John 1:35-51
John 1:35-51
Bracketing the book of John, Part 4
Published November 22nd, 2019
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Main point summary
Main point summary
Jesus recruits his first four disciples
John 1:35-51
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples,
and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said,
“Behold, i the Lamb of God!”
The two disciples heard him say this,
and they followed Jesus.
Jesus turned
and saw them following
and said to them,
j “What are you seeking?”
And they said to him,
k “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
He said to them,
“Come and you will see.”
So they came and saw where he was staying,
and they stayed with him that day,
for it was about the tenth hour. 1
l One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus 1 was Andrew,
Simon Peter’s brother.
He first found his own brother Simon and said to him,
“We have found m the Messiah”
(which means Christ).
He brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of n John.
You shall be called o Cephas”
(which means p Peter 1 ).
q The next day Jesus decided r to go to Galilee.
He found Philip and said to him,
“Follow me.”
Now s Philip was from Bethsaida,
the city of Andrew and Peter.
Philip found t Nathanael and said to him,
“We have found him of whom u Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote,
Jesus v of Nazareth, w the son of Joseph.”
Nathanael said to him,
x “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, y an Israelite indeed,
z in whom there is no deceit!”
Nathanael said to him,
“How a do you know me?”
Jesus answered him,
“Before Philip called you,
when you were under the fig tree,
I saw you.”
Nathanael answered him,
b “Rabbi, c you are the Son of God!
You are the d 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, 1
you will see e heaven opened,
and f the angels of God ascending and descending on g the Son of Man.”
This is an odd cluster of relationships, but I believe the thrust of these verses is this. Nathanael believes Jesus is the Son of God because (inference) Jesus saw him under the fig tree. Jesus's response is that he will see far greater things than this, contrasting (+/-) the lesser miracle against the greater. He then describes what is unquestionably a far greater thing, which is halfway between being a justification for the statement (ground) and another idea/explanation. I picked ground because as a disciple, Nathanael will see a lot of "greater things" over the course of Jesus's ministry, and thus I don't think this is the only thing Jesus is referring to, although it is the best example.
This could also easily be temporal, but I think it's used as justification for why they stayed with him; it was already late in the afternoon when they saw where he was staying.
I actually use two different sets of progressions here, as there's two "levels" to Nathanael being discipled. There's the initial process of Philip convincing him to come and see, with the result of him appearing before Jesus, and then there's the second half where Jesus reveals He saw him under the fig tree, and thus convinces Nathanael He's truly the Messiah. I think the larger arc including Jesus's response is the more important one here, but I wanted to also use the bracket to highlight how it was Philip's witnessing that resulted in Nathanael meeting Jesus.
This was actually very tricky to try and bracket. A lot of things I wasn't sure about how to place properly. One of the hardest relationships to graph was actually matching up the two sections. This passage is actually two sections in ESV, the first being Peter and Andrew's recruitment (verses 35-42) and the second being Philip and Nathanael's recruitment (verses 43-51). The most obvious relationship, and the one I went with in the end is Series, as they're ultimately two different sets of events. But that doesn't tell the whole story. There's a good amount of similarities between the two pairs here. In both cases, the first disciple goes and fetches the second disciple to lead them to Jesus, and in both cases Jesus then goes and directly addresses the second disciple. For that matter, Philip's "Come and see" to Nathanael feels like an echo of Jesus telling Andrew (and the other unnamed disciple) "come and see" regarding where he was staying. You can see this in the bracket as well, in both cases a large portion of the bracket is a progression, leading to Peter's recruitment in the first case, and Nathanael's in the second. That said, despite the parallels, I don't think any of the support by restatement relationships actually fit; there's too much that's different between the two sections. Peter's response is undocumented, while Nathanael's given a fair amount of dialogue regarding his transition from initial skepticism to belief. In addition, there's the way Jesus addresses the two: He gives Simon the name of Peter, (which seems to come out of nowhere), while using a minor miracle to convince Nathanael and promising that he will see greater ones in the future. One more thing of note from this passage, something I wasn't able to properly capture in the bracket, is the witnessing. For Andrew and Philip both, their first reaction to learning about Jesus is to immediately tell someone. For that matter, Nathanael also, once convinced responds with an immediate, and dramatic proclamation of faith.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.