- 2015Mar 01
“I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48).
Jesus saw Nathanael before Nathanael saw him.
That statement reveals a huge spiritual truth:
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation doesn’t start with us. It always starts with God. It is a work of God from first to last. We need this truth because it’s easy to fall into a man-centered way of thinking. We often speak of “finding” the Lord, and that is true. But it is equally true that if Jesus did not find us first, we would never find him on our own.
Jesus was moving to call Nathanael before Nathanael knew who he was.
This ought to give us great confidence in our prayers and in our evangelism. We have a part to play because God has ordained both the means and the ends of his work on the earth. We pray for the lost precisely because we fully expect God to work in the hearts of the lost long before they come to faith in Christ. We can’t say in advance exactly how God will work or when or where. We don’t need to know that part. It is enough to know that salvation is a gift of God, and that every part of salvation is “not of ourselves” (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
Think of it this way:
Philip still had to say to Nathanael, “Come and see” (v. 46).
Nathanael still had to come.
When Nathanael came to Jesus, he discovered Jesus had been watching him all along. Let this thought encourage you as you think about friends who are far from the Lord. Jesus sees them too. He knows where they are. He prepares them to respond so that when they are invited, at just the right moment, they will come to Christ.
We all have friends who are “under the fig tree” right now. If they seem unreachable, remember Nathanael and do not lose heart. Jesus sees the lost, he knows where they are, and he calls them by the Holy Spirit.
Keep believing, and keep on praying. You never know what God will do.
Give us faith, O Lord, to believe your Word, and to keep on praying for our friends who do not know you. Amen.
- 2015Feb 28
“‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked” (John 1:46).
This was not a compliment.
Nothing much came from Nazareth, an obscure village tucked away in the hills of Galilee. Every country and state and province has a place like Nazareth, a place so remote that nothing ever happens there, no one of importance comes from there. That’s why Nathanael said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” It seemed highly unlikely that the Messiah would come from a place like that. If you were looking for the one the prophets talked about, you would expect him to come from Jerusalem.
For every Jerusalem, there are a hundred places like Nazareth. The world is filled with unlikely places where nothing much ever seems to happen, where there is no great university, little towns without much commerce, places off the beaten path, tiny villages and hamlets where few people live.
Nathanael represents the “big city” attitude that prevails today. He speaks for the people of New York, Rome, London, and Singapore. How could anything good come from Nazareth?
Our God is not a front runner. He doesn’t design his coming around the prejudices of city-dwellers. Not that he has anything against big cities. He loves the great, teeming, bustling, busy cities of the world. But Jesus was not ashamed to come from Nazareth.
Notice what Philip said, how he responded to Nathanael’s prejudice.
“Come and see” (John 1:46).
At every point along the way, God upends human prejudice and overthrows our preconceptions. He doesn’t play to our expectations. If you are willing to let go of your backward way of thinking, you too can be saved.
Can anything good come out Nazareth?
Come and see.
Open our eyes, Lord, to see you as you are, and not as the world sees you. Amen.
- 2015Feb 27
“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove” (Mark 1:9-10).
At Christ’s baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon him “like a dove.” The dove is a particularly appropriate symbol because it is a graceful bird. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus told His disciples to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” The word dove implies a guileless, open-book, “what you see is what you get” heart attitude. Applied to the Holy Spirit, it means that the Spirit himself is pure, open, and honest, and he produces the same qualities in the people he touches. As the dove descended from heaven, even so the Holy Spirit comes down from heaven to bless the people of the earth. Note that the dove rested on Christ, symbolizing the peace that the Holy Spirit brings.
The fact that the dove came directly to Christ shows the personal relationship the Holy Spirit has with each believer. Finally, the dove resting on Christ demonstrates the Father’s divine approval of the Son’s mission on earth. Once the dove landed on Christ, the voice from heaven said: “This is My Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Thus, all three persons of the Trinity were represented at the baptism of Jesus.
This symbol of the Spirit has a great deal to say to us about the effect of the Holy Spirit on our lives. When the Holy Spirit comes: (1) He brings peace to our souls; (2) He comes quietly, without fanfare; (3) He establishes a personal relationship with us; (4) He produces gentleness within, not a harsh and critical spirit; (5) He leads us toward purity, honesty, and a truly “harmless” life; (6) He brings God’s divine approval that we are indeed His children; (7) He leads us toward a beautiful, grace filled Christian life.
Over 300 years ago Isaac Watts wrote a hymn based on this text called Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove. The first four verses spell out our need for the Holy Spirit because our hearts are cold. We seek joy in earthly trifles and try in vain to sing God’s praise. But when the Spirit comes in power, all is changed, as the fifth verse makes clear:
Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning powers;
Come, shed abroad the Savior’s love
And that shall kindle ours.
Spirit of God, as you descended from heaven upon Jesus, descend on me today that I might know the fullness of your power. Amen.