Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 1:47 ABehold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.@
Nathanael slurred Jesus, but our Lord responded with a compliment. He did not retort, ACan any good thing come out of Cana?@
Jesus= yielding and gracious spirit carried through in His life all the way to the cross, when He still had grace to say, AFather, forgive them, for they know not what they do.@ Oh that we who bear Christ=s name would follow His example in this area of life.
Christ paid a wonderful tribute to Nathanael. ANo guile@ meant no deceit, trickery, or hypocrisy. It denoted one who was frank and simple, with no selfish aims to hide. It also characterized a person who did not have a critical spirit, who wasn=t always looking for a flaw.
Nathanael did not want to invent doubts or raise questions. He sought truth, not arguments. The Psalmist praised such a person. ABlessed is the man . . . in whose spirit there is no guile@ (Psalm 32:2).
Nathanael was truly a fine man, but still a sinner in need of a personal relationship with God. He knew he needed more and found it in Jesus.
John 1:48 A . . . Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.@
Though physically absent, Jesus saw and heard Nathanael=s conversation with Philip. This extraordinary ability, a characteristic of God (Psalm 139), was displayed often by Jesus. He revealed the Samaritan woman=s private affairs, told the disciples to catch a fish and take money from its mouth to pay taxes, knew Zaccheus= name, and knew the lady with an issue of blood was healed.
Preachers often use our Lord=s omniscience as an incentive to keep people from sin. It certainly is a motivation for holiness, but also more. It is a motivation for consolation. Jesus sees us, knows us, and feels what we feel. When we cried alone, God saw. When our heart broke, God felt the pain. When we felt lonely, so did God.
The Lord Jesus knows, sees, and feels our hurts. He cares. When all seems to fall apart beneath us and life is crumbling, remember, AThe eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms@ (Deuteronomy 33:27). Jesus looks on our hearts. Let Him see holiness while we see consolation.
John 1:49 A. . . Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God . . . the King of Israel.@
Someday Nathanael will better understand his own words, but will never be able to say anything better about Jesus. As ARabbi@ Jesus is master and teacher. Nathanael sees himself as a learner. ASon of God@ bears on Jesus= relationship to God.
AKing of Israel@ denotes Jesus= relationship to God=s chosen people. By calling Jesus AKing of Israel@ Nathanael, who was an Israelite, acknowledged Jesus to be his own king. He was submitting himself to Jesus.
In one instant, Nathanael proved he had no guile. Confronted with Jesus, he immediately believed. His yieldedness was proven by his ready acceptance of Jesus. However moral we might be, any one who refuses to accept Christ is living in open rebellion against God.
John 1:50 A . . . Believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these.@
Jesus marvels at Nathanael=s sudden faith, and tells him he will see even greater things. In Nathanael=s experience we see in microcosm every believer=s spiritual pilgrimage. First, God calls us (v. 48). Someone else points out for us the way (v. 46). We examine the Lord (vv. 47-48), and then accept the Lord (v. 49). After this, our relationship with Jesus grows better and better (v. 50). AEvery day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.@
When we begin, faith is virtually sightless, but as we progress, we begin to Asee@ better. Faith seems to become almost a matter of sense. We first accept the testimony of God and others, but then personal experience turns sightlessness into Asight.@ Our faith grows as dear as life itself and becomes the essence of our being. It becomes reality in us while the things of the world become for us mere illusions passing away.
John 1:51 AYe shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.@
Nathanael called Jesus ASon of God,@ denoting divinity, and AKing of Israel,@ bespeaking royalty. Jesus= favorite self-designation is ASon of Man.@
In Jesus= day this was a rarely used term, essentially free of political implications. It described Jesus as being related not only to a family or nation, but to all humanity.
Jesus used it so often (over 80 times) that He almost seemed to be saying AI truly am a man!@ Believing He is God would be no difficulty for the Apostles. Jesus felt compelled to emphasize His manhood.
The promise of this verse is for all the followers of Jesus. Notice the switch from Athou@ in verse 50 to Aye@ in verse 51. The promise here is for all believers.
This image is obviously based on God=s blessing of Jacob in Genesis 28:12. Jesus did not mean for His words to be taken literally. He meant we will see the blessing of heaven showered on people. How will this blessing be communicated?
In Genesis 28:12 the blessing of God is pictured by angels ascending and descending on a ladder. Here the angels are said to ascend and descend on the Son of Man. Jesus Himself has become, as it were, Jacob=s ladder, the channel of communication between God and people.
Jesus is the meeting place, the connecting point, between heaven and earth. Apart from Jesus, no blessing of God can be communicated to people. Our only link to reaching God is Jesus, the spiritual ladder of Jacob.