Summary: just because he was sitting under a tree...
How Did Nathan Know?
Epiphany 2 - January 15th
† IN His Name! †
Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord, Jesus Christ!
A great Confession, often overlooked!
But how did he know?
In the gospels, there are a number of confessions about who Jesus was. The best known probably, is when Peter confesses in Matthew 16, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Also well known, is the great scene in the upper room, where Jesus asks Thomas to put his hand in His side, his fingers in the His wounds, and Thomas replies, My Lord, and my God!.
There is one confession that often goes overlooked, the one in today’s Gospel reading. Perhaps it is overlooked because it is not Peter who utters the words, or one of the inner circle of apostles. It definitely does not have the dramatic power of Thomas’ confession in the Upper room, or Peter’s confession.
Yet here it is, at the very beginning of the ministry of Jesus, an apostle, declaring Jesus to be the Son of God. Declaring Him to be the King of Israel. Acknowledging Jesus as his Master.
Every time I come across this passage, I wonder about how Nathaniel knew that Jesus was the Messiah, how he could make that decision, after hearing Jesus speak only 24 words. Peter had several years of observing Jesus, and according to Jesus, the Father revealed it to Him, even then. Thomas had a crucified Jesus, standing, alive, yet with all the wounds easily visible, easily touchable.
So how did Nathaniel know? How did he, after spending just a few minutes with Jesus, know He was the one whom would save the world from sin?
1. Jesus decided to go
a. With a goal in mind…
b. To call those who would follow
I think we have to start that morning, as Jesus, our lesson tells us, gets up, and heads to the Galilee. I would draw out for you, form the text, two verbs. The first , found in verse 43, is that Jesus decides to go to Galilee. That verb desire is one which notes a specific outcome. We see the past tense of the verb in Hebrews 2:4
4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2:4 (ESV)
That phrase, “according to his will” is the same word as the word translated here as decision, except that on is in past tense. But it shows the point that I am making, that in “deciding”to go to Galilee, Jesus had something in mind for the day. We see the word again used in 1 Cor 12:18,
18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 1 Corinthians 12:18 (ESV)
You see the concept there again, in the word “chose”. God planned how the church would work together, as they chose. In the same way, Jesus, in calling His apostles, planned out who he would call, and how they would work together. He set out that morning, to add Phillip and Nathaniel to his group of men, who would fish for men.
Their hearts were ready, made ready by the Holy Spirit, though we shall see, that they may not have realized, how God had already moved in their lives, getting them ready to meet their Lord, the Messiah.
2. Who? found who?
So Jesus goes out, and finds Phillip. He asks him to “follow me”. When Jesus asks this, there is a commitment implied. You see, he’s not asking him to follow him over to Outpost for lunch, or down to Starbucks for a triple espresso latte cappuccino with cream and three cherries. He asking Phillip to become a disciple, more like what we would call an apprentice these days.
Phillip goes out, and finds his friend Nathan, and tells him, “we’ve found him, the one whom Moses in the Law and the prophets tell us about!” The way this is phrased, is important. Phillip uses the plural – first person form of the verb. He is telling Nathaniel that Nathaniel and he have found the One whom they have looked. The Messiah, the one that Israel had waited centuries for, the one whom that it was promised would restore Israel, would forgive sins, would reign in peace.
A couple of years ago, the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in 87 years. It was funny listening to all the stories the next day on Sports Talk radio stations, as they had people from all around the country, telling of how long they, and their parents and grandparents had waited for that day. It didn’t matter if you were 95, like one caller, or 12, like another. The Red Sox fans had waited so long for that victory. It was overwhelming to them. One news report showed a cemetery, that had Red Sox t-shirts placed over about 1/3 of the headstones!