Beth has supplied today’s notes.
As many of you know, within our youth group at the moment, we have a group of 16-18 year olds who are taking on some leaderships responsibilities. Included in that, many of them have volunteered to share their testimony with the youth group. It’s been an incredible blessing, not just for the youth, but for the leaders who served during their conversion too. Despite this though, many have struggled to write their testimonies and it’s a familiar feeling to me. I remember worrying about my testimony. I grew up in a Christian home, nothing tragic happened, I didn’t go wildly off the rails and my conversion was really quite gradual. I remember feeling like it wasn’t as miraculous as some of my friends’ stories.
In the last chapter and over the last few days, we’ve seen several different ways people have come to Christ. Some sought him out, some were sought out by Christ himself and some were witnessed to by others. I wonder whether some felt less special. The fact remains, however, that, whatever route you came to Christ by, the fact that you came to Christ is what matters. The end result is the same: forgiveness, acceptance and eternal life. Hallelujah!
For the first time, we see Jesus call one of the disciples here. He finds Philip and says ‘Follow me’. It doesn’t even mention whether Philip said anything or asked any questions but he does seem to instantly believe that Jesus is the Messiah he has been waiting for.
Philip and Andrew and Peter from yesterday’s passage were all from Bethsaida, a place of fishermen. There doesn’t seem anything special about the place but the people had a special work to do. It’s a reminder that the Lord isn’t interested in where we come from, whether it’s a respectable place or not. The three men were all probably fishermen too, another reminder that the Lord isn’t interested in our expertise. Their fishing skills probably weren’t going to do them a lot of good in their work for Jesus. God isn’t interested in our background or our knowledge or qualifications; He provides the gifts we need.
For the second time in this chapter, we see someone find Christ and instantly go to tell someone else. It’s a reminder to me of some of my friends. When they first became Christians, it was all they could talk about to their friends, family, work colleagues or anyone they bumped into in the street! It seems that new Christians share the good news of Jesus more readily that the more experienced Christian. How sad! Surely, the more we experience of God and the deeper our relationship grows, the more we should want to share it! This is a real challenge to me.
Philip and Nathanael got a lot wrong in this passage: Philip got some of the details about Jesus wrong and Nathanael made brushing statements about whole areas. But, more importantly, they got a lot right! Philip immediately follows Jesus and then tells Nathanael about Him and Nathanael make a fantastic declaration of Jesus’ divinity. The reality is that, when we’re serving, we’ll make mistakes – we’re human after all – but if our heart is for the Lord and we’re following Him, we’ll get the important things right.
When Nathanael is brought to Jesus, Jesus shows his divinity by saying, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ It is likely that ‘under the fig tree’ meant that he was in quiet prayer. Jesus is acknowledging that he knows this and saw and knew Nathanael before he had ever met him. Furthermore, Christ sees us when no-one else does. He knows our hearts. Throughout the bible, we are shown that God has always known us (Psalm 139) and knows us better than we know ourselves (Matthew 10:29-31).
Jesus’ acknowledgement of Nathanael under the fig tree wouldn’t mean a lot to anyone else but it was enough for Nathanael to show that he was the Messiah (1:39). The Lord sometimes gives a sign that means nothing to anyone else but everything to you. He has a heart for the individual, as well as the whole world. I’ve had a few occasions where something very small has happened, unnoticeable to anyone else but to me, it has been a reminder of something from the Lord.
Nathanael’s response is to acknowledge Christ for who he is: the Messiah, the Son of God and King of Israel. Nathanael is the first person we see who took a little convincing but his clear acknowledgement of Christ after his realisation is proof that our journey to Christ doesn’t really matter. It’s that we get there that matters.
Jesus, there is no one like You
Selfless You came, bearing our shame
How can it be?
Saviour, wonderful Redeemer
For words aren’t enough to tell just how much
I love Your Name
How I love You my Lord
How I love You my Lord
You oh Lord, are the one that I adore
Sovereign King, yet You welcome me
How can it be?
I worship You, with everything I say and do
All glory and praise be unto the Name
Above all names. (Ben Cantelon)