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John 1:45-51 - Homilies By J.r. Thomson

The candid disciple.

Nathanael is a person of whom we know but very little. That he was of Cana, that he was probably the same as Bartholomew, that, after the resurrection of Jesus, he was in company with Peter upon the Lake of Gennesareth,—this is all we are told concerning him, except what we learn from this passage. Our chief interest in him, therefore, lies in his call to the discipleship of the Lord.

I. MORAL PREPARATION FOR DISCIPLESHIP . Like many of Christ's friends, Nathanael was disciplined and fitted beforehand for the new fellowship.

1 . He was devout, meditative, and prayerful. It seems likely that, "under the fig tree," he was engaged in the study of the Scriptures and in prayer.

2 . A true and spiritual, and not merely a nominal, a national, Israelite. There were many descended from Abraham who were not Abraham's children spiritually. This man was a true "prince with God"—one worthy of his privileges and his name.

3 . Guileless; not indeed free from sin, but transparent in character—candid, open to the light, anxious to be holy and to find God. Such training as this was the best preparative for Christian discipleship.

II. INTELLECTUAL PREJUDICE AGAINST DISCIPLESHIP . This state of mind is not incompatible with that already described. Nathanael was not eager to welcome the new Teacher and Leader of men. Morally cultured though he was, he resented the supposition that the Messiah could spring out of a town so small, insignificant, and despised as Nazareth. His first inclination was to discredit the witness, and to smile at the sudden enthusiasm of his friend Andrew. And in this Nathanael did but anticipate the action of the Jews, who were offended at what they deemed the weakness of the cross, and of the Gentiles, who were offended at what they deemed its folly. It is not only bad men whose prejudices keep them from Christ; good men have their prejudices—prejudices not to be overcome by reasoning, but which will yield to the demonstration of personal experience .

III. DECISIVE MEANS BRINGING ABOUT DISCIPLESHIP . Several steps are here taken, which deserve to be carefully followed.

1 . The mediation and testimony of a friend.

2 . The invitation to a personal interview with Jesus, accepted as readily as it was wisely suggested.

3 . The evident insight possessed by Jesus into human character . He needed not that any man should tell him; he knew immediately what was the character of him who was introduced to him.

4 . The revelation of the man's heart to himself by the authority of the Divine Rabbi. Others standing by could not fathom all the depths of this interview and conversation. But Jesus knew all, and Nathanael felt the omniscience of the Being he now began to understand.

IV. BOLD AVOWAL OF DISCIPLESHIP . The process in the scholar's mind was swift, but not rash or unwarranted. His confession was full and rich, but not extravagant. To Nathanael, over whose mind there flashed a flood of revelation, Jesus was

This witness seems incapable of expansion. All his afterlife was to Nathanael an opportunity for filling up the outline which his faith thus sketched in a few bold strokes. He never went beyond these first convictions.

V. RECOMPENSE OF DISCIPLESHIP . Such spiritual sympathy, such courageous confession, was not unrewarded. In response, the Messiah:

1 . Accepted the new and ardent pupil as one of his own attached and privileged companions.

2 . Assured him of progressive illumination and experience.

3 . Promised him participation in the glorious vision of the future, in the celestial exaltation of the Son of man.—T.

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