35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
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 of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 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.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” – John 1:35-51 ESV
As has already been states, one of the things the apostle John is attempting is to establish and support the deity of Jesus. To do so, he has used the testimony of John the Baptist, who referred to Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV). He also shared that he had been witness to the moment when the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This had happened exactly the way God had told him it would happen. And it had been accompanied by a voice from heaven declaring, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy” (Matthew 3:17 NLT).
But one of the most convincing comments to come from the lips of John the Baptist was his confession “I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34 ESV). At no point does John the Baptist refer to Jesus as the Christ or Messiah. The only time he used the Greek word “Christ” was when he answered the question from the Jewish religious leaders, asking whether that was who he was. He simply told them, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:20 ESV).
But when speaking of Jesus, John the Baptist referred to Him as the Lamb and the Son of God. To the average Jews, the term “Christ” or “Messiah” had come to mean a human savior who would appear on the scene much like David had. He would be a military and political leader who would rescue Israel from their subjugation to Rome and reestablish them as a formidable power in the Middle East. In their minds, the Messiah would be a man sent by God, but they had no suspicion or expectation that he would be God. So, when John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the Son of God, he is boldly proclaiming His divinity. This supports the claim made earlier by John.
No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. – John 1:18 NLT
But John is not done establishing the deity of Jesus. He picks up the story by describing the events that took place the very next day. Jesus, having been baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit, began His earthly ministry. The scene John describes most likely took place somewhere in the Judean wilderness, near the shore of the Jordan River where Jesus had been baptized. John the Baptist, standing with two of his followers, spots Jesus walking by and repeats his earlier claim: “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
Hearing these words, the two disciples of John the Baptist decided to follow Jesus. They were intrigued. They wanted to know more. And when Jesus saw them, He asked them, “What are you seeking?” (John 1:38 ESV). Basically, Jesus is asking them what it is they want. He is requiring that they state their intentions. But, interestingly enough, rather than answer His question, the two men ask Jesus where He is staying. They address Jesus as “Rabbi,” a term of respect that clearly reflects their understanding that Jesus was some sort of teacher. Their inquiry into where Jesus lived was most likely their way of asking where He did His teaching. They were signaling their interest in becoming His disciples. But at this point, these two men show no awareness that Jesus was the Messiah. And it does not appear that they understood Him to be divine. All they knew was that their teacher had proclaimed Jesus to be his superior.
“among you stands one you do not know, he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” – John 1:26-27 ESV
They probably understood Jesus to be their Rabbi’s teacher and now they wanted to become His disciples as well.
In response to their question, Jesus stated, “Come and you will see” (John 1:39 ESV). His words feature an invitation and a promise. They think they’re about to get a tour of Jesus’ place of residence, but He is signaling something far more significant. Their decision to follow Him is going to open their eyes to things they have never seen before. They end up spending the rest of the day with Jesus and during that time, they begin to grow in their awareness of who He was. John states that one of the men, who he identifies as Andrew, went to search for his brother, Simon. We know from the other gospel accounts that these two brothers were fishermen. Upon finding Simon, Andrew excitedly announced, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ)” (John 1:41 ESV).
During his time with Jesus, something had opened the eyes of Andrew so that he was able to see who Jesus truly was. He had become convinced that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. But, unlike his former Rabbi, John the Baptist, Andrew is not yet convinced of Jesus’ deity.
Intrigued by his brother’s announcement, Simon followed him to where Jesus was staying. And upon meeting Simon, Jesus does something a bit strange. He immediately changes Simon’s name to Cephas, an Aramaic word that means “rock.” In Greek, it translates into “Peter.”
John provides no explanation for why Jesus did what He did. But there is some irony in this scene. As the gospel narratives unfold, they reveal that Peter was a hotheaded, impulsive, and opinionated man who was quick to speak and rash by nature. He would prove to be a loose cannon whose propensity to put the mouth in gear before the mind was engaged would end up getting him into hot water. And yet, it would be this very same man who would later testify of Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 ESV).
And Jesus would respond to Peter’s testimony by pronouncing a blessing upon him.
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:17-18 ESV
John continues the narrative by describing Jesus’ departure for the region of Galilee, in the north. There He found Philip, who lived in Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Simon Peter. Philip quickly accepted the invitation from Jesus to follow Him. Perhaps he had already been informed about Jesus by Andrew and Simon Peter. But whatever the case, he was fully convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, telling his friend, Nathanael, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45 ESV).
Philip was familiar with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the promised Messiah and believed Jesus to be the fulfillment of them. But he was also fully aware that Jesus was the son of Joseph, from the unimpressive town of Nazareth. You can sense the common disdain for Jesus’ hometown by Nathanael’s reaction: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46 ESV).
But Philip challenges his friend to “Come and see” for himself. And Nathanael was not disappointed. As Jesus saw Nathanael, He declared, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47 ESV). Nathanael is taken aback by Jesus’ words, somehow sensing that Jesus knew him intimately. They had never met before, but Jesus revealed things about Nathanael that were personal and private. And then, Jesus blew Nathanael away by announcing, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (John 1:48 ESV).
The fact that Nathanael saw Jesus’ words as proof of supernatural power is reflected in his response: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49 ESV).
In a sense, Jesus tells Nathanael, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” There was going to be far more convincing proof of who Jesus was and it would be confirmed by supernatural signs and wonders.
“you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” – John 1:51 ESV
This imagery is reminiscent of the experience the Old Testament patriarch, Jacob had when he dreamed of a ladder descending from heaven.
And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! – Genesis 28:12 ESV
And Jacob was given an interpretation of that dream that assured him, “in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:15 ESV). Jesus was announcing that He was the fulfillment of that promise. It would be through Him that all the families of the earth would be blessed. In time, Nathanael and the rest of the disciples of Jesus would have ample proof that He truly was the Son of God, the King of Israel. Jesus had invited these men to “come and see.” By following Him they would be given an opportunity to see the heavens opened and the power of God revealed on earth as never before.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.