Let us pray: Dear Savior, teach us today to value our faith and see it for what it really is: a total, joyous transform of our lives for our eternal betterment! Nothing else we can do, say, or experience is as beneficial to us as our Christian faith. Lord, for that huge blessing we offer You our thanks and praise. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM GOD OUR FATHER AND FROM CHRIST, THE SAVIOR OF THOSE OVERLOOKED BY MERE MORTALS!
TEXT: John 1: 43-51
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Nathanael didn’t start out as my favorite disciple. Growing up I didn’t really know anything of him except his name. Even later on when I discovered that Nathanael and Bartholomew was the same disciple, (just like you are sometimes referred to by your middle name vs. your first name, so, too, this disciple), even then I still didn’t put him into my # 1 slot. Peter and John tended to occupy that position. But, a few years ago I did a study of this text and of Nathanael. And it became clear to me that Jesus valued him very highly and so I should, too. In fact, you can well say that Jesus pays the highest compliment ever bestowed upon a human being when referring to Nathanael. Recall that unlike us, Christ can read hearts. He knew exactly what was inside each human being He interacted with. And when Jesus calls Nathanael to be His disciple here, pay careful attention to the words He uses: “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” Some of the older translations phrased it: “In whom there is no guile.” What a glorious thing to say! When it came to the status of his heart this man didn’t foist disparaging thoughts upon Jesus when meeting him, or immediately size Christ up with a jaundiced eye. No, he literally treated Jesus like he wanted to be treated. Nathanael has a kind heart. He doesn’t question the Messiah’s authenticity. He doesn’t take all sorts of convincing, either. He listens, accepts, and is welcomed by his Lord. What’s the reason behind this? Why does he act so nobly? And how can we learn to emulate him and thereby honor our Lord? Well, our entire lesson sheds light on a singular truth, which is:
CHRISTIANITY IS A TRANSFORMATIONAL FAITH BECAUSE IT HAS A TRANSFORMATIONAL LORD
We know that Peter and Andrew were brothers. We know they were both from the town of Bethsaida. And after Jesus called Andrew, he in turn, told his brother Peter about the Savior, and Christ called him as well. Philip was also from this Galilean town. After Christ bids him to “Follow Me”, “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.'” When you realize that Nathanael/Bartholomew was from the nearby town of Cana and was a cousin of Philip, the symmetry between putting these four callings together is clearly seen. And note well that Philip hearkens back to the Old Testament Messianic prophecies which Nathanael well knew and focuses on them as foundational proof.
Obviously Nathanael has some personal prejudices when it comes to that backwater, countryside village of Nazareth. It was a nothing place. And he reflects that in his response to cousin Philip: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” But Philip isn’t put off by this, at all. Instead, he simply replies: “Come and see.”
“When Jesus saw the approaching Nathanael, he said of him, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’ ‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.'”
What an amazing interchange! Jesus pays him this supreme compliment while he’s within earshot. Nathanael simply accepts it without false modesty and inquires how Jesus has come to know him? Then Christ speaks of that fig tree that this newly minted disciple was standing under, miles away, when Philip first told him about Jesus. Nathanael immediately grasps the miracle. Only God’s Son could have such power. Something most wonderful has come out of Nazareth after all! The Messiah, long promised and amply defined throughout the Old Testament is here, right now, in the person of Christ! The One Who would save lost souls and give His life for the lives of sinners like us, was standing before him! And this great confession of faith results: “You are the Son of God!”
In that instant, Nathanael really underwent a transformational change. Suddenly all the truths he had learned at church were proven true—before his very eyes. Suddenly, he would drop everything to follow Jesus of Nazareth because it had to be! Suddenly, all those personal prejudices about Nazareth, social class, personal relationships—all that silly stuff that humans place such emphasis upon—none of that mattered, at all! The Messiah had come! God’s Son had spoken to him! Nathanael’s heart had already been prepared by the Holy Spirit during all those years of local synagogue instruction in God’s Word. Now that well-prepared heart easily slipped into high gear. And then to help round off this newly focused faith, Jesus also gives him a promise of heaven, a promise of the coming Ascension. “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.’ He then added, ‘I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'”
We don’t know a lot more of this disciple. But what we do know is that by God’s grace he overcame preconceived notions about Jesus’ hometown and thus His status and was blest to help transform the entire world because his own heart had been transformed. Jesus is a transformational Lord. He says such intensely on-point things when it comes to how we think and how we feel in life. He convicts us of our own prejudices and reminds us that He has none because they all died on the cross when He suffered for us. And that immense love and total forgiveness then changes our hearts to embrace holiness and forgiveness instead of revenge and hatred.
Remember the saying: “A leopard cannot change his spots.”? Well, it’s true. A leopard can’t, but God can change the leopard! So if you’re harboring some unhappiness—give it to Jesus. If anxiety grips you, follow your Lord’s pathway to real peace. If you possess doubt about your purpose in life—look to Christ’s eternal solution. Are you frustrated and have adopted a “blame-it-on-others mentality,” let the undying forgiveness of Jesus and His patience with you guide you as your deal with them. The point is: always listen to Christ when He says: “Follow me.” Take what He says to heart. And then be prepared to have some huge growing pains occur! Christianity is not a static, but a transformational faith because it doesn’t have a dead Lord, but a transformed, living One! Amen