Summary: The second message in a series on the apostles.
We are continuing our series on the “C” Team today by taking a look at another of Jesus’ twelve apostles…and today we are going to take a look at the Nathanael. Now, I before we even begin I want you to realize one very important thing…this guy, as far as the Bible is concerned…he is as average as you get. In fact, there is only one book of the Bible that mentions him and it is the Gospel of John. So, naturally our text is going to come from there. Take your Bibles out and turn over to the first chapter of John and we’ll get to our text in just a moment. But, first, we have to answer a very important question…why isn’t Nathanael mentioned in the other gospels. We read in these gospels lists of the twelve apostles…. and Nathanael’s name isn’t in there. So, we have two options here…either the Bible is totally incorrect and historically inaccurate here, thus it is no good to us…or Nathanael had a second name. Now, does anyone want to go with the first option? I know that I don’t so it has to be the second one and I think that we can make a pretty good case for it. First, let’s remember that there was another apostle that was referred to by different names…Peter…remember that guy from last week? Sometimes he is Peter, sometimes he is Simon…and sometimes he is even Caiphas…the Bible spells it Cephas but the name is actually pronounced Caiphas just like the High Priest at Jesus’ trial. So, it wasn’t uncommon for people then to have two names…another example…Saul and Paul. They are the same person with Saul being his Hebrew name and Paul being his Roman name. But, there is even more evidence that Nathanael had another name.
In the lists of the twelve apostles where Nathanael does not appear there is another name that does not appear in the Gospel of John and that name is Bartholomew. Follow me? John doesn’t refer to Bartholomew but Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts does. These four other books do not refer to Nathanael but John does. So, most Biblical scholars conclude that Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person. But wait…it goes deeper than that…in every instance except in Acts where Bartholomew is mentioned…it is Philip AND Bartholomew. These two men are joined together as if they were very close…like they were friends…. and we will see in our text that Nathanael also seemed to be very close to Philip as well. Lets read verses 43 through 45.
Ok, let’s stop there for a second…here we find Philip and he is called by Jesus. He has found the one that he believes to be the Messiah…the one that Israel has been expecting…the one that they believed would be their King. Philip…. the Messiah has called him and he is so excited he runs and tells…. Nathanael? I mean, I could understand his wife, his father, his mother, but Nathanael? Let me ask you a question…if you could only tell one person about Jesus the Messiah…if you had to pick only one person that you could share the Gospel with…wouldn’t it be the person you are closest to in the world. Anne…she’s a believer…but if she wasn’t I would tell her…now, I am not saying that Philip could only tell one person…but it stands to reason that the first person to hear this news from him would be someone who was very close to him…and he tells Nathanael. So, based on the grouping of Bartholomew and Philip in the other Gospels and Philip’s selection of who he first shared the news of the Messiah with…I think we can reasonably say that it is very possible that Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person. Can we be certain? No, the Bible doesn’t come right out and say that they are the same…but there are a lot of things in the Bible we can’t be certain of. Now, the fact that they are the same person is not real key to our series…we’re going to focus in on what John wrote today. But, I went into this much detail because I want to make sure you are equipped to handle a common objection to the Bible raised by unbelievers today. They will ask you: if the Bible can’t even get the names of the twelve apostles right…how can it have anything else right? So, my hope in taking this brief look at the differences in the Gospels concerning Bartholomew and Nathanael is to give you some answers to the questions raised by doubters…so you can give that answer that Peter talks about.
So, what is the goal today? What do we want to learn from Nathanael? The answer, to me, is that what we expect, what we are looking for, who we think Jesus is…its not always correct.