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John 1:35-51 (web)

The Calling of the Apostles

1:35 Again, the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples,
1:36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!"
1:37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
1:38 Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them,
"What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi"
(which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher), "where are you staying?"
1:39 He said to them, "Come, and see."
They came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.
It was about the tenth hour.{4:00 PM.}

1:40 One of the two who heard John, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
1:41 He first found his own brother, Simon, and said to him,
"We have found the Messiah!" (which is, being interpreted, Christ).
{"Messiah" (Hebrew) and "Christ" (Greek) both mean "Anointed One".}
1:42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said,
"You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas"
(which is by interpretation, Peter).

1:43 On the next day, he was determined to go out into Galilee, and he found Philip.
Jesus said to him, "Follow me."
1:44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.
1:45 Philip found Nathanael, and said to him,
"We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, wrote:
Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
1:46 Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"
Philip said to him, "Come and see."
1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said about him,
"Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!"
1:48 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."
1:49 Nathanael answered him,
"Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are King of Israel!"
1:50 Jesus answered him,
"Because I told you, 'I saw you underneath the fig tree,' do you believe?
You will see greater things than these!"
1:51 He said to him, "Most assuredly, I tell you, hereafter you will see heaven opened,
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Discussion Questions

vs 38 What do you seek? What do you hope to get out of Bible study?
What do you see as the pros and cons of God coming to live with you in your house?
vs 40-42 If you won the lottery who would you like to tell first?
2Co 4:13  It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,
How active are you in speaking of Christ with others?
vs 43-51 How did Nathanael view anything coming out of Nazareth? How would you apply this today - The Messiah coming from Nazareth is like ______________ coming from ______________.
How did Jesus characterize Nathanael? And what is an example of a type of person opposite to that?
Would you say that Nathanael was too much of a skeptic or was he too quick to believe?
What miraculous things would convince you that Jesus is who he claims to be?


Order of events: Given that all these events up to chapter 4 occurred prior to John the Baptist being imprisoned, this was the first recorded calling of the apostles (though not as apostles at this point). For the calling of the apostles recorded in the synoptics occurred after John's imprisonment. These are not in conflict, but rather separate events and thus explains the differences in the details of these events between John and the synoptics.

Diverse Calling:

The first may be likened to those who seek God by going to church and are led to Christ by their pastor. Unfortunately that seems the limit many place on evangelism today. For each should then go on to lead others around them to Christ. And then there is a third category seldom acknowledged by those of a more institutional mindset. There are those whom Jesus comes to without the direct intervention of others. These are those whom even in their unregenerate state the Spirit may lead to read the Bible and lead them on a spiritual journey culminating in their faith in Christ. John the Baptist himself may be exemplary of this to whom quite literally the Spirit pointed out Christ.

vs 38 "What do you seek?" It seems that everyone seeks something. Everyone has a degree of discontentedness. But it is those who respond as Andrew did that please the Lord. Many seek material things for themselves, but Andrew simply sought to abide with the Lord. To abide with the Lord means that we must be reconciled to God. If you wish to abide with the Lord on your own terms, then you have been mislead as to what the Lord is like. Sadly many couples get married without really knowing what the other is like. So also many "Christians" distance themselves from the Bible, not abiding in His Word, for their view of God is in conflict with what the Bible says about God. Would you really be comfortable with the idea of the God of the Bible moving into your house?

vs 41 "We have found the Messiah" It is interesting that the Lord can indeed be found. Paul speaking to the Athenians says, "he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." Acts 17:26,27 And Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Luke 11:9 God expects us to seek Him by faith and indeed we will find him "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jer 29:13  But having found him, a natural response of faith is to tell someone else.

vs 42 Calling Peter a stone was far a description of his present personality. For Peter was impulsive, wavering and erratic even up to Jesus' death. Rather Jesus was pointing to what he would become. This is another aspect of coming to Christ. Spending time with Jesus will make us different people. The salvation he offers is not just the forgiveness of sins, but also incorporates a change within such that our lifestyle is characterized by righteous living and our weaknesses are healed.

Andrew only visited with Jesus briefly and went on his business fishing with his brother Peter. Later the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, Luke) record Jesus calling Andrew and Peter while they were fishing. Many first introduced to Christ have a good impression of him, but lack the realization of the degree of commitment he demands in following him.

vs 46 "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" People may expect to find the Lord among the proud, important, and popular of the land. But the Lord is more frequently among the humble and humiliated as growing up as  a carpenter's son in Nazareth represents. He makes his dwelling among the lowly. What about yourself? Are you a Nazareth of which people ask "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?", and yet have the King dwelling in you? Or are you a Jerusalem, a proud city where dwell the religious elite who crucified the Lord?

Though Nathanael held Nazareth in contempt as was a common trait particularly among Jews to compare one another, what was perhaps most characteristic of him was his frankness. He was not duplicitous hiding behind a mask as many politicians and religious leaders do. But as such his behavior may be interpreted by some as rude. Yet Jesus appears to commend the positive aspects of this character trait as free from guile. Of which Nathanael seems also consciously aware, as it was not a common trait among Jews.

Nathanael was skeptical, as is to be expected. For, unlike Islam, God does not expect us to place a blind faith in whoever claims to be a prophet of God. As would be characteristic of his ministry Jesus affirmed who he was through a miracle. In this case he revealed knowing particulars about Nathanael before meeting him. Nathanael reacted with faith, but Jesus appears to put on the brakes to his faith. What is implied is that Nathanael was in some sense too quick to believe. For many will quickly listen to things they want to hear, but then reject what they don't want to hear. In Luke 8 Jesus speaks in the parable of the sower of some believing quickly but then falling away when it comes time to apply their faith. He isn't interested in that kind of faith. He provides greater evidence than mere subjective experiences to affirm who he is. For the honest skeptic is not easily converted, but having been convinced their faith tends to be more deeply rooted.

Application: Don't be too quick to accept or reject Jesus. Rather make a careful and thorough examination before drawing a conclusion. Today Christians are often too impatient in trying to convert others to the faith and end up giving them only bits and pieces of the gospel before demanding a decision be made. A person cannot artificially fabricate his own saving faith, it has to be developed over time in cooperation with the Holy Spirit as one follows Jesus Christ.

NIV version used in comments

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 28,2022