Article: Philip and Nathanael: A Story of Witnessing | Jacob Varghese

Let us turn our attention to John 1:43-51 for this mediation. Through this meditation I want to take your attention to a story of witnessing.
We read like this in the selected portion, “the next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Nathanael may be the same person as the apostle Bartholomew, who is always mentioned with Philip (Bartholomew, like Varghese, is normally a second name). Through the read portion we understand who is Nathanael, how did he meet Jesus? what did they talk? what transformation happened in Nathanael’s life through his meeting with Jesus? Who actually witnessed to Nathanael? What lesson we can have from this story for our life? It might also reflect upon faith, skepticism and how people today might be brought to faith. We see Philip is sharing a testimony to Nathanael here. What was that testimony? Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.” In the same chapter verse 40-41, we see another testimony. Andrew follows Jesus, then Andrew met Simon his own brother and shares a testimony. What was that? We have found Messiah, the Christ”. And Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Here we see Philip bringing Nathanael, and Andrew bringing Simon to Jesus. Later in chapter 4 we see the incident of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman. What did she do then? She went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. This Could be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward Jesus. What a wonderful Testimony?
Dear People of God, we see in all these incidents one thing in common that the people who met Jesus in their life, going and sharing about Jesus to their people. Andrew telling to his own brother, Philip telling to his friend, the Samaritan woman telling to her village people. The same way we also need to talk about Jesus to others. We have met Jesus; we have received Him as our personal savior and preparing ourselves for the eternal life. Now it is our responsibility to share about Jesus to our people, our family, relatives, friends, neighbors and the people around us who are perishing without God. What we have to tell them? “Come and see” what we have found, what we have experienced for ourselves. Jesus is the savior of the world who gives

salvation from the sinful life. He loves us and redeems us from the eternal punishment and gives us eternal life.
Philip’s response is perfect: “Come and see.” It was the same answer that Jesus gave to the two disciples who asked where he stayed (John 1:37-39). The only way to know Jesus is not by rumors, tales, stories or reading books but by a personal experience of Him. Here we see, Philip, who overlooks Nathanael’s scornful/mocking/ disrespectful remark about Nazareth. Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel is skeptical and doubtful. ‘Nazareth, that godforsaken place?’ Nazareth was an undistinguished place in Nathaniel’s eyes. That is why he is asking ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’. Our prejudices/preconceptions can cloud over our response to people. We often try to classify people by looking down at their gender, origin, race or family, isn’t it? In our story Philip doesn’t argue about that. Philip is not arguing about it. He simply says: ‘Come and see.’ That means Philip already know and experienced Jesus. We cannot invite another person to ‘come and see’ unless we first know Jesus ourself. It is like that me “telling taste and see”. It simply means I have tasted and already know it is good. Clever arguments do not win people to the Gospel, but an encounter with the person of Jesus will bring people to Him. We see the same thing Andrew is telling Simon, “Come and See”. The Samaritan woman telling the people of her town,” Come and see”. Our responsibility is also the same, share the Goodnews of the gospel and to give an invitation to people to “Come and see.” No need of any argument, we can not change any one’s heart, we cannot convince anyone, only God can transform the people. Our responsibility is to share the gospel with the people, do not try to convert them. Let God transform them.
Here Philip and Nathanael together going to Jesus. Jesus recognizes Nathanael’s essential goodness and integrity. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”. Look at what Jesus is saying. How does Jesus see Nathanael? He saw him as true Israelite, He doesn’t see any deception or dishonesty in him. We only see what is external in others but Jesus saw his heart. Before coming to the Lord, we might have been a person with anger, addiction or with many bad habits but the touch of God, by putting the faith in Jesus, God transforms us. My friends, when we come to the Lord, when we accept Him, we are a new creation in the Lord. The old has gone and the new has come. The nature of our old man has gone and we become a transformed being.

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Nathanael is ready to come and see. But Jesus leads him further. We too must be open to that leading. Nathanael could have missed the chance to meet Jesus, if Philip would not have been inviting him gently to ‘Come and see’. Here Nathanael asked Jesus, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Jesus’ vision of Nathanael sitting under the fig-tree has lovely implications. The Jewish ideal of peace was somebody meditating under the leafy shade of his own vine or fig-tree. Why the ‘fig tree’? It was the place where people sat and studied the scriptures. It was also an illusion to the tree of knowledge in paradise which was believed to have been a fig tree. For the prophets it was a place

of ‘peace and plenty’. Jesus saw Nathanael as an honest seeker and in this place of learning and peace was open to ‘seeing’ who Jesus really was.
Nathaniel is surprised not because Jesus saw him under the fig tree, but that Jesus read the thoughts of his innermost heart. Jesus knows all about us. Jesus knows our heart. We can not hide anything from God. Here Jesus is saying ‘I know you while you were under the fig tree’. We may be hiding our secret pains from our dear ones, maybe we are thinking nobody understands our pain but be sure Jesus knows it all well. God’s eyes are always on us. Jesus saw something in Nathanael that surprised him. Our hidden actions and desires are evident to Jesus. Once Nathanael was thinking that nothing good can come out of Nazareth, now he is confessing who Jesus is when he understood the truth. Nathanael honors Jesus by addressing him as ‘King of Israel’. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Here we understand Nathanael has already reached a certain level of faith but Jesus leads him to even deeper faith. Jesus promises him that he will see greater things, the fulfilment of the prophecies, the establishment of the reign of God over humanity.
When Jesus tells Nathanael ‘You will see the heavens open’ He is recalling Jacob’s dream in the book of Genesis. (28:12-13) Jacob had a dream that there was a ladder set up on earth, the top of it reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. The dream was about contact between God and His creatures on earth. The messengers, the angels, were those who carried out God’s will. Jesus is saying that Nathanael is now the unique communicator between God and humankind.

In this story we see Jesus calls two new disciples. The first call is very simple: “He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me’. The second is little complicated. It has to be mediated by Philip who “found” Nathanael (notice the use of the same word as when Jesus “found” Philip). Nathanael is skeptical/ doubtful at first but allows himself to be brought to Jesus. Then follows a conversation and Nathanael says: “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” This is his declaration of faith. The Lord communicates with us in many ways. Sometimes it may seem direct and clear- cut, at other times more indirect, as when the call is mediated by other people.
Do you remember how did you come to Jesus? Can you name men and women in your life who brought you to Jesus just like Philip brought Nathanael? Have you been grateful for those mediators? Every believer should go any distance to reach a perishing soul, no matter how depraved/immoral/corrupt that person is. There are too many people in this world that seem to be unreachable: alcoholic, drug addict, poor, prisoner, lowly etc. Jesus is seen in fulfilling His mission in seeking and saving Philip. He came into the world for the very purpose of seeking and saving the lost. When is the last time you brought someone to Jesus, or reached out and said, “Come and See”? We should be bringing people to the Lord. If our zeal is not growing along with our knowledge and understanding of God and His Word, something is wrong. We may have excuses but …. We need to do everything to reach out to people who need God. Philip didn’t know much, but he brought Nathanael to Jesus. Think About this: Jesus knows everything about every man. Nothing escapes His watchful eye, not even a single thought of ours.

Today I want you to see yourself as a Philip. Jesus has found you and called you to follow him. That’s wonderful! That’s life-changing! Notice the way Philip says, “We have found him,” even though in reality it’s the other way around. It was Jesus who found Philip! Well, that’s all right. It’s really saying the same thing. From Philip’s perspective, this was a great discovery, and in his excitement, he expresses it the best way he knows how: “We have found him, the Messiah.”
How about you? Do you have the excitement and joy of a Philip? No? Maybe the excitement has worn off. Think of it this way: Think of where you would be without Jesus. You would be lost and helpless and hopeless, headed to hell. You would have no meaning, no purpose in life. No hope to sustain you. Blind and dead in our sins, enemies of God–that is our natural state. That is our starting point. But now pause and consider where you are because of Jesus. All of your sins are forgiven. You are a dear child of your heavenly Father. Our Lord calls us to follow him in faith. Invite the folks you know–your friends, neighbors and your family members–invite them to come and see. And when they come, what they will find in your life? “Can anything good come out of your life?” Oh, yes! Come and see. Go and tell.

– JACOB VARGHESE

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