This morning, we come to the end of John 1, and I want to share a message with you entitled, “Jesus Is Your Only Ladder!”
Last Sunday, we saw we were introduced to Andrew and Peter as some of Jesus’ first disciples. Today, we are going to be introduced to Phillip and Nathanael.
In verse 43, we see another one of John the Apostle’s time markers. It is the next day, and Jesus went to Galilee. When He got there, He found Phillip. By the way, on Wednesday nights now, we are digging deeper in John’s Gospel.
It is not a repeat of Sunday morning, but it is in addition to Sunday morning. This coming Wednesday, we are going to look at the often maligned doctrine of election. Notice that it wasn’t that Phillip that found Jesus. Jesus wasn’t lost. It was Jesus who found Phillip because he was lost, and I would say the same about me and you if you are a follower of Christ.
As I said last Sunday, at first, when Jesus said to Phillip to follow Him, He was speaking literally. He wanted Phillip to literally follow behind Him. However, this term would evolve to mean following Jesus as a disciple.
From verse 44, we know that Phillip was probably a fisherman like Andrew and Peter. That is because of where he was from. Bethsaida means house of fishing or house of fishermen.
In verse 45, we see that Phillip couldn’t keep quiet about what he had discovered much like Andrew last week. Andrew found Peter and told Peter and brought Peter. Phillip did the same.
Phillip found Nathanael and told Nathanael, and in verse 46 with his invitation to come and see, he brought Nathanael to Jesus.
More than likely, this Nathanael is who Matthew, Mark, and Luke call Bartholomew. The synoptic gospels never mention a Nathanael but always pair Phillip with Bartholomew.
Similarly, John never mentions a Bartholomew but always pairs Phillip with Nathanael. Perhaps this man’s name was Nathanael Bartholomew, which means Nathanael son of Tolmai.
What did Phillip tell Nathanael after he found him? Not exactly the same, but in a similar way, Phillip told Nathanael that Jesus was who the Old Testament promised.
Moses wrote about the promised Messiah in the law. The Old Testament prophets also wrote about the promised Messiah, and Jesus was Him.
Even though He was born in Bethlehem, He had moved to Nazareth and was raised there. We also know that even though Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ biological father, he was His adoptive father. Did you ever think about that? Joseph adopted Jesus as his Son?
Verse 46 contains Nathanael response to Phillip. Evidently, he was very impressed or partial to Nazareth.
Nathanael couldn’t believe that anything good could come from Nazareth. He probably thought the promised Messiah would come from Jerusalem.
Perhaps it was a rival or competing community. However, Phillip invited him to investigate for himself with the invitation of “Come and see.”
By the way, here is great example of handling conflict. When Phillip heard Nathanael’s response, notice that he didn’t argue with him. He simply asked him to see for himself.
In verse 47, we come back to Jesus, and Jesus saw Nathanael. He saw him physically, but He also saw him spiritually.
He described Nathanael as a fine, upstanding Israelite. Your translation may say without any deceit or without guile or guileless. Literally, this word for deceit means bait or a trap. There was nothing about Nathanael that would try to trick you or trap you. Compared to Jacob, who name and character was deceiver, Nathanael was a good man.
Nathanael needed to know how Jesus knew him. Had they met before? Had their paths crossed previously?
How did Jesus know him? In fact, He was the promised Messiah, and He was the Son of God who knew all through His omniscience.
By the way, Jesus everything about you as well. Do you remember Psalm 139? Listen to Psalm 139:1-8.
1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
5 You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.
Jesus answered that He saw Nathanael under the fig tree. Because of what Jesus has already said about him and because of what Jesus will say shortly, Nathanael was probably under the fig tree reading the Old Testament. Regardless, Jesus, because He was God’s Son, the promised Messiah, Jesus already knew everything about him even though had not previously met.
In verse 49, that was all Nathanael needed to hear. Jesus’ omniscience was proof enough for Nathanael to confess Jesus as the Son of God and King of Israel. Jesus was Nathanael’s promised Messiah.
In verse 50, Jesus promised Nathanael that he would see greater things than simply knowing about him before they met. Beginning next Sunday morning in John 2, commentators tell us that there are some 35+ miracles in John’s gospel that certainly Nathanael witnessed as well.
Finally, in verse 51, Jesus was more than likely referencing what Nathanael was studying under the fig tree. The story is found in in Genesis 28.
In Genesis 28:10-17, Jacob had stolen Esau’s birthright, and he was running for his life. While sleeping at night outside with his head on a rock, Jacob had a vision of angels ascending and descending from heaven to earth on a ladder.
God promised Jacob of his descendants in that land. Jacob responded with recognizing the grace of God and His presence.
Here in 1:51, Jesus equates Himself with ladder. He is God’s connection with man on the earth. He is God in the flesh, fully man and fully God, and our only hope for heaven.
Allow me to make this clear. Last week, the garland around the baptistery needed to be taken down. However, nobody that I knew of was tall enough to do it on their own. Therefore, we need some type of elevation assistance.
I won’t tell you what Ronnie and Chris and I did with scaffolding and a ladder to get that garland down for fear of an appointment with OSHA tomorrow morning. However, the point is that the scaffolding and ladder was necessary for the reality of the garland being around the baptistery no more.
Ladies and Gentlemen, listen closely. You and I need a ladder to get to God the Father in heaven, and our ladder is being a good person. Our ladder isn’t giving more money. Our ladder isn’t who is our father or mother or grandfather or grandmother.
Our one and only ladder is Jesus Christ. That is what Jesus said here and in John 14:6 and Peter in Acts 4:12 and Paul in Romans 5:1.
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly, one lighted torch lights another. Back at our Christmas Eve Service, I lit my candle from the Christ Candle. I then lit Christy’s candle. Christy and I then lit your candles one by one.
Andrew found and told and brought Peter. Phillip found and told and brought Nathanael. What about you? Has your torch not been lit? Lighted torches light others. If you want first century Christianity like on the pages of Scriptures, you need to starting living like first century Christians.