Sermon on John 1:43-51
Text: 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.”
When you find something exciting, you want to share it with others. If you go to a museum or a store with children, there will likely come a time when they want you to come and see something. If you have purchased something that you are excited about, you might tell others to come and see it, whether it be a new house or a television. When God blesses a couple with a child, you might be invited to come and see him. When you are excited about something, you want others to come and see it. This morning in our text, we find a man by the name of Philip excited about someone and asking a close friend to come and see. COME AND SEE THE SON OF GOD. 1. He’s The One Who Fulfills The Scriptures. 2. He’s The One Who Reads Our Hearts. 3. He’s The One Who Brings Us Heaven.
Our text begins with the words, “The next day.” The previous day, John the Baptist had pointed out Jesus to two of his disciples, John and Andrew. He said, “Look, the Lamb of God.” (John 1:35) So John and Andrew followed Jesus and spent the day with him. The first thing that Andrew did after this meeting was to go and find his brother Simon, who would later be known as Peter. Andrew told Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” (John 1:41) He had been brought to the faith that Jesus was the Christ.
Now the next day, as Jesus traveled to Galilee, he found a man by the name of Philip. He said to him, “Follow me.” (Verse 43) With these words, Jesus changed the life of this man. These words were an invitation to faith. The Greek word shows us that this following was to be a continuous action. Philip is to begin and keep on trusting in Jesus. It was also a specialized invitation for Philip to follow Jesus as one of his disciples. Philip was to continue to learn from this divine Teacher.
We note that the first action that is recorded following this encounter with Jesus is that “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.’” (Verse 45) Philip was so excited about what had happened that he went to his friend Nathanael with the message that the Messiah was here. He had been led to believe in Jesus and then he went to one of the most natural mission fields, a close friend, with the message.
Philip described Jesus as “The one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote.” He saw in Jesus the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies. Philip mentioned Moses. Moses had prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” There were many prophecies about the coming Savior recorded in the Old Testament. From the first promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15 to Isaiah’s clear prophecies to Micah’s words, God had told his people about the wondrous things that the Messiah would do. Jesus is the fulfillment of them all. Many times, as you read the Gospels, especially the Gospel according to Matthew, you run across words to the effect that: “This happened so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” The fact that Jesus was born of a virgin is in fulfillment of the Scriptures. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was exactly what God said would happen. When you read the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah or the twenty-second Psalm, it is almost as if the writers were sitting at the foot of the cross, recording everything that they saw. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Scriptures.
As disciples of Jesus, who have been also called to follow him, we delight in the fact that, by the working of the Holy Spirit, we have found the one in whom the entire message of God’s Word gets its meaning and significance. God has opened his Word to us and revealed to us that Jesus is the Savior he sent into the world to redeem the world. Because we know that Jesus is revealed in God’s Word, we want to dig deeper and deeper into God’s Word, so that we might learn as much as we possibly can about him and his will for our lives. May our attitude mirror that of Samuel when he said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)
When Philip told Nathanael that, “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.” (Verse 45), Nathanael was not overly impressed. As a matter of fact, he replied with a rather scornful question. He said, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (Verse 46) Nathanael hears the word “Nazareth” and, in that geographical reference, he finds reason to doubt Philip’s faith. His objection was that, as a Galilean, he was familiar with the village of Nazareth and, as a Jew, he knew no prophecy that said that the Messiah would come from there.
Rather than arguing with Nathanael, Philip simply says, “Come and see.” (Verse 46) The Holy Spirit had worked the faith in his heart. Philip loved his friend, who had a deep interest in spiritual matters. He wanted Nathanael to come under the influence of the same gracious Word.
People today do the same thing as Nathanael. They still pick at the words of the Bible and find reasons for doubting the message. We need to remember that clever arguments don’t work saving faith. No one has ever been argued into heaven. Rather, what we do is what Philip did. We invite them to “Come and see.” We show Jesus as he has revealed himself in his Word and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit. We today can do no more or less than Philip who invited his friend to “Come and see.”
Nathanael did come to see Jesus. In verse 47 we read, “When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’” Jesus gave a great compliment to Nathanael. In calling him “a true Israelite,” Jesus was saying that Nathanael was a true believer in the Messianic promise and was looking forward to the Savior’s spiritual kingdom. This is in contrast to many other Jews who were looking forward to a Messiah who would provide for all of their physical needs or would lead them from under Roman rule. Nathanael, though, was looking for the Messiah who would free the world from the rule of the devil and sin.
When Jesus said this, Nathanael was stunned. He asked, “How do you know me?” (Verse 48) The Greek word for knowing has the idea of knowing from personal experience. Nathanael had never been introduced to Jesus prior to this. Then Jesus showed Nathanael that he was the Son of God by saying, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” (Verse 48) Jesus told him of something that there was no other way to know about, other than by being the all-knowing Son of God.
After this brief encounter, Nathanael is already convinced as to whom Jesus is. He said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” (Verse 49) Nathanael’s statement of Jesus being the Son of God is a bold statement, especially in light of the fact that the idea of calling any human being “God” was so appalling to the Jews. They were so careful about blasphemy. It was a bold step of faith that moved Nathanael to make this statement.
By means of his statement to Nathanael, Jesus showed that he knew what was in his heart. Jesus, also, knows what’s in our hearts. At first, that might be quite disconcerting. When I think about all the sins that I commit that only I am aware of, when I think of those words that I never spoke, but were loudly being shouted in my heart, when I think of the lustful thoughts that I have had, these sins Jesus is also aware of. Because of these secret sins, as well as the sins that are visible to others, I know that I deserve an eternity in hell because of them. But Jesus is the one who came in fulfillment of the Scriptures. He came to pay for my sins through his life, death, and resurrection. Now those secret sins have been paid for and I do not need to fear that Jesus knows what’s in my heart. As a matter of fact, it is quite comforting. He knows when I am feeling weak in my faith or trust, and he comes to me with his Word and strengthens me. He knows all the times that I meant to do what was right or say what was right, but it came off all wrong. He also sees my heart full of joy in the fact that I have been saved through his precious work. He sees me as I truly am, a forgiven child of God.
Jesus added some words of encouragement to Nathanael’s confession of faith. He said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” (Verse 50) Jesus isn’t reprimanding him for a lack of faith. Rather he is encouraging Nathanael to grow in faith through the greater things that he would see. Then Jesus referred to a greater thing that Nathanael and all believers would see. “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” (Verse 51) This is an obvious reference to the stairway that Jacob saw at Bethel as he fled from his brother Esau. The Son of Man, as Jesus calls himself, is the means for bridging the gap between earth and heaven. Through Jesus’ work, which the disciples would witness, heaven would be opened to all believers. The wall of sin which separates would be gone. This is one of the greater things that Nathanael would witness as he followed Jesus as his disciple.
We, too, are witnesses of the fact that Jesus has opened the gate of heaven. He is the only means by which we gain entrance into heaven. This is the confidence of every Christian. We know that, when we pass from this earth, heaven is waiting for us. Through the work of Jesus, the gates of heaven have been thrown wide open. Have you ever heard such exciting news? Jesus has paid for all your sins. Heaven is waiting for you. God help us to show this excitement to others that we encounter.
Come and see. Those are just three words. But, when you say them to someone else, you show that you are interested in them, and you care enough about them to share something special in your life. Can that be any more true than when we invite others to come and see Jesus? Jesus loved them enough to pay for their sins. May we reflect that love to others. So also, may we heed Jesus’ invitation, through his Word, to come and see. Amen.
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