Gospel: John 1:43-51
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Lesson: 1 Samuel 3:1-10
Psalm: Psalm 67
CLB Commentary on the Gospel Text by Rev. Bill Helland
(originally published in 2012)
There are several directions one can go with this text. For example, one could focus on Philip, the evangelist. Or one could focus on Nathanael, the skeptic – turned believer. Or one could primarily focus on Christ (not that he wouldn’t be an important part of the focus in the previous two suggestions).
In focusing on Philip, we find that this was his moment of call – this was when Christ graciously called him to “Follow me.” In the verses that follow, we learn some facts about Philip that are helpful for developing a message about him. He lived in the same community as Andrew and Peter; perhaps they knew each other. Upon finding Nathanael, Philip exclaimed that they had “found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote…” This indicates that Philip had some knowledge of the OT scriptures. Also, his statement, “We have found…” indicates that he, like others, had been watching for the Messiah and fully believed Jesus was that Messiah; even though Jesus was from Nazareth – a community that many, like Nathanael, regarded as the last place to produce a Messiah! So, one could focus on Philip’s call, God’s grace to him in that call, his knowledge of scriptures and the role that played in his faith in Jesus, and his enthusiasm for introducing Nathanael to Jesus.
Or, one might focus on Nathanael, the skeptic. Nathanael became a follower of Christ, not due to a direct invitation from Christ, like that of Philip, but due to an invitation from one who already had responded to a direct invitation from Christ. Many people in our world yet today are cynical and skeptical about Christ and his claims, but from Nathanael’s experience we can talk about God’s role in calling people to follow him, for we never know when a skeptical unbeliever will take that next step and respond to the invitation to “Come and see.”
We see that Nathanael became a believer as a result of a radical encounter with Christ. First, Jesus made a true statement about the character of Nathanael, which got his attention; “ ‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked.” Then Jesus made an important statement that will surely preach when we consider how God sees and knows those who will respond to the gospel, even before we call them to consider faith in Christ and following him, “I saw you…” But Jesus indicated this experience was nothing compared to what Nathanael would experience later on if he followed Jesus. That too, will preach!
Warren Weirsbe writes about the use of the word “Come,” whether by Christ or his followers, and says; “ ‘Come’ is the great invitation of God’s grace.” It’s an awesome thing to be known by God, and called by God, but even greater things await those who will follow Him by faith – both in this life and for all eternity.
And much can be said of Christ, if one were to focus their message primarily on him, the calling of his disciples, his gracious invitation, his knowledge of those he calls, the identity of who he is – the Son of God, the King of Israel (and what that really means as Christ unpacked it over the next three years of his ministry), and the great things he has in store for those who follow him.
May you be blessed as you study this text and may those to whom you proclaim it be equally as blessed, as you (by the power and grace of God) unpack it for them.