Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “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, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:45-47)
We deal with evil most of the time. And the victims of evil. This evil is usually hiding in churches, wearing an “unholy” disguise of holiness. Sometimes (we are tempted to say “often”) the evil is in the pulpit or holds some ruling office in the church. And the typical response of local churches to this evil is also very often evil. Alliances are formed with the abuser while victims are mistreated and rejected.
Now, for myself and I think probably for many of you, all this dealing with counterfeit Christianity can take a toll on us. It can be extremely discouraging to realize that much of what we thought all our lives was the real thing is in fact phoney. We have been fed traditions of men that we were told were God’s truth. We have looked up to people we thought were genuine Christians, only to find out later that they were hypocrites of the worst kind. We have even been rejected by entire churches and even denominations when we called out evil in disguise for what it really is.
And after a while….you begin to wonder. Is all this bogus? Are there any real Christians? Are we wasting our time in ministry? Does anyone want to hear truth anymore? I have felt like that and so have you.
But numbers of places in Scripture remind us that Christ’s true church is real. Jesus has His sheep and they DO hear His voice. They refuse to recognize false shepherds. Jesus calls them and they follow Him. You can read about all this in John chapter 10.
And then you have this passage in John chapter one concerning a young fellow named Nathanael. He didn’t know Jesus. Philip told Nathanael about Jesus, even saying that Jesus was for sure the promised Messiah that Moses and the Old Testament prophets had written about.
Initially, Nathanael even had some doubts. Nazareth? No way! I guess that town had a bad reputation. Maybe Nazareth was like the suburbs that are on ‘the wrong side of the tracks’. Or maybe …where would we say today… “Could anything good come out of Los Angeles/Seattle/Newark…?” That doesn’t sound much like faith.
And yet, Nathanael went to see. And when Jesus saw him coming at a distance, Jesus knew him. Jesus in fact knew his heart. And Jesus had known Nathanael BEFORE Philip even came and told him “We’ve found the Messiah!”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” (John 1:48)
And Jesus said, as he saw Nathanael coming, (this is the main point I want to emphasize), “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael may not have even been born again yet, but Jesus was calling him to Himself. Nathanael was a Jew, an Israelite, INDEED. Truly. That is to say, he believed the Scriptures. He was looking for the Messiah. He wasn’t some religious phoney like the majority of his countrymen were. I suppose he was much like Cornelius in Acts —
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. (Acts 10:1-2)
Still in need of meeting Christ. Still in need of a heart transformation, but a person who wasn’t given to playing the hypocrite. Really I think that Saul of Tarsus was such a man, though his zeal led him to even persecute the body of Christ.
There ARE such people around us. We do not know how many, but we know that as long as Christ postpones His Second Coming, He is calling His remnant to Himself. So let’s take care not to let abusers who are playing the religious hypocrite game cause us to cease from doing good. Don’t let them convince you that evil is so widespread today and the visible church has so many counterfeits in it that we may as well just sit back and coast, waiting for Jesus to rend the heavens and come down on that great Day.
No. There are Nathanaels out there. There ARE people whom Christ is calling by His Spirit and through His Word, entrusting US with the task of taking that Word to them. Think about it. In a time when the Lord of Glory was about to be rejected, hated, and murdered, Philip led Nathanael to Christ. How tough was it? Did he have to do any arm twisting? Nope. He simply said, “we found Jesus. Come and see.”
Nathanael did. His heart had been prepared. And Nathanael followed Christ that day.