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Last time we looked at the first two days; today we will read about the third and fourth days. A lot is compressed into one chapter. Since the fourth day spans verses 43-51, it is not clear how 2:1 takes place "on the third day." Unless, that is, "the next day" (vv.29,35,43) all refers to the same day, in which case 1:19-51 covers two days instead of four. Ancient conventions of chronology and storytelling are different from ours -- and that's okay. Compression is also visible in Mark 1, Mark 6, Luke 24, and a number of other passages.

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”

DAY THREE (vv.35-42)

  • Again, John directs his disciples to Christ.
    • Jesus receives them and spends time with them.
      • Note: this is not the (later) call to become fishers of men of Matthew 4/Mark 1/Luke 5.
      • Jesus is a relationship builder, not just a preacher.
      • The urgency of Mark 1 and the open schedule of John 1 are both important for evangelism.
    • Andrew brings his brother to Christ.
    • Jesus calls Simon (Shim'on, in Hebrew) Cephas, which is Aramaic for "rock." The name has prophetic and descriptive qualities. Jesus sees into both the character of Peter and his future.
  • Notice that a number of times he clarifies potentially unfamiliar terms: Rabbi (v.38); Messiah (v.41); Cephas (v.42); other clarifications will follow (9:7; 20:16; etc). This suggests that the target audience of this gospel are not (primarily) Jewish. And yet there are abundant references to the events and theology of the Old Testament.

39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

DAY FOUR (vv.43-51)

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 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.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 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.”

  • Jesus goes north, from Judea to Galilee, and meets Philip, who in turn speaks to Nathanael.
  • The first three men are from Bethsaida, a fishing village only discovered in the 1980s, and join Jesus' band.
  • Nathanael is from Cana (21:2), a town we will read about in the next chapter. Nathanael may be the apostle Bartholomew.
  • The interaction with Nathanael is fraught with significance.
    • Nathanael is skeptical, having stereotyped Nazareth and all who come from this backwards town. Philip responds perfectly to the skeptic: "Come and see." 
    • Jesus comments on Nathanael's genuineness -- how he spoke his mind. Nathanael agrees with Jesus' summary of his character, amazed at his insight. (See also 2:24-25.)
    • Once Jesus tells Nathanael that he saw him while he was under a fig tree, Nathanael is stunned, and quickly changes his assessment of Jesus to agree with Philip's -- that he is the Messiah. (One wonders, what exactly was Jesus referring to in connection with the fig tree?) Jesus' (seemingly miraculous) view of Nathanael (v.48) may entail powers similar to those of Elisha in 2 Kings 6:8-12, or Ezekiel in Ezekiel 8:1-18; 21:21-23.
    • Jesus ends this interaction with Nathanael by alluding to Genesis 28:12: "And [Jacob] dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it." In other words, Jesus, the Son of Man, is the "stairway to heaven"! See also John 3:13.
  • To sum up, the true Israelite ought to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, once initial doubts or objections have been met. This is a far cry from how most Jews -- and especially their leaders -- received Jesus. True worshippers of God must come to him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). "Truth" here means genuineness of faith, not doctrinal truth. (Not that this is unimportant.)

Conclusion

  • Already in chapter 1 we are seeing exactly how the Word looks when it has become flesh -- how God moves among people. Every interaction of Jesus tells us something about God.
  • Notice the minor theme in John, "Come and see."
    • There are 4 instances.
      • 1:39. Jesus invites Andrew and another follower of John the Baptist to "come and see" -- to spend time with him.
      • 1:46: Philip invites Nathanael to meet Jesus: "Come and see."
      • 4:29: The Samaritan Woman invites her town to "come and see."
      • 11:34: Lazarus's mourners, reply to Jesus' question about where the body has been laid, invite him, "Lord, come and see."
    • The Bible invites us to "taste and see" that the Lord is good (Ps 34:8; 1 Pet 2:3).
    • Just as someone invited you and me to "come and see," let's continue to reach out, inviting others to "come and see."