THE BEGINNING: John Prepares the Way for Jesus’ Baptism (John 1:29-51)

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John 1:29-51 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

The Lamb of God

29 On the next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This one is the one about whom I said, ‘After me is coming a man who is ahead of me, because he existed before me. 31 And I did not know him, but in order that he might be manifested to Israel, because of this I came baptizing in water.” 32 And John bore witness saying, “I have seen the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize in water that one said to me, ‘the one upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon him, this one is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and I have borne witness that this one is the Son of God.”[1]

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John 1:32 Study Notes

Like a Dove: Within the Scriptures, the dove has both a sacred use and a symbolic meaning. They were used as a sacrifice (Mark 11:15; John 2:14-16), and they were also used to symbolized innocence and purity (Matt. 10:16). In the Flood of Noah, God had him use a dove to retrieve an olive leaf, bringing it back to the ark, which indicated that the floodwaters had gone down (Gen. 8:11) and that God was bringing them relief from their work and from the painful toil of our hands. (Gen. 5:29) Therefore, it could be that God, at Jesus baptism, He used a dove representatively to call attention to the role of Jesus as the Messiah: His pure and sinless Son of God who would of his perfect life as a ransom sacrifice for mankind, which would begin the last days that would culminate into a period of rest and peace during his thousand-year rule as King. The Holy Spirit coming down out of heaven at his baptism could have appeared to be like the fluttering wings of a dove as it gets near its perch.

The First Disciples Are Called

35 Again on the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and looking at Jesus as he was walking by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 And the two disciples heard him saying this, and they followed Jesus. 38 And Jesus, turning around and seeing them following him, said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means when translated “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 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, it was about the tenth hour [about 4:00 p.m.].[2] 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus[3] was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 This one first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means when translated Christ).[4] 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Philip and Nathanael are Called

43 On the next day he wanted to depart for Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one whom Moses wrote about in the law and the prophets wrote about, Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Look, truly an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “From where do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 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.”

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The section of the Gospel history above indicated possesses the interest peculiar to the beginnings of all things that have grown to greatness. Here are exhibited to our view the infant church in its cradle, the petty sources of the River of Life, the earliest blossoms of Christian faith, the humble origin of the mighty empire of the Lord Jesus Christ.

All beginnings are more or less obscure in appearance, but none were ever more obscure than those of Christianity. What an insignificant event in the history of the church, not to say of the world, this first meeting of Jesus of Nazareth with five humble men, Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael, and another unnamed! It actually seems almost too trivial to find a place even in the evangelic narrative. For we have here to do not with any formal solemn call to the great office of the apostleship, or even with the commencement of an uninterrupted how to do discipleship, but at the utmost with the beginnings of an acquaintance with and of faith in Jesus on the part of certain individuals who subsequently became constant attendants on His person, and ultimately apostles of His religion. Accordingly, we find no mention made in the three first Gospels of the events here recorded.

Far from being surprised at the silence of the synoptical evangelists, one is slightly tempted to wonder how it came to pass that John, the author of the fourth Gospel, after the lapse of so many years, thought it worthwhile to relate incidents so minute, especially in such close proximity to the sublime sentences with which his Gospel begins. But we are kept from such incredulous wonder by the reflection, that facts objectively insignificant may be very important to the feelings of those whom they personally concern. What if John were himself one of the five who, on the present occasion became acquainted with Jesus? That would make a vast difference between him and the other evangelists, who could know of the incidents here related, if they knew of them at all, only at second hand. In the case supposed, it would not be surprising that to his latest hour John remembered with emotion the first time he saw the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and deemed the minutest memorials of that time unspeakably precious. First meetings are sacred as well as last ones, especially such as are followed by a momentous history, and accompanied, as is apt to be the case, with signs prophetic of the future. Such indications were not wanting in connection with the first meeting between Jesus and the five disciples. Did not the Baptist then first give to Jesus the name “Lamb of God,” so exactly descriptive of His earthly mission and destiny? Was not Nathanael’s doubting question, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” an ominous indication of a conflict with unbelief awaiting the Messiah? And what a happy omen of an opening era of wonders to be wrought by divine grace and power was contained in the promise of Jesus to the pious, though at first doubting, Israelite: “Henceforth ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man”!

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John 1:41, 46 Study Notes

The Messiah: It can also mean “the Anointed One.” The Greek word (Μεσσίας Messias), a transliteration of the Hebrew word mashiʹach is found only two times in the Greek New Testament. (See Joh 4:25) The Hebrew verb from which the title mashiʹach is taken from is ma·shachʹ, meaning “anoint, smear, rub on, i.e., smear an object with a liquid or semi-liquid as a religious activity to dedicate or consecrate a person or object for service (Gen. 31:13; 1 Sam 9:16).”[5] (See also Ex 29:2, 7) In Bible times, priests, kings, and other rulers, as well as prophets were ceremonially anointed with oil. (Lev. 4:3; 1 Sam 16:3, 12, 13; 1 Kings 19:16) At John 1:41, we have the title “Messiah,” which is followed by an explanation “(which means when translated Christ).” The title “Christ” (Gr. Christos) is found more than 500 times in the Greek New Testament and is comparable to the title “Messiah.” Both of them have the primary meaning “Anointed One.”

Can Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth? It is obvious from Nathanael’s comment that Nazareth was an unimportant, inconsequential, irrelevant village, which the people of Galilee looked down upon. (John 21:2) The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary notes, “Nazareth did not possess a good reputation, as reflected in the question of Nathanael, himself a Galilean (John 1:46). The early church received similar scorn as the Nazarene sect (Acts 24:5). Such lack of respect was likely due to an unpolished dialect, a lack of culture, and quite possibly a measure of irreligion and moral laxity. Jesus was rejected by His townspeople near the beginning of His public ministry, being cast out of the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16–30; Matt. 13:54–58; Mark 6:1–6).”[6]

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There is no specific mention of Nazareth in the Hebrew Old Testament, the Apocrypha, intertestamental Jewish writings, nor by the first-century historian Josephus. However, the nearby border town Japhia, but 2 miles [3km] away is mention in Joshua 19:12 and by Josephus. “In the Amarna Letters, the Egyptian pharaoh required the town to supply forced laborers after Labayu of Shechem destroyed Shunem.”[7] Nevertheless, one would not expect all towns in Galilee to be mention in the Hebrew Old Testament or by Josephus. It should also be noted that the Gospels always referred to Nazareth as “a city” (Gr. polis), a term that normally means a population size larger than a village. (Matt. 2:23; Lu 1:26; 2:4, 39; 4:29) However, the Greek term polis does have the sense of any area constituting a city, town, or village, or the like. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains puts polis as a “town, not the country, a city of a non-specific.”[8]

Nazareth stood higher on a mountain basin that the current village, enclosed by hills overlooking the plain of Esdraelon (Jezreel). Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible tells us that “the town lies just north of the plain of Esdraelon in the limestone hills of the southern Lebanon range. It is situated S, SE, on three sides of a hill. This location forms a sheltered valley with a moderate climate favorable to fruits and wildflowers. Trade routes and roads passed near Nazareth, but the village itself was not on any main road. Nazareth is about 15 miles west of the Sea of Galilee and 20 miles east of the Mediterranean. Jerusalem lies about 70 miles south.”[9] The area at the time of Jesus’ childhood and life and ministry was well-populated, containing several nearby cities and towns. Its location was near some important trade routes, so anyone who lived there would have been able to gain access to information about the social, religious, and political doings of the day. (See Lu 4:23.) There was a synagogue in Nazareth, as well. (Lu 4:16) So, there are many indicators from archaeology and history that would suggest it was not as an insignificant village as the sarcastic question makes it out to be. Therefore, it is more likely that Nathanael might simply have been showing surprise that Philip would even ponder the idea that a man who is supposed to be the Promised One, the long-awaited Messiah could come from the neighboring city of Nazareth in Galilee, especially when the Scriptures had foretold that they were to expect the Messiah to come from Bethlehem in Judah. – Micah 5:2; Joh 7:42, 52.

That John, the writer of the fourth Gospel, really was the fifth unnamed disciple, may be regarded as certain. It is his way throughout his Gospel, when alluding to himself, to use a periphrasis, or to leave, as here, a blank where his name should be. One of the two disciples who heard the Baptist call Jesus the Lamb of God was the evangelist himself, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, being the other.

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The impressions produced on our minds by these little anecdotes of the infancy of the Gospel must be feeble, indeed, as compared with the emotions awakened by the memory of them in the breast of the aged apostle by whom they are recorded. It would not, however, be creditable either to our intelligence or to our piety if we could peruse this page of the evangelic history unmoved as if it were utterly devoid of interest. We should address ourselves to the study of the simple story with somewhat of the feeling with which men make pilgrimages to sacred places, for indeed the ground is holy.

The scene of the occurrences in which we are concerned was in the region of Peraea, on the banks of the Jordan, at the lower part of its course. The persons who make their appearance on the scene were all natives of Galilee, and their presence here is due to the fame of the remarkable man whose office it was to be the forerunner of the Christ. John, surnamed the Baptist, who had spent his youth in the desert as a hermit, living on locusts and wild honey, and clad in a garment of camel’s hair, had come forth from his retreat, and appeared among men as a prophet of God. The burden of his prophecy was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In a short time, many were attracted from all quarters to see and hear him. Of those who flocked to his preaching, the greater number went as they came; but not a few were deeply impressed, and, confessing their sins, underwent the rite of baptism in the waters of the Jordan. Of those who were baptized, a select number formed themselves into a circle of disciples around the person of the Baptist, among whom were at least two, and most probably the whole, of the five men mentioned by the evangelist. The previous conversation with the Baptist had awakened in these disciples a desire to see Jesus and prepared them for believing in Him. In his communications to the people around him, John made frequent allusions to One who should come after himself. He spoke of this coming One in language fitted to awaken great expectations. He called himself, with reference to the coming One, a mere voice in the wilderness, crying, “Make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” At another time he said, “I baptize in water. In your midst stands one whom you do not know, the one who comes after me, of whom I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal.” This great One was none other than the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Israel.

Such discourses were likely to result, and by the man of God who uttered them, they were intended to result, in the disciples of the Baptist leaving him and going over to Jesus. And we see here the process of transition actually commencing. We do not affirm that the persons here named finally quitted the Baptist’s company at this time, to become henceforth regular followers of Jesus. But an acquaintance now begins which will end in that. The bride is introduced to the Bridegroom, and the marriage will come in due season; not to the chagrin but to the joy of the Bridegroom’s friend.

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How easily and artlessly does the mystic bride, as represented by these five disciples, become acquainted with her heavenly Bridegroom! The account of their meeting is idyllic in its simplicity and would only be spoiled by a commentary. There is no need for a formal introduction: they all introduce each other. Even John and Andrew were not formally introduced to Jesus by the Baptist; they rather introduced themselves. The exclamation of the desert prophet on seeing Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” repeated next day in an abbreviated form, was the involuntary utterance of one absorbed in his own thoughts, rather than the deliberate speech of one who was directing his disciples to leave himself and go over to Him of whom he spoke. The two disciples, on the other hand, in going away after the personage whose presence had been so impressively announced, were not obeying an order given by their old master, but were simply following the dictates of feelings which had been awakened in their breasts by all they had heard him say of Jesus, both on the present and on former occasions. They needed no injunction to seek the acquaintance of one in whom they felt so keenly interested: all they needed was to know that this was He. They were as anxious to see the Messianic King as the world is to see the face of a secular prince.

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John 1:29 Study Notes

The Lamb of God: Jesus had just recently been baptized and was now returning from forty days in the wilderness where had gad been tempted by the Devil, and now John the Baptist introduces him as “the Lamb of God.” This expression occurs only here and at John 1:36. It is quite fitting to compare Jesus to a lamb. When we look through the Bible, we find that sheep were used by one who had sinned as he was in recognition of that sin, and the sheep were used to gain approach to God. This foreshadowed the coming sacrifice that Jesus would make when he gave up his perfect human life as a ransom on behalf of mankind. (John 20:28) The expression “the Lamb of God” may well mirror a number of passages in the inspired Word of God. We can rightly assume that John the Baptist was quite familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. So, his “Lamb of God” expression may have referred to any of the following: the male sheep that Abraham offered up as a sacrifice instead of his own son Isaac (Gen. 22:13), the Israelite families slaying the Passover lamb in Egypt for their deliverance from slavery (Ex 12:1-13), or the yearling male lamb that was sacrificed on God’s altar in Jerusalem every morning and evening (Ex 29:38-42). John may well have been thinking of Isaiah’s prophecy, where the one whom Jehovah calls “my servant” is said to be “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter.” (Isa 52:13; 53:5, 7, 11) In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor. 5:7) The apostle Peter wrote, “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Pet. 1:19) And then there is the more than 25 times in the book of Revelation, wherein the glorified Jesus is spoken of figuratively as “the Lamb.” (Rev. 5:8; 6:1; 7:9; 12:11; 13:8; 14:1; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7; 21:9; 22:1).

The world: The Greek word (κόσμος kosmos) rendered world is closely connected with mankind in secular Greek literature and especially so in the Bible. In this context here at John 1:29, as well as at John 3:16, kosmos is referring to the entire world of mankind who are herein being described as guilty of sin, that is, the sin that all of imperfect humanity has inherited from Adam.

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It is natural that we should scan the evangelical narrative for indications of character with reference to those who, in the way so quaintly described, for the first time met Jesus. Little is said of the five disciples, but there is enough to show that they were all pious men. What they found in their new friend indicates what they wanted to find. They evidently belonged to the select band who waited for the consolation of Israel, and anxiously looked for Him who should fulfill God’s promises and realize the hopes of all devout souls. Besides this general indication of character supplied in their common confession of faith, a few facts are stated respecting these first believers in Jesus tending to make us a little better acquainted with them. Two of them certainly, all of them probably, had been disciples of the Baptist. This fact is decisive as to their moral earnestness. From such a quarter, none but spiritually earnest men were likely to come. For if the followers of John were at all like himself, they were men who hungered and thirsted after real righteousness, being sick of the righteousness then in vogue; they said Amen in their hearts to the preacher’s withering exposure of the hollowness of current religious profession and of the worthlessness of fashionable good works, and sighed for a sanctity other than that of pharisaic superstition and ostentation; their conscience acknowledged the truth of the prophetic oracle, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind have taken us away;” and they prayed fervently for the reviving of true religion, for the coming of the divine kingdom, for the advent of the Messianic King with fan in His hand to separate chaff from wheat, and to put right all things which were wrong. Such, without doubt, were the sentiments of those who had the honor to be the first disciples of Christ.

Simon, best known of all the twelve under the name of Peter, is introduced to us here, through the prophetic insight of Jesus, on the good side of his character as the man of rock. When this disciple was brought by his brother Andrew into the presence of his future Master, Jesus, we are told, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). Cephas meaning in Syriac, as the evangelist explains, the same which Petros signifies in Greek. The penetrating glance of Christ discerned in this disciple latent capacities of faith and devotion, the rudiments of ultimate strength and power.

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John 1:42 Study Notes

You are Simon: There are five different ways that Simon is named in in the Scriptures. Simon was Peter’s personal name; Peter (Petros) is the Greek form of the Semitic name Cephas (Kephasʹ), which Jesus gave him. Here, in John 1:42, Jesus is meeting Simon for the first time, wherein he gives him the Semitic name Cephas (Kephasʹ), perhaps related to the Hebrew kephimʹ meaning rocks, “rock formation, i.e., a land formation with nooks and crevices (Job 30:6; Jer. 4:29+).[10] Here again, we find the author, the apostle John once again offering the reader an explanation, “‘Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).” It is the apostle Peter alone in the Greek New Testament, who has this Semitic name as well as this Greek one. Jesus, being the Son of God, he had the ability to know that Nathanael was “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47; 2:25) He too could also determine Peter’s character. It was really after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ when Peter began to really evidence himself as a rocklike person, as he strengthened and stabilized the whole of Christianity for some 32-years. – Luke 22:32; Acts 1:15, 16; 15:6-11.

What manner of a man Philip was the evangelist does not directly tell us, but merely whence he came. From the present passage, and from other notices in the Gospels, the conclusion has been drawn that he was characteristically deliberate, slow in arriving at decision; and for proof of this view, reference has been made to the “phlegmatic circumstantiality” with which he described to Nathanael the person of Him with whom he had just become acquainted. But these words of Philip, and all that we elsewhere read of him, rather suggest to us the idea of the earnest inquirer after truth, who has thoroughly searched the Scriptures and made himself acquainted with the Messiah of promise and prophecy, and to whom the knowledge of God is the summum bonum. In the solicitude manifested by this disciple to win his friend Nathanael over to the same faith, we recognize that generous sympathetic spirit, characteristic of earnest inquirers, which afterward revealed itself in him when he became the bearer of the request of devout Greeks for permission to see Jesus.

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The notices concerning Nathanael, Philip’s acquaintance, are more detailed and more interesting than in the case of any other of the five; and it is not a little surprising that we should be told so much in this place about one concerning whom we otherwise know almost nothing. It is even not quite certain that he belonged to the circle of the twelve, though the probability is, that he is to be identified with the Bartholomew of the synoptical catalogs, his full name, in that case, being Nathanael the son of Tolmai. It is strongly in favor of this supposition that the name Bartholomew comes immediately after Philip in the lists of the apostles. Be this as it may, we know on the best authority that Nathanael was a man of great moral excellence. No sooner had Jesus seen him than He exclaimed, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” The words suggest the idea of one whose heart was pure; in whom was no doublemindedness, impure motive, pride, or unholy passion: a man of gentle, meditative spirit, in whose mind heaven lay reflected like the blue sky in a still lake on a calm summer day. He was a man much addicted to habits of devotion: he had been engaged in spiritual exercises under cover of a fig-tree just before he met with Jesus. So, we are justified in concluding, from the deep impression made on his mind by the words of Jesus, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael appears to have understood these words as meaning, “I saw into your heart and knew how you were occupied, and therefore I pronounced you an Israelite indeed.” He accepted the statement made to him by Jesus as evidence of beyond what is normal or natural knowledge (foreknowledge), and therefore he straightaway made the confession, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel,” the King of that sacred commonwealth whereof you say I am a citizen.

It is remarkable that this man, so highly endowed with the moral dispositions necessary for seeing God, should have been the only one of all the five disciples who manifested any hesitancy about receiving Jesus as the Christ. When Philip told him that he had found the Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth, he asked incredulously, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” One hardly expects such prejudice in one so meek and amiable; and yet, on reflection, we perceive it to be quite characteristic. Nathanael’s prejudice against Nazareth sprung not from pride, as in the case of the people of Judea who despised the Galileans in general, but from humility. He was a Galilean himself, and as much an object of Jewish contempt as were the Nazarenes. His inward thought was, “Surely the Messiah can never come from among a poor despised people such as we are-from Nazareth or any other Galilean town or village!” He timidly allowed his mind to be biased by a current opinion originating in feelings with which he had no sympathy; a fault common to men whose piety, though pure and sincere, defers too much to human authority, and who thus become the slaves of sentiments utterly unworthy of them.

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While Nathanael was not free from prejudices, he showed his sincereness in being willing to have them removed. He came and saw. This openness to conviction is the mark of moral integrity. The honest and sincere man dogmatizes not but investigates, and therefore always comes right in the end. The man of a bad, dishonest heart, on the contrary, does not come and see. Deeming it his interest to remain in his present mind, he studiously avoids looking at aught which does not tend to confirm his foregone conclusions. He may, indeed, profess a desire for inquiry, like certain Israelites of whom we read in this same Gospel, of another stamp than Nathanael, but sharing with him the prejudice against Galilee. “Search and look,” said these Israelites not without guile, in reply to the ingenious question of the honest but timid Nicodemus: “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” A dictum which at once prohibited inquiry in effect, and intimated that it was unnecessary. “Search and look, but we tell you beforehand you cannot arrive at any other conclusion than ours; nay, we warn you, you had better not.”

Such were the characters of the men who first believed in Jesus. What, now, was the amount and value of their belief? At first glance, the faith of the five disciples, leaving out of account the brief hesitation of Nathanael, seems unnaturally sudden and mature. They believe in Jesus on a moment’s notice, and they express their faith in terms that seem appropriate only to advanced Christian intelligence. In the present section of John’s Gospel, we find Jesus called not merely the Christ, the Messiah, the King of Israel, but the Son of God and the Lamb of God-names expressive to us of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement.

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The haste and maturity which seem to characterize the faith of the five disciples are only superficial appearances. As to the former: these men believed that Messiah was to come some time; and they wished much it might be then, for they felt He was greatly needed. They were men who waited for the consolation of Israel, and they were prepared at any moment to witness the advent of the Comforter. Then the Baptist had told them that the Christ has come and that He was to be found in the person of Him whom he had baptized, and whose baptism had been accompanied with such remarkable signs from heaven; and what the Baptist said they implicitly believed. Finally, the impression produced on their minds by the bearing of Jesus when they met, tended to confirm John’s testimony, being altogether worthy of the Christ.

The appearance of maturity in the faith of the five brethren is equally superficial. As to the name Lamb of God, it was given to Jesus by John, not by them. It was, so to speak, the baptismal name which the preacher of repentance had learned by reflection, or by special revelation, to give to the Christ. What the name signified even he but dimly comprehended, the very repetition of it showing him to be but a learner striving to get up his lesson; and we know that what John understood only in part, the men whom he introduced to the acquaintance of Jesus, now and for long after, understood not at all.

The title Son of God was given to Jesus by one of the five disciples as well as by the Baptist, a title which even the apostles in after years found sufficient to express their mature belief respecting the Person of their Lord. But it does not follow that the name was used by them at the beginning with the same fullness of meaning as at the end. It was a name which could be used in a sense coming far short of that which it is capable of conveying, and which it did convey in apostolic preaching-merely as one of the Old Testament titles of Messiah, a synonym for Christ. It was doubtless in this rudimentary sense that Nathanael applied the designation to Him, whom he also called the King of Israel.

The faith of these brethren was, therefore, just such as we should expect in beginners. In substance it amounted to this, that they recognized in Jesus the Divine Prophet, King, Son of Old Testament prophecy; and its value lay not in its maturity or accuracy, but in this, that however imperfect, it brought them into contact and close fellowship with Him, in whose company they were to see greater things than when they first believed, one truth after another assuming its place in the firmament of their minds, like the stars appearing in the evening sky as daylight fades away.

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John 50-51 Study Notes

You Will See Things Greater Than These: It would not be long before Nathanael would see these words begin to be fulfilled. Shortly, there would be a marriage feast in his hometown in Galilee. It is here that Nathanael would see with his own eyes, Jesus’ first miracle of turning jars with water into wine. (John 2:1-11; 21:2) Nathanael and the eleven others who would become apostles would witness Jesus feed thousands of people with a few fish and loaves of bread, heal the sick, expel demons, and even raise the dead. Even more remarkable things greater than these was that Nathanael and the other apostle were given the power to perform miracles and to proclaim that the “Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” – Matthew 10:1-8.

Truly, Truly: The Greek, amenʹ amenʹ is a transliteration of the Hebrew ʼa·menʹ, which means “so be it,” “truly,” or “surely.” Jesus quite often uses the term amenʹ to introduce a statement, a promise, or a prophecy, in an effort to emphasize the absolute truthfulness and reliability of it. Jesus’ use of “truly,” or “amen,” in this way is unique in sacred literature. (Matt 5:18; Mark 3:28; Lu 4:24) It is only here in John’s Gospel that the term is repeated in succession (amenʹ amenʹ), with some 25 occurrences. The doubling of amenʹ can be rendered “truly, truly, “most truly,” “very truly” or “most assuredly.”

Heaven: The Greek term οὐρανός (ouranos) used here can refer to the physical heavens, that is, the sky where birds fly, or it can refer to the abode of God, namely, the spiritual heavens.

Angels: (Heb. mǎlāḵ; Gr. angelos) A supernatural spirit person who attends upon or serves as a messenger or worker for the Father and the Son. These spirit persons are far wiser and more powerful than humans, but their power and knowledge is absolutely nothing in comparison to their Creator. (Ps. 103:20; Matt. 24:36; 1 Pet. 1:1-12) Angels have the power to be able to material in human form. (Gen. 18:1-2, 8, 20-22; 19:1-11; Josh. 5:13-15) Some of these angels became rebels, as they rejected the sovereignty, power, and supremacy of their Creator. Jude tells us “the angels who did not keep to their own domain but deserted their proper dwelling place [heaven]” (1:6), to take on human form, and have relations that were contrary to nature with the “the daughters of man.” (Gen 6:1-4; Dan. 7:9-10) The Bible intimates that these rebel angels were stripped of their power to take on human form, as you never hear of it taking place again after the Flood, only spirit possession thereafter. These disobedient angels are now “spirits in prison,” who have been thrown into “eternal chains under gloomy darkness [Tartarus],” which is more of a condition of limited powers (1 Pet. 3:19; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6), not so much a place, like a maximum-security prison. – Matt. 28:2; Rev. 22:8.

Jesus Paul THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOK

On The Son of Man: “Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, a term he used more than eighty times. This title emphasized his humanity and suffering as well as the perfection of his human nature.”[11] When speaking about angels . . . ascending and descending, “in the present context is drawn from Jacob’s vision of the ladder “resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it [or ‘him,’ i.e., Jacob]” (Gen. 28:12). As the angels ascended and descended on Jacob (who later was renamed “Israel”)—a sign of God’s revelation and reaffirmation of faithfulness to his promises made to Abraham (Ridderbos 1997: 93)—so the disciples are promised further divine confirmation of Jesus’ messianic identity. The angels also serve as a resource for the “Son of Man” while he is absent from his heavenly abode (Matt. 26:53; Mark 1:13; Luke 22:43) (Ridderbos 1997: 94).”[12] Yes, the angels were an important messenger between God and humans that have the Father’s approval. Jesus’ statement showed angels ministering to him in  a special way, which was further evidence that he was under the care and guidance of the Father.

A. B. Bruce and Edward D. Andrews

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[1] The TR WH NU has ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ “the Son of God,” which is supported by P66 P75 P120 א2 A B C W Δ Θ Ψ 083. There is another reading also with early and diverse manuscript support ο εκλεκτος του θεου “the chosen one of God,” which is supported by P5vid P106vid א* ite syrc,s.

[2] That is, about 4 p.m.

[3] Literally him

[4] Christ: (Gr. Christos) The title of Jesus (ho Christos, “the Christ”), which is equivalent to the Hebrew word “Messiah” (Mashiach) or “Anointed One.” It literally means “one who has been anointed.”–Matt. 1:16; 2:4; 27:17; John 1:41.

[5] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[6] Jerry W. Batson, “Nazareth, Nazarene,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1177–1178.

[7] Chad Brand et al., eds., “Japhia,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 870.

[8] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[9] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Nazareth,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1531.

[10] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[11] Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 18.

[12] Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 85.

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