Diffusing Skeptics: John 1:35-51

Focus Passage: John 1:35-51 (CEV)

35 The next day, John was there again, and two of his followers were with him. 36 When he saw Jesus walking by, he said, “Here is the Lamb of God!” 37 John’s two followers heard him, and they went with Jesus.

38 When Jesus turned and saw them, he asked, “What do you want?”

They answered, “Rabbi, where do you live?” The Hebrew word “Rabbi” means “Teacher.”

39 Jesus replied, “Come and see!” It was already about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him and saw where he lived. So they stayed on for the rest of the day.

40 One of the two men who had heard John and had gone with Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother and tell him, “We have found the Messiah!” The Hebrew word “Messiah” means the same as the Greek word “Christ.”

42 Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. And when Jesus saw him, he said, “Simon son of John, you will be called Cephas.” This name can be translated as “Peter.”

43-44 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. There he met Philip, who was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. Jesus said to Philip, “Come with me.”

45 Philip then found Nathanael and said, “We have found the one that Moses and the Prophets wrote about. He is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

46 Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Philip answered, “Come and see.”

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said, “Here is a true descendant of our ancestor Israel. And he isn’t deceitful.”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

49 Nathanael said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God and the King of Israel!”

50 Jesus answered, “Did you believe me just because I said that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see something even greater. 51 I tell you for certain that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up and coming down on the Son of Man.”

Read John 1:35-51 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Of all the disciples to follow Jesus, Nathanael’s invitation is one of the most interesting and puzzling to my mind. After accepting Philip’s invitation to come and meet Jesus personally, Nathanael hasn’t really let down his guard, because he is skeptical about whether a Messiah would, or even could, come from Nazareth.

But like Jesus typically did, He speaks to the heart when talking to the person, and when Jesus saw Nathanael, His first words were, “Here is a true descendant of our ancestor Israel. And he isn’t deceitful.” (v. 47)

Jesus’ opening line about Nathanael breaks the initial tension of the moment, but it also diffuses Nathanael’s skepticism. Jesus’ statement turns Nathanael’s skepticism into curiosity. The way past a skeptical mind is to help it rediscover a childlike curiosity.

However, the part that I don’t really understand is Jesus’ response to Nathanael’s question. Jesus says, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” (v. 48b)

Why this is significant, I am not entirely sure. Maybe the fig tree was where Nathanael went to pray, or maybe it was very secluded or hidden from the outside world. This answer spoke to not only Nathanael’s mind but to his heart as well, and it lead Nathanael to accept Jesus as being the Messiah at the beginning of His ministry.

It is interesting that aside from John the Baptist, the skeptical Nathanael is among the first to call Jesus “the Son of God and the King of Israel” (v. 49) Nathanael may have been the first disciple to describe Jesus with these words.

This leads to the big point I see in this portion of the passage: Sometimes skeptics are the best people to have on your side, because once they are convinced of the truth, they are 100% dedicated to the mission. In this way, Nathanael is one of the first disciples who is 100% committed to Jesus and His mission.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.