We hear a lot about some of the disciples and early apostles. Some are held in high esteem by many in the churches. And yet we know there were twelve who were called to do the early work of the church. We know a little about Peter, James, John and some of the others, but what about the rest? Most of them are unknown apart from a mention of their names. Yet they, like the more well known apostles, we’re charged by Jesus to do the work as much as the others. So what should we think about them? What do you think about them? Let us have a look at a couple of these men and try to understand some lessons from them.
Phillip and Nathaniel
The day after the Lord calls Peter and the first of his disciples, he decides to go to Galilee. As he went he found Phillip and said to him to, “Follow me.” Phillip was excited and he wanted to share his excitement. He went and found Nathaniel and told him that they had found the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.
Both Phillip’s and Nathaniel’s conversation is interesting. Jesus response immediately after was also quite telling, and often the only glimpse we get of these other apostles and disciples is in the conversations and interactions with the Lord.
When Phillip told Nathaniel that Jesus was the messiah and that he came from Nazareth, Nathaniel was shocked. Verse 46 says, “Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
This comment has always puzzled me. Why did Nathaniel say these words? While researching this topic I found two possible explanations for his comment.
The first and most popular reason suggests that Nazareth was not a particularly nice place. It was supposedly one of the lower class areas, rough and ready, residents were cruder than in other parts and thus it was something of a byword. If you think of some of the more down and out areas or rough places in your own towns or cities you will get the drift. Think of those areas that are rough, perhaps a bit sleazy, run-down, dirty and so on, and that seems to fit the picture that most commentators put forward.
If this is the case then you can understand a comment like, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” if it truly was a rough area, then the people would be prejudiced against the residents, just as we see bias and prejudice against the residents of our seedier spots today.
Is this fair? Absolutely not! And it is a good lesson to remember that you cannot generalize and tar every person from such an area with the same brush.
The second proposition put forward by commentators is that Nathaniel was not talking about the Roughness or otherwise of Nazareth. They say that Nathaniel may have been better acquainted with the scriptures and knew, just as the Pharisees and scribes did, that the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem, the city of King David.
It was clear in scripture that the Messiah or the Christ was to come from Bethlehem, but nowhere in the old testament did it mention Nazareth. (Oddly enough Mathhew in his gospel refers to a prophecy indicating that “He will be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 2:23 Yet I cannot find that reference in the Old Testament. So if you know where it is, please enlighten me. Thanks)
So if Nathaniel knew these prophecies he too could have been questioning whether this indeed was the Messiah as the prophets had not indicated anything about the Messiah coming from Nazareth.
Whether it was the first or second of these two possibilities or something else altogether, it is evident that Nathaniel had his doubts about the possibility that this man Phillip had found could have been the Christ.
After Nathaniel’s comment Phillip gave him a wise answer. He said, “Come and see.” (Verse 46)
Phillip did not go into a great discourse or conversation to try and convince him, he just said for him to see for himself.
So Nathaniel came to Jesus who immediately said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (Verse 47) Jesus recognized Nathaniel as a man who would seek the truth. He could see in him that he did not act in a deceitful manner but spoke his mind. There was no hidden agenda with Nathaniel but he told it like it was.
When Nathaniel came to Jesus he said, “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!” (Verses 48-49)
Jesus said only these few things about seeing Nathaniel under the fig tree and that was proof enough to Nathaniel that Jesus was indeed the Christ. You can imagine Nathaniel saying these words in amazement, “You ARE the Son of God! You ARE the king of Israel!” (my emphasis).
How about You?
It was such a small thing that led Nathaniel to believe that Jesus was the Christ. And I know that with many Christians, they too are convinced not by the big things and great shows of power or glory, but in the small things. They see how Jesus works in the small things and this provides the proof to them that He is indeed the Christ.
But like Nathaniel, we too need to “Come and see.” It’s not just about hearing, it’s experiencing the word of God in action, seeing it at work in your life and coming and seeing for yourself.
The other disciples of the Lord may not have got much airplay, but each of them had a role to play in the work of the Lord. Each of them had a job to do, and we know that all of them labored in the preaching and teaching of the people (Acts 6:1-5).
So too with you and I. We do not have to stand out and be the face of the modern church to be doing the work of the Lord. We do not need to have countless followers hanging off our every word, and in fact that could be detrimental as it could promote pride in an individual. There were many of the disciples that appeared only once in the bible, but had a major impact. Consider Ananias who the Lord sent to Paul to lay hands on him to receive his sight and receive the holy spirit. He was never mentioned again, but the impact of that one piece of ministry has given us the works of Paul so that we can learn and understand the mysteries of the New Covenant.
So every now and then give a thought for the other disciples. They were just as important as those who got all the press in the bible and each of them had a ministry from the Lord. He has a plan for all of us as he did with those, and often it will be done in anonymity, not in the bright lights of public places. What do you think?
(Clip art sourced from oChristian.com)
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