Here we are. The first “Verily, verily” statement given by Jesus in the book of John. Like I mentioned before, I will be going into a study of each of the 25 “verily, verily” statements that Jesus made in the book of John. The Greek word amen (am-mane’) is the Hebrew word amen. This word amen was transliterated from Hebrew into Greek and English. Jesus used this word, Amen, translated “verily,” to introduce new revelations of the mind of God, according to Strong’s concordance. So, in essence, these 25 statements are giving us insight into the mind of God.
I am really excited to enter into this study with an open yet expectant heart and mind. I am looking forward to really learning what Jesus is teaching the ones He is speaking to and what we can glean from those teachings. Here’s to learning more about God.
Here is the passage in the ESV. Note: “Verily, verily” is in the KJV. In the ESV, it is translated “Truly, truly”.
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." (ESV, John 1:43-51)
This Nathanael is the first name of “Barthalomew”. That is the first thing I want to point out. I did not know this. So when reading through various resources and commentaries, the general consensus was that Nathanael is really one of the disciples that was brought to Jesus by Philip. There were some ideas tossed around that maybe “Nathanael” was an ideal or conglomerate of “people standing for all the true Israelite who burst the bonds of national pride and prejudice and gave themselves to Jesus Christ”. But I do think that Nathanael is a real individual. And even though he is a real individual, I do think that he “stands for the Israelite whose heart was cleansed of pride and prejudice and who saw in Jesus the one who satisfied the longing of his waiting, seeking heart”. This is in agreement with William Barclay, a world-renowned Scottish New Testament interpreter noted as a profound scholar and writer.
I just wanted to point that out so that when you are reading in the other gospels about the 12 disciples and you don’t see Nathanael and you do see Bartholomew noted whereas you don’t see Bartholomew noted in John. I was confused as to why the one name and not the other. However, this makes it a bit clearer answering my questions. Another thing to note with me: I read the text through to begin with and while I am reading, I usually write down questions that come to mind without writing the answers or looking for them. That way, I don’t disrupt the flow of the thought. If in the following text answers the question, I just put the verse number next to the question to look it up later. The main point is that I don’t forget the questions as I read through, and that I don’t break the flow of thought that would usually take away from what the actual text is saying in context. It is a sort of balancing act.
So Nathanael made sort of a harsh comment about people that come from Nazareth, as though those from there are morally corrupt. This was a common thought of those outside of Nazareth because there was a Roman army garrison there. Jews outside of there commonly held the belief that the people of Nazareth were skewed morally and their religious practices were tainted. Basically, that the Nazarenes were subpar and “less-than” religiously. This is prideful. Again, these are things to take into account when extrapolating a deeper connection and meaning of what Jesus is saying. Jesus’ words are so much more than simply surface level. He has the surface level information covered. However, there is a spiritual depth to it that must be dug out of there using the knowledge of the setting and common views held by the people of that time. We do this all of the time without thinking about it.
Jesus tells Nathanael that He saw him under the fig tree. There must have been more to this conversation than what is recorded. There must have been more details that were not written down to lead Nathanael to the conclusion that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Israel. Which makes me speculate that there was a specificity to Nathanael being “under the fig tree” as though maybe he was praying to God, and he said something specific. And Jesus – Son of God, Son that does what His Father shows Him – said what Nathanael needed to hear to open His eyes and heart to Jesus. It’s almost as though a light lit up in his mind when Jesus said that.
Now on down to the statement at hand. Verse 51 is the “Verily, verily” statement – or “Truly, Truly” – and here, Jesus is referring back to Genesis 28:12. Jesus is pointing out a very important truth about Himself, and you will see it in a minute if you don’t right after I show you what Genesis 28:12 says.
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!(Gen.28:12 ESV)
If you notice, the “ladder” has God’s angels going from earth to heaven and back down to earth on it. Then, in John, Jesus says the angels will be ascending and descending on the “Son of man”. It is this that jumped out at me. And I wonder if Jesus brought this up because Nathanael was a devout Jewish man. I wonder if because Nathanael had a conversation with God under the fig tree, and Jesus was showing him that he is seen and heard. I wonder if Nathanael was so disheartened and cried out to God under that fig tree that he was tired of waiting. These questions come to mind while reading the passage, which in turn leads me to think about the times that I have cried out to God. And at times, He would send confirmation that I needed to know that I was heard. He would send someone into my life that sometimes would show me that I was seen and heard. And these people would not know that they were doing so. However, God knew. It was God masterfully orchestrating things to cause this to happen for me – and for many others of course.
The same principle when reading a passage to study is still adhered to when I read a reference verse: I read the surrounding verses to find out the correct (or as correct as I can come to) context for the reference verse. It’s one thing to morph a verse to your liking just to make it say what you want it to say. It is another far worse thing to do to morph and twist a reference verse, because it causes any verse associated with that reference verse to be twisted. So we have to make sure that we are reading these verses in context so that we don’t misunderstand what God is teaching us and darken the truth we need to walk in.
The connection to the Father is Jesus Christ, His Son. The only way to obtain access to the Father’s presence is by Jesus. He is revealing His nature, purpose, and plan. And this is in the beginning of his ministry. He was just beginning to round up His “Twelve”. Soon He will come back to round up us all that are His disciples. That is the hope and promise that we, as His disciples, hold on to and persevere with. And when Jesus showed Nathanael Himself, Nathanael immediately understood. He understood that Jesus is the Son of God. He realized that Jesus was fulfilling what the prophets of hold had said. Nathanael may have been a very devout man and knew that scripture Jesus was referring to. What do you think about this?
Gotta go fill up my cup…..