invited him to meet Jesus for himself.
d. Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit! Jesus gave him a wonderful compliment. The sense is that there was nothing tricky or deceptive in Nathanael. He didn’t have a mask.
i. Deceit: “This last word is used in early Greek writers as a ‘bait’ (for catching fish). Hence it comes to signify ‘any cunning contrivance for deceiving or catching…It thus has the notion of ‘deceit’ or ‘craft’. It is used in the Bible of Jacob before his change of heart (Genesis 27:35, which is the point of Temple’s translation, ‘an Israelite in whom there is no Jacob!’” (Morris)
ii. “He is a proper Israelite, a type of the man pronounced ‘blessed’ by the Psalmist, the man ‘in whose spirit is no guile’ (Psalm 32:2).” (Tasker)
e. Under the fig tree, I saw you: It is possible Nathanael liked to pray and meditate upon God and His Word under the shade of an actual fig tree. Yet, under the fig tree was a phrase Rabbis used to describe meditation on the Scriptures. We can suppose that Nathanael spent time in prayer and in meditating on the Scriptures, and Jesus told him “I saw you” there.
i. “It is said of Rabbi Hasa in the tract Bereshith that he and his disciples were in the habit of studying under a fig tree.” (Trench)
ii. “Perhaps it was a place where Nathanael had recently sat in meditation and received some spiritual impression. It is impossible to be sure. Certainly the shady foliage of the fig tree made it a suitable tree to sit under in the heat of the day.” (Bruce)
f. You are the Son of God, the King of Israel: This was the testimony of Nathanael regarding Jesus. Son of God described the unique relationship of Jesus to God the Father, and King of Israel described His status as Messiah and King.
i. The Son of God: “Here, as there, the article is important. It indicates that the expression is to be understood as bearing a full, not a minimal content…Here was someone who could not be described in ordinary human terms.” (Morris)
g. You shall see greater things than these: Nathanael was amazed by what he already saw in Jesus, but Jesus told him that there was much, much more to see – greater things than these.
i. The promise to see greater things than these continues for the believer. “Have you known Christ as the Word? He is more; both Spirit and Life. Has He become flesh? You shall behold Him glorified with the glory He had before the worlds. Have you known Him as Alpha, before all? He is also Omega. Have you met John? You shall meet One so much greater. Do you know the baptism by water? You shall be baptized by fire. Have you beheld the Lamb on the Cross? You shall behold Him in the midst of the throne.” (Meyer)
h. You shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man: Jesus promised Nathanael a greater sign than he had seen before, even to see heaven open.
i. Jesus’ announcement of the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man probably connects with the dream of Jacob in Genesis 28:12, where Jacob saw a ladder from earth to heaven, and the angels ascending and descending upon it. Jesus said that He was the ladder, the link, between heaven and earth. When Nathanael came to understand that Jesus is the mediator between God and man, it would be an even greater sign (you will see greater things than these).
ii. “He now learns that Jesus is the real ladder by which the gulf between earth and heaven is bridged.” (Tasker)
iii. This seems like rather obscure reference, but it was extremely meaningful to Nathanael. Possibly it was the very portion of Scripture Nathaniel meditated on under the fig tree.
i. Son of Man: The idea behind this phrase is not “the perfect man” or “the ideal man” or even “the common man.” Instead, it was a reference to Daniel 7:13-14, where the King of Glory who comes to judge the world was called the Son of Man.
i. Jesus used this title often because in His day, it was a Messianic title free from political and nationalistic sentiment. When a Jewish person of that time heard “King” or “Christ” they often thought of a political or military savior. Jesus emphasized another term, often calling Himself the Son of Man.
ii. “The term, ‘The Son of man’, then points us to Christ’s conception of Himself as of heavenly origin and as the possessor of heavenly glory. At one and the same time and points us to His lowliness and His sufferings for men. The two are the same.” (Morris)
iii. This section of John shows four ways of coming to Jesus:
· Andrew came to Jesus because of the preaching of John.
· Peter came to Jesus because of the witness of his brother.
· Phillip came to Jesus as a result of the direct call of Jesus.
· Nathaniel came to Jesus as he overcame personal prejudices by a personal encounter with Jesus.
iv. This section shows us four different witnesses testifying to the identity of Jesus. How much more testimony does anyone need?
· John the Baptist testified that Jesus is eternal, that He is the man uniquely anointed with the Holy Spirit, that He is the Lamb of God, and that Jesus is the unique Son of God.
· Andrew testified that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.
· Phillip testified that Jesus is the One prophesied in the Old Testament.
· Nathaniel testified that Jesus is the Son of God and the King of Israel.
Commentary by Enduring Word
About the Gospel of John. The gospel of John was written to persuade people to believe in Jesus (20:30-31). The opening verses declare that Jesus is God, stressing His unique relationship with God the Father. The book focuses on seven of Jesus’ signs (miracles), to show his divinity. Jesus called people to believe in him, promising eternal life. He proved he could give life by raising Lazarus (ch.11) and by his own death and resurrection. John features Christ’s seven “I am” statements, his encounters with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, his upper room teachings and washing of disciple’s feet (chs. 13-16, and his high priestly prayer (ch. 17. It includes the most well-known summary of the gospel (3:16).