The Gospel of John – First Disciples

John 1: 35-51, Sunday, October 6, 2019

            The picture of Jesus that emerges from, this opening scene is quite different from the picture we usually have of him. The great activity surrounding Jesus that we usually think of will in fact be described by John. But here at the outset John gives us a glimpse of the enormous depths of silence that lay behind all that Jesus does. Jesus is fully engaged in his historical circumstances, but he is not centered in them nor controlled by them. We hear later that Jesus acts in accordance with God’s time and God’s will, and the depiction here at the beginning of the story hints at the same. Even his silence speaks powerfully of a life centered in God. Similarly, these disciples, who will shortly be so full of words, opinions and activity, are characterized at the outset by a desire for the presence of Jesus more than for answers to questions. Their immaturity will become evident immediately, but the crucial issue in discipleship is not whether we are mature but whether we desire to come and see and then abide in the divine presence, the only source of eternal life and growth in grace and truth.

            The second section, which deals with the gathering of the disciples, is important in two ways. First, in Nathanael we have a major example of a model disciple. If we pay careful attention to him, we will gain valuable insights into understanding the reactions to Jesus, both positive and negative, that will follow in the story. Second, the series of titles given to Jesus in this opening chapter culminates with Son of God and King of Israel. Jesus concludes by pointing to the deeper significance of these titles in his promise that they will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

            Thus, in calling Jesus the Son of God and the King of Israel Nathanael is the true Israelite acknowledging his King. This view of Jesus is right, as Jesus acknowledges when he affirms that Nathanael believes, but it is far short of the deep truth expressed by these titles. Jesus is truly King, but his kingdom is not of this world. He is indeed the Son of God, but in a sense far beyond anything expected by Moses and the prophets. Each of Jesus’ titles affirmed in this chapter is true, so the disciples have glimpsed something of Jesus’ identity. But much purging of error and further illumination will be necessary before they truly grasp what they are saying.

Rodney A Whitacre, John, p. 72, 75

           

It is worthy of note that Philip apparently knew nothing of Nathanael’s fig tree incident. But Jesus did, and could talk to Nathanael about it. The friend who witnesses to any sceptic may not be aware of the spiritual history of that sceptic, but God knows all about him. When Phillip brought Nathanael to meet Jesus of Nazareth he had done what he could. Things happened between Nathanael and Jesus that removed all doubts. Philip was not involved in that process. He had done his part when he brought Nathanael to Jesus. The Lord Himself led Nathanael to real conviction.

Manford George Gutxke, Plain Talk On John, p. 24

            In any case, here we have the universal significance of the light of every individual, an important theme in this Gospel and a controversial one. The light of Jesus is as universal as the light of creation. He did not come merely to some Gnostic elite, nor did he come to a single nation or culture. This light is the Word that became flesh in a given time and place. At the heart of Christianity is the so-called scandal of particularity. People of all cultures and times are to receive the light that shines in this first-century Jew—he who has been given authority over all people. This does not mean the light of God is not manifested to some degree throughout the world’s religions and philosophies. But even such light is derived from the one who became incarnate in Israel. Indeed, it is only by his light that we can recognize what is genuine light elsewhere. This is something of what it means that the true light has come. The word true means for John, in part, that which is really real, that which is genuine. John’s own example in this Gospel encourages us to recognize that which is of the truth from whatever quarter. But among all the claims to wisdom, revelation and truth, John is claiming that in Jesus we have received the real thing, the truth from which all truth flows and the criterion for recognizing truth whatever it may be found.

            God is working out his salvation through one nation, and specifically one person within that nation, but his is a universal salvation. This light shines on everyone.

Rodney A. Whitacre, John, p. 54f

 

 

 

The Gospel of John – First Disciples

John 1: 35-51, Sunday, October 6, 2019

            The picture of Jesus that emerges from, this opening scene is quite different from the picture we usually have of him. The great activity surrounding Jesus that we usually think of will in fact be described by John. But here at the outset John gives us a glimpse of the enormous depths of silence that lay behind all that Jesus does. Jesus is fully engaged in his historical circumstances, but he is not centered in them nor controlled by them. We hear later that Jesus acts in accordance with God’s time and God’s will, and the depiction here at the beginning of the story hints at the same. Even his silence speaks powerfully of a life centered in God. Similarly, these disciples, who will shortly be so full of words, opinions and activity, are characterized at the outset by a desire for the presence of Jesus more than for answers to questions. Their immaturity will become evident immediately, but the crucial issue in discipleship is not whether we are mature but whether we desire to come and see and then abide in the divine presence, the only source of eternal life and growth in grace and truth.

            The second section, which deals with the gathering of the disciples, is important in two ways. First, in Nathanael we have a major example of a model disciple. If we pay careful attention to him, we will gain valuable insights into understanding the reactions to Jesus, both positive and negative, that will follow in the story. Second, the series of titles given to Jesus in this opening chapter culminates with Son of God and King of Israel. Jesus concludes by pointing to the deeper significance of these titles in his promise that they will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

            Thus, in calling Jesus the Son of God and the King of Israel Nathanael is the true Israelite acknowledging his King. This view of Jesus is right, as Jesus acknowledges when he affirms that Nathanael believes, but it is far short of the deep truth expressed by these titles. Jesus is truly King, but his kingdom is not of this world. He is indeed the Son of God, but in a sense far beyond anything expected by Moses and the prophets. Each of Jesus’ titles affirmed in this chapter is true, so the disciples have glimpsed something of Jesus’ identity. But much purging of error and further illumination will be necessary before they truly grasp what they are saying.

Rodney A Whitacre, John, p. 72, 75

           

It is worthy of note that Philip apparently knew nothing of Nathanael’s fig tree incident. But Jesus did, and could talk to Nathanael about it. The friend who witnesses to any sceptic may not be aware of the spiritual history of that sceptic, but God knows all about him. When Phillip brought Nathanael to meet Jesus of Nazareth he had done what he could. Things happened between Nathanael and Jesus that removed all doubts. Philip was not involved in that process. He had done his part when he brought Nathanael to Jesus. The Lord Himself led Nathanael to real conviction.

Manford George Gutxke, Plain Talk On John, p. 24

            In any case, here we have the universal significance of the light of every individual, an important theme in this Gospel and a controversial one. The light of Jesus is as universal as the light of creation. He did not come merely to some Gnostic elite, nor did he come to a single nation or culture. This light is the Word that became flesh in a given time and place. At the heart of Christianity is the so-called scandal of particularity. People of all cultures and times are to receive the light that shines in this first-century Jew—he who has been given authority over all people. This does not mean the light of God is not manifested to some degree throughout the world’s religions and philosophies. But even such light is derived from the one who became incarnate in Israel. Indeed, it is only by his light that we can recognize what is genuine light elsewhere. This is something of what it means that the true light has come. The word true means for John, in part, that which is really real, that which is genuine. John’s own example in this Gospel encourages us to recognize that which is of the truth from whatever quarter. But among all the claims to wisdom, revelation and truth, John is claiming that in Jesus we have received the real thing, the truth from which all truth flows and the criterion for recognizing truth whatever it may be found.

Image result for jesus the son of man            God is working out his salvation through one nation, and specifically one person within that nation, but his is a universal salvation. This light shines on everyone.

Rodney A. Whitacre, John, p. 54f