Summary: This 4th apostle, of royal blood, was a scholar. Jesus had 2 Words of Knowledge about him, and a God-moment together. Jesus pronounced the Jacob dream over him and he made the 1st great confession. He had a fig-tree experience. Check him out!
THE 12 APOSTLES: BARTHOLOMEW
A. HUMOR: CHRISTMAS PRESENT
1. Louis (‘Loo-ee’) Boudreaux asked his little daughter, Louise, what she wanted for Christmas.
2. Louise said what she wanted the most was a baby brother. So the next winter, a baby brother was born!
3. The next year, before Christmas, Louis asked her what she’d want for Christmas that year.
4. Louise said, “Well, if it is not too uncomfortable for mommy, I’d like a pony.”
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
C. IDENTITY: NATHANAEL BARTHOLOMEW
1. Nathanael Bartholomew lived in Cana of Galilee (Jn. 21:2). When Jesus and Andrew, Peter, and Philip went to the wedding at Cana, Philip went and found Nathanael.
2. “Nathanael” means “God has given.” Nathanael was his given name and Bartholomew, which means, “Son of Talmai,” was his surname (like Simon Bar-jona).
3. Bartholomew is coupled with Philip in Mt.-Mk.-Lk., leading to the conclusion he and Nathanael are the same person.
4. Some scholars believe that he was the only disciple who came from royal blood, or noble birth. His name means Son of Tolmai or Talmai(2 Samuel 3:3). Talmai was king of Geshur whose daughter, Maacah, was the wife of David, mother of Absalom.
I. THE JUST SKEPTICISM OF NATHANAEL, vs. 46
A. THE MESSIAH NOT FROM NAZARETH
1. Nathanael expressed skepticism that anything good could come from so small and inconsiderable a place as Nazareth in Galilee.
2. Nathanael didn’t speak from a solely natural perspective, but from a spiritual perspective. Nothing and no one great were prophesied as coming from Nazareth. This view wasn’t his alone.
3. The Jewish leaders said the same thing to Nicodemus. “They replied, ‘Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.’” John 7:52.
4. Nazareth is in the center of Galilee.
B. THE MESSIAH IS FROM JUDAH
1. Mic. 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
2. Gen. 49:10 “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come…”
3. Judah’s territory is far to the south beside the Dead Sea. Nazareth is in Zebulun’s area. The Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. The taxation of Caesar had made it so for Jesus!
II. JESUS’ 2 WORDS OF KNOWLEDGE – Vss. 47-48
A. DESCRIBED HIS CHARACTER
1. We see Jesus exercise here the spiritual gift of the word of knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8; 14:6), where “the secrets of [their] heart will be laid bare” (1 Cor. 14:25).
2. Jesus commended Nathanael for his integrity; “Here is an Israelite indeed!” Not all Israelites live up to the name (Rom. 9:6), but Nathanael did! He was a Jew inwardly (Rom. 2:29) as well as outwardly.
3. He was a man in whose religion was nothing false or insincere. Ps. 32:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man whose transgressions are forgiven…and in whose spirit [LXX, ‘mouth’] there is no guile (LXX & N.T. = “dolos”).” Jesus was quoting Ps. 32 of Nathanael!
B. FOREKNOWLEDGE OF A DIVINE MOMENT
1. Nathanael said, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
2. When spiritual Jews went to meditate – i.e., spend time communing with God – they often did so by sitting under a fig tree, the emblem of the promised land. Rabbi Akiba did so (Confessions, 8:12,28).
3. So earlier that day, Nathanael had his prayer time, and evidently he had a visitation with the Living God, a God-moment; a moment special to the memory of Nathanael.