Summary: Philip, just an ordinary guy - called to ministry and in turn brings along a friend, Nathanael. This reading shows how Jesus uses ordinary people, doing ordinary things.
January 10, 2018
Reading: John 1:43-51
Did Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth?
If we read this passage with an element of curiosity and desire to dig into the nuances a little bit, it becomes not only informative but also entertaining. It’s a short reading and centers on three characters this time. Jesus (of course), Philip and Nathanael.
So as not to become confused this Philip is Philip the Apostle not Philip the Evangelist Deacon found in chapter six of the Book of Acts.
Jesus actually sought out Philip and “called” him saying: “follow me”. vs 43. The way I read it, Jesus went looking for Philip. We have no indication as to what preparation or background led Jesus to seek out Philip and call him into ministry. He’s just a regular guy like you and me. Most pastors, preachers, ministers etc. believe they are called to the ministry. But I have never encountered or read about anyone that was just living a normal life and out of the blue, Jesus comes looking for them and calls them specifically to become a minister. As in my case, God got my attention alright, but I was involved in a lot of lay ministry. I wasn’t planning to go into ministry as a vocation, having retired from law enforcement and looking to go into the restaurant business. A series of circumstances brought my wife and I to begin ministry as missionaries and from there on to seminary and church ministry. Men and women called to ministry all have wonderful testimonies of their callings and I love to hear them.
But here is Philip, with no background or apparent interest or initiative in that regard. Soon after this encounter with Jesus, Greeks came to Philip wanting to know about Jesus. But Philip doesn’t take them or send them to Jesus. Instead, he goes to Andrew and together they go to Jesus.
“20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.” John 12:20-22
To some that might appear like Philip was ill prepared, so he turned to Andrew to lead him in ministry. To me, that is a very smart thing to do. The last thing any clergy should ever do (my opinion) is trying to go it alone unless they have full knowledge and confidence in what they are doing.
“One lighted torch serves to light another.” Quote from Frederic Louis Godet, Commentary on John’s Gospel, Macmillan & Co., p. 26
Someone is led to Christ by someone else. Very few, if any, converts just wake up one morning saying, “I’m going to convert to Christianity today.” In most cases, they have encountered someone who impressed them with some testimony or example that prompted them to SEEK MORE.
And then we read that Philip does go out and carries this new good news to Nathanael. Apparently, he and Nathanael are friends or have some common ground and interests.
Let me stray off again and share that Nathanael is not mentioned in any of the other three gospels. Bartholomew however is mentioned in the other three and Nathanael is not. It is widely believed among biblical scholars that they are one and the same person. Nothing I read confirms this but neither does it disclaim or disprove this assumption.
Okay, now getting back to the reading. Philip seeks out his friend Nathanael and tells him to come and see Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. He went on to explain that Jesus is believed to be Whom Moses had written about.
“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.’” Verse 45
Nathanael didn’t appear very impressed. His response was just a tad blunt.
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” verse 46
Philip answered, “Come and see.” Verse 46
What a goldmine for us to delve into. From what I gather, Nathanael is from Bethsaida. I gather that there must have been some rivalry or something going on between Bethsaida and Nazareth. Nazareth was just a little village with no history or anything to brag about.
To think that anyone important came from Nazareth might be like someone saying, “Hey come with me. I want you to meet this peanut farmer in Plains, Georgia. He is going to be something one of these days, maybe even the President of the United States.” Before he was governor of Georgia, would you have been overly impressed to meet a peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia?