Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:44-49)
How Philip Was Wrong (And Nathanael Was Right)
Have you ever considered Nathanael and Philip’s words in this passage? Philip gets it wrong on three counts, and Nathanael is right. Philip says to Nathanael, “We have found him…” But just a few verses earlier we read it was Jesus who found Philip. (John 1:43) Next we read how Philip tells Nathanael that Jesus is from Nazareth, which is wrong, because Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The idea (wrong though it was) that Jesus came from Nazareth was a problem for Nathanael, as it was for the religious leadership of the day. “Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee,” they said to Nicodemus when he tried to defend Jesus. (John 7:50-52) So Nathanael, based on the information he had at the time, was right to question a prophet coming from the town of Nazareth, a city of Galilee. Then Philip gets it wrong a third time, he identifies Jesus as Joseph’s son, when Jesus was conceived by God.
But even though Philip presents wrong information to Nathanael, Nathanael moves past all that and decides to go see Jesus for himself. And when he does, Jesus knows him. He even commends Nathanael for Nathanael’s penchant for the truth: An Israelite in whom there is no deceit.
In Jesus’ presence with the others, Nathanael recognizes that Jesus knows him. But he can’t figure out how: How do you know me? He asks. Then after listening to Jesus for just few additional moments, Nathanael says to him, You are the Son of God.
When Christians Are Wrong
Do you see what happened here? Do you see how Philip made himself out to have found Jesus, and how he gave Nathanael wrong information?
Has that happened to you? Has someone misrepresented Jesus to you? Has a Christian leader presented information to you as though they knew it to be truth, when you knew they were wrong? Has a Christian exaggerated, or lied, or presented themselves in a way that made them appear to be more than they actually were?
I know it’s happened to me. And I’m guessing it’s happened to you too. No doubt Philip did these very things to Nathanael.
But Nathanael moved past all that and went to Jesus anyway.
I wound up doing the same. Even though I heard things from Christians that I knew were wrong, even though I heard exaggerations, even though some Christians made themselves out to be more than what they were, I recognized Jesus was someone worth exploring. So I moved past all that. I went to him. And what do you know–he saw me coming. He knew me. He knows me better than I know me. And once I was in his presence, like Nathanael, I knew he is the Son of God.
What can I say to move you to do the same? Don’t you see, that if Jesus is who he says he is, then it doesn’t matter what Christians have said or done. The truth is he appreciates someone who has a penchant for the truth. In fact Jesus taught that God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24) The truth is he knows you better than anyone, including you. The truth is he’s the most important person you could ever get to know.
So do what Nathanael did. Come to him. Spend time with him every day. Hang with others who have a desire to do the same. Together with them, learn everything you can about him. Together with them, follow the words Jesus gives to you in the scriptures.
Move past what you’ve heard before, and come to Jesus. Nathanael did that and it changed everything.
You do it too.
[Image via Dennis Hill – Creative Commons]