“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 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.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 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.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 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.” 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 1:43-51)
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? The biblical definition for discipleship is to be a follower. In the Christian context, discipleship means to be a follower of Jesus. It means to not only follow Jesus’ teachings but also to emulate or mimic His character.
In Jesus’ day, discipleship entailed literally following one’s master. You followed him as he walked, you ate when he ate, you sat when he sat and you slept when and where he slept. We saw this in John 1:35-42.
In John 1:43-51 we see Jesus selecting two more disciples. Peter, Andrew and we assume John are already following Jesus. Jesus then finds Phillip and commands him to follow. The text tells us that Phillip was from the town of Bethsaida, which John mentions was the city, or hometown, of Andrew and Peter.
The text indicates, or at least implies, that Phillip was unhesitatingly willing to immediately follow Jesus. Additionally, Phillip appears to immediately and unhesitatingly go to his friend, Nathanial, and compel him to become a follower of Jesus also. Unlike Phillip, Nathaniel is a bit more reserved and skeptical of becoming a disciple of Jesus.
Nathaniel’s first response to Phillip’s news that Jesus could be the Messiah was whether anything good could ever originate from the Town of Nazareth. Phillip’s reply was simple but profoundly wise. He said, “Come and see.”
As one commentator explains, “The New Testament tells us clearly that Nazareth was an insignificant, even despised, town. Even fellow Galileans looked down on Nazareth, as is evident in the response of Nathanael when Philip told him about finding the Messiah (John 1:46). Plainly, Nathanael could not believe that the promised Savior would come from such a humble locale. Nathanael, it should be noted, is likely the same person as Bartholomew, who is listed among Jesus’ twelve disciples in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14). Bartholomew means “son of Tolmai,” so his full name would have been Nathanael son of Tolmai.”
Jesus uses all kinds of people to be His disciples. He uses the timid, the shy, the brash and the bold. The key question is are you willing to follow Jesus no matter your personality? What is your answer?
Jesus also uses His disciple from, and in, humble circumstances. Are you willing to go where Jesus wants you to serve and do what He wants you to do in serving Him? What is your answer?
Soli deo Gloria!