John 1:35-51 (AD 27)
It started so well, didn’t it?
The disciples’ walk of faith began with quotes such as:
- Andrew heard John the Baptist say, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (v.36)
- Andrew told Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (v.41)
- Phillip told Nathanael, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth…” (v.45; ref eg Deut 18:14-22)
- Nathanael said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel” (v.49)
We will see as we walk through the gospels, that one of the disciples’ main struggles was that they didn’t fully understand who Jesus was until after the resurrection.
We don’t know exactly what they thought the long-promised Messiah should or would be. They didn’t seem to be expecting a great military leader who would lead an uprising to slaughter the Roman conquerors. Many of their countryfolk were looking and waiting for that, and various people had arrived on the scene claiming to be the Messiah on the strength of their passionate rebellion. All of them had died.
They knew he was from God, a teacher, the Son of God, the king of Israel, THE promised prophet whom all must listen to and obey. They even knew him as some kind of a sacrifice (v.36).
And yet despite all that, they didn’t really know him at all. They didn’t understand at this point or for another three years that he was God himself, that he had to die to take the sins of his people, and that he would rise again so that his people could be reconciled with the Father.
It was all there – throughout the Old Testament – in clear prophecies. But their comprehension of God’s Word ended at what already made sense to them. Their understanding of God and the Messiah was limited by their experience of the world and their culture – hence Nathanael’s echoing of anti-northern prejudice in verse forty-six.
We can be like that in our relationships – knowing who someone is but failing to let that impact lives. From disrespectful children, to neglectful or abusive spouses, to oppressive parents – all of them know who they’re dealing with, many of them fail to let that affect their thinking or behaviour. They’re in denial, effectively, over what that person’s identity should mean to them.
It’s easy for us to relate to God in the same way. We read the Bible, we understand – more or less – what he’s saying. But when we haven’t personally experienced something, we may not know how to respond or fully comprehend. Even the identity of Jesus, which is what the disciples got but didn’t get.
Take some time to think through just those things mentioned about Jesus in this passage: Lamb of God, Teacher, Messiah, the prophet promised by Moses, Son of God and king of Israel. And angels ascending and descending on him (v.51).
How should you think and feel about THAT man?
How should you relate to him on a day by day basis?
What praise? What attention? What thanks is due to him?