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If we describe a person, we can do so from different angles. For example, we can highlight someone as the father of a family. In addition, a description of the same person is possible as a colleague in a company or as a neighbor. In this way we see how four evangelists – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – report the life of the Lord Jesus during His stay on earth. In the four biographies we have in the Bible, the Gospel according to Matthew declares the Lord Jesus as King, Mark presents Him as Servant, Luke describes Him as true Man and finally John writes about Him as the eternal Son of God.
The purpose of this Gospel is to look at the Lord Jesus as God the Son. For this reason, the call: “Behold your God” (Isaiah 40:9) has been chosen as the subtitle for this book. On the one hand we read that no one has ever seen or can see God (John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:16). On the other hand, of the Lord Jesus to be the only begotten Son Who is in the bosom of the Father is said that He has declared Him (John 1:18; John 14:9). That is magisterially described in this Gospel.
One of the correctors gave his impression of this Gospel as follows when he submitted his last corrections:
We are dealing with a limited bed of the stream, but the stream itself is not limited. And that is a happy thought. … It was a great privilege to be able to read and contemplate this Gospel so intensively. I just feel like I understand it even less now than I did before. For it is so wonderfully rich. “Thankfully, it’s enough to have a believing life in His Name.
Ger de Koning
Middelburg, November 2009, new version 2016, translation February 2021
The special character of the Gospel according to John
The Gospel according to John has a special character that has affected everyone who has paid some attention to it, even though it has not always been clearly understood why. It not only impresses the thoughts, but it attracts the heart in a unique way. The reason is that this Gospel presents the Person of the Son of God as having become so humble that He can say: “Give Me a drink” (John 4:7).
This Gospel is clearly distinguished from the other three Gospels. In the other Gospels we find valuable details of the Savior’s life on earth, such as His patience and His grace. He is the perfect expression of good amidst evil. His wonders are all but the curse of the fig tree, wonders of goodness, manifestations of divine power revealed in goodness. We also see more and more clearly how He Who in this impressive way reveals God in goodness and grace, is rejected.
John shows Him to us in a very different way. He introduces us to a Divine Person, God revealed in the world. That Divine Person is eternal life in Whom this becomes visible and with Whom the world and His own, i.e. Israel, have no connection from the beginning. This Gospel is not about the needs of the sinner, but about the desires of the heart of God as Father to have children with Him in the Father’s house.
In addition, except in a few places, this Gospel is not about heaven. It is nearly always about grace and truth in the Son here on earth. Therefore, in addition to the desire of the Father’s heart to have children with Him in the Father’s house, we can also notice in this Gospel His desire to share the blessing of the Father’s house with His children right now.
Purpose of the Gospel according to John
John writes his Gospel according to disprove the influence of the so-called ‘gnostics’ (literally ‘knowing ones’). These people deny all certain knowledge about God and Divine things. They also deny both the actual Divinity and the actual Humanity of the Son. The purpose of the Gospel is expressed by John in John 20 (John 20:30-Obadiah :) and connects to that.
Because of the noticeably increasing influence of Islam on Christians, this Gospel is also relevant in that respect. I read the following in the monthly magazine ‘de Oogst’ of April 2008:
To sell out the divinity of Christ for the sake of a good relationship with Islam testifies to the erosion and decline of Christianity. … Recently, a Willow Creek researcher wrote that he expected a great deal of blessing from the increasing cooperation between the church and Islam; Christians and muslims should form an ever greater unity. After all, they are both people of the Book, they worship the same prophets together, they agree on many religious matters, such as prayer, sexuality, sin and family. And also on a social level there are many similarities between Christians and muslims. They will become allies in the cultural struggle of the coming years. [End quote]
Fortunately, this Gospel is still in God’s Word and we can still read it and arm ourselves against the devil’s wiles.
The writer John
Although John does not mention his name anywhere, he does speak of himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved”, that is, he was loved by the Lord (John 13:23; John 19:26John 20:2; John 21:7John 21:20).
John begins his Gospel by presenting the Lord Jesus as “the Word,” the Logos. That is: just as words express thoughts, so is He the perfect expression of Who God is. That is why we do not have a genealogy of Him here, as we do in the Gospel according to Matthew – because of His kingship – and in the Gospel according to Luke – to show that He is also the Son of God as Man. In the Gospel according to Mark we don’t find a genealogy of Him either. There the reason is that for a Servant it is not important what His genealogy is. In the Gospel according to John it is impossible to think of a genealogy, for how could that be with the eternal Word, Who is the eternal Son?
John first establishes the eternal existence of the Word. The words “in the beginning” refer back to everything that has a beginning, and then establish that the Word “was”. It therefore looks back beyond the first words of the Bible, where we read: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). However far we can think back, wherever we can think back at the beginning of something, we see that the Word “was” there, that it existed. The Word Itself is without a beginning. It is eternal. The second thing John says is that the Word was “with God”. That clearly indicates that the Word is a Person, that the Word had and has a personal existence. Third, John mentions that the Word was also God Himself.
These three characteristics or essence of the Word form the starting point of his Gospel. In order to understand the representation of the Son in this Gospel, these three characteristics must be known and accepted by faith without reservation. John describes Him in his Gospel as the eternal Son who is Truly God Himself. To underline the three characteristics, John says concisely once more: “This was in [the] beginning with God”, with God as the Eternal One. The Word was and is as Person as eternal as God.
The Creator and the Light of men.
The eternal Word, Who is Himself without a beginning – He “was” – has given a beginning to all things. Here we come to the first verse of Genesis 1 (Genesis 1:1). The Word came not into being Himself, but is the origin of all things (Colossians 1:15-Nehemiah :; Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 1:10). All things have a beginning, “came into being”, and that beginning is due to “Him”, which is He Who is the Word.
To avoid any escape from this fact, the second part of John 1:3 repeats the first part, but in a negative representation of the facts. It is the foolishness of the evolution theory – what is falsely called “knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20) – to try and explain the origin of all things without Him. But the heavens are telling of His glory (Psalms 19:2) and He can be understood through His works (Romans 1:19-Proverbs :).
Here we see the utter distinction between everything that has come into being and the Lord Jesus. If anything has come into being or has been made, it is not the Word, for everything that has come into being is made by the Word.
This does not mean that He also created evil. God is good and everything that comes out of Him has that character. In Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Nothing can come out of Him that is contrary to His being. To assume that He also created evil limits His goodness. He did create beings, angels and men, who were and are capable of doing evil, but He did not create evil itself.
The whole creation was created by Him, but in Him was life. He is the source of life (Psalms 36:9). He didn’t receive life from somewhere, but it sprang from Him as the origin. Therefore He is connected with a special part of His creation: men (Hebrews 2:16; Proverbs 8:31; Luke 2:14).
All the words used by John under the guidance of the Holy Spirit are very short and simple, but clearly possess Divine fullness and meaning. They are like the sword of the cherubim guarding the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). That sword turns in all directions to keep Him, as He is, unblemished in our minds.
The life He reveals is also light for man. It is in this light that the believer walks. Light reveals everything. By coming into the light man can receive life. If a person has light, he only has it in the Word that is life.
When life, that is the Lord Jesus, was revealed on earth, the light shone in the darkness. When God created the light in the darkness in the beginning, and the light shone in the darkness, the darkness disappeared (Genesis 1:3). When life was revealed and the light shone, the darkness did not disappear. There was no other light for men than “life.”
God dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see (1 Timothy 6:16), but in the Word the light shines in the darkness. It shines, not ‘shone’, for it still shines, but the darkness has not understood it, that is, it is a given fact, that this fact is unchangeable.
In summary, in John 1:1-Deuteronomy : we have the testimony of the Spirit concerning the Word. We see it first in relation to God, then in relation to creation and finally in relation to man.
A Witness of the Light
In His goodness God sends one to draw attention to the light. That is what He does in John. That there must be a witness to testify of the light also shows how men lived in utter darkness and blindness. If it is dark and light is switched on, then it is seen by all who have their eyes open.
Light needs no testimony. It is present and it is seen. For people who are spiritually in darkness, it is necessary that light is pointed to as present. The purpose of John’s mission is to be a witness to the light so that people will believe. The testimony is addressed to “all”, not just Israel. It is about personal faith in the Son. If someone has no faith, he does not see the light, though it shines as brightly as can be.
John is only an instrument. He does not focus attention on himself, but on the Lord Jesus, the light. As said, the light is not limited to Israel. It comes “into the world”, just as the sun does not shine only for a particular people. It comes into the world, but it enlightens every man individually. Christ places each person personally in the light. Every man is revealed by Him in what he is, whether it is Peter or Herod, or Nathanael or Caiaphas.
The Reception of the Word
When the Lord Jesus came into the world, He entered His own creation. But the world did not know its Creator when He was present, that much it was estranged from Him by sin. There was a special company in the world, in the midst of whom He wanted to dwell. That was His own people, Israel. However, they did not receive Him. It doesn’t say here, as it is said of the world, that they didn’t know Him. Not being accepted by His own means that they rejected Him, not that they did not accept Him through unfamiliarity or ignorance.
Then we see that a completely new company is formed, consisting of those who did accept Him. If the world does not know Him and His people do not receive Him, it opens the way for the revelation of something new. People are separated from the world and brought into a new and previously unknown relationship with God. They are no better or less evil than others. The great thing that distinguishes them is that those who form this new company are born of God. They have seen and judged themselves in the light of the Word and they have accepted Him.
At the same time God has worked the new life in them. Only those who have accepted Him He has given the right to enter into the position of children. This is not merely an external position of honor, but the sharing of life and of a connection of life. They are born of God and therefore possess the nature of God and are children of God. By the way, the Lord Jesus is never called ‘child of God’. He is the unique, eternal Son, while as a Man He is also the Son of God (Luke 1:35). This great privilege to become a child of God is for everyone who believes in His Name. His Name is the basis of faith. His Name is also the content of the Word, in Whom all is manifested what God is.
This new relationship is not based on anything of man. Every human source is excluded:
1. “Not of blood” means that no one becomes a child of God through family ties, through natural kinship. No one becomes a child of God because his parents are.
2. “Nor of the will of the flesh” means that it cannot be obtained by one’s own effort.
3. “Nor of the will of man” means that it cannot be obtained by the effort of others, as if it could be given by a man to someone, for example by baptism. Someone becomes a child of God exclusively by being born of God.
The new life is the life of God and God lets us share in it, He gives it. He begot a new generation. That new generation consists of ordinary people and that they also remain, but they are born again spiritually. They are truly born of God and thereby they have become partakers of the Divine nature, because their new life is the life of God (2 Peter 1:4).
The Word Became Flesh
John 1:1-Exodus : tell what He was eternally, John 1:14 tells what He became in time. He became Man and came to dwell among us. The word ‘dwelt’ is actually ‘tabernacled’ meaning ‘living in a tent’. The eternal Son became flesh, became Man, in order to dwell among men, just as God used to dwell in the tabernacle with His people and ascend with them (Exodus 25:8).
By becoming Man, He was able to show us all His glories from the preceding verses. His glory is seen by “all who have received Him”. This glory we see is not that of Mount Sinai, of majesty and righteousness. It is a glory that fits the intimate relationship of love that exists from all eternity between the Father and Him Who is the only begotten Son of the Father.
To see this is a great wonder. When by grace the eyes are opened for it, we see how full of grace and truth He is. Grace is love in the midst of evil, while at the same time being exalted above it. In Christ, grace has come in the midst of evil to overcome evil through good.
Inseparable from grace is truth. Grace without truth is not grace. Grace brings the truth, but at the same time makes it possible for a person to endure the truth if he is thereby revealed and condemned as a sinner. Therefore the order is: first grace, then truth.
God did not fail to give through John also a testimony of His Son as the One Who is full of grace and truth. In each main section of this chapter we have a testimony of John. Previously, it is regarding the light (John 1:6-Ruth :), here it is regarding his presentation to the world and later regarding his performance in the world (John 1:19-Zephaniah :). John, the greatest born of women (Luke 7:28), gives testimony of Him at every level. The Lord Jesus is God even though He comes after John. He is the Giver Who gives to all, without distinction, out of an inexhaustible fullness. There is no blessing outside of Him, and as a result, there is no lack for anyone who possesses Him.
We did not receive truth upon truth – the truth is simple and puts everything in its place – but what we needed: grace upon grace, one grace after another, God’s favor, abundant. Here we may think of an accumulation of Divine blessings that are the fruits of His love.
These things are in complete contrast to the law. The law was given by Moses. Moses is the mediator through whom God gave the law. The law says what man is supposed to be, but not what man is. The truth does. The law cannot set man free and cannot reveal God. The law neither gives life nor reveals an object. That is because sin has already come into the world through Adam and the flesh has made the law powerless. This is not because of the law, but because of man, through which he falls outside of all God’s blessing.
But now through Jesus Christ a complete and glorious change has been made. Here, then, is finally the Name of Him in Whom all the preceding glories are found, and Who is the expression of them: Jesus Christ.
Grace and truth form a unity. That is why it says that grace and truth subsists ([Darby translation] and not: subsist) through Him. Grace and truth, which is full in Him (John 1:14), has received its full expression in Him. It does not say that grace and truth was given by Him, as the law was given by Moses. The Lord Jesus is not a mediator, one through whom God gives grace and truth. He has shown grace and truth from His own glory.
If He had not come, we would never have learned grace and truth. He shows the grace of God and the truth of God to lost people, that they may be partakers of all that God has in His heart and has revealed in Christ. If Christ had not come, we could only have had a limited impression of God, either from nature or from the law. Both expressions would keep us at a distance and finally condemn us if the Son had not come.
Now that He has come, He has revealed God in a way that is beyond all things. He has revealed God as Father. He did so out of the intimacy that He Himself possessed and never left. The word “bosom” refers to the closest connection and the deepest confidentiality. It is the place where the Son eternally is, where He never left and where He also was when He was on earth as a Man.
That is why He and He alone could and can explain God. Not only was the full blessing to be revealed that came through Jesus Christ, and through His redemption is the possession of all who share in it, but God Himself was to be revealed. That is what Jesus Christ did, the Revealer and revelation of God and of all things, for He is the truth. He could do that because He is the Son in the bosom of the Father.
John Testifies Who He Is Not
John’s testimony was powerful. It set people in motion. Through John, God worked a general expectation of the Messiah into the minds of men. John was the independent witness preserved by God until the right time to testify of His Son.
In this Gospel, the Jews have been opponents of the Lord from the beginning and therefore also of John. It is clear from John 1:24 that these are Pharisees. They send priests and Levites, people who serve in the temple, so very religious people, to John to ask him who he is. It is not a sincere question, but a question inspired by fear for their position.
John knows the background of their question. They want to know if he is the Christ. Therefore he doesn’t speak about himself, but about Christ and says that he is not. If they had known his lineage, they would have known that he could never be the Messiah. For he descended from Levi, while the Christ had to come from Judah.
The leaders are partly satisfied, but not yet completely. Fortunately, he is not the Christ, but then who is he? They ask him if then he is Elijah. His clear answer is that he is not.
His denial seems in contrast to what the Lord says of him in Matthew 17 (Matthew 17:11-2 Kings :). The key is in Matthew 11. There the Lord says of John the baptist: “And if you are willing to accept [it], John himself is Elijah who was to come” (Matthew 11:14). This means that Elijah came in John, but only for those who wanted to accept what he came for. If the eyes are blind to the Messiah, they are also blind to His predecessor. That is why John tells these people that it is not, because they do not want to receive Christ.
Then as far as they can see there is one possibility left for them and that is that John is the promised prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-Psalms :). John’s answers are getting shorter and shorter. To the last question he gives the shortest answer: “No.” There doesn’t make sense to explain his answer.
John’s Testimony About Himself
Now they know who John is not, but then who is he? That is what they would like to know. To go back and say that they do not know who John is, who has such a great influence among the people, that is not acceptable. So they go on asking who he is. John answers their question with a quote from the prophet Isaiah. They undoubtedly know that quote, but its meaning does not penetrate them.
The quote shows that the Christ is Yahweh and that John is no more than a voice. John the evangelist emphasizes that the people who question John the baptist were sent “from the Pharisees”. The Pharisees are the great adversaries of the Lord. People sent “from the Pharisees” are completely alien to those born of God. ‘From the Pharisees’ or ‘from God’, that determines the difference in the appreciation of Christ.
Testimony on the Lord Jesus
The interrogators ignore John’s answer that he is the voice of a calling that points to Christ. They are concentrating exclusively on his baptism. How can he baptize if he does not have some official status? His denial that he is the Christ was already a great relief. His denial that he is Elijah means to them that he is not the forerunner who immediately precedes the kingdom in power and majesty over the earth (Malachi 4:5). And if he is not the prophet who is foretold, what does his baptism mean?
Their question gives John the opportunity to make clear the difference between him and Christ. He himself baptizes with water as the symbol of repentance and forgiveness of sins. However, the baptism with which he baptizes does not stand alone. With his baptism he points to Him Who is in the midst of them, but Who they do not know. John tells them how far Christ is exalted above him in glory. He does not even feel worthy to untie the thong of the sandal of the Lord Jesus.
This testimony is given by John in Bethany, beyond the Jordan. It is not Bethany where Lazarus and Martha and Mary live, because that is near Jerusalem. Bethany means ‘house of misery’. This place here is closely connected to the Jordan and baptism. The Jordan speaks of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and baptism speaks of His death. By connecting Bethany with this, we may think that escaping from the misery to which sin has brought a man is only possible through the death and resurrection of Christ. The Pharisees did not find themselves miserable and therefore had no part in Christ.
The Lamb of God Is the Son of God
The next day, after his testimony to the priests and Levites about himself and Christ, John sees the Lord Jesus coming to him. In the previous testimony he spoke about Him in connection with the Jewish expectation of the Messiah. Now he gives a testimony that surpasses everything else. In it he says, in fact: ‘Here is the one, sufficient and non-repeatable sacrifice of eternal value.’
His statement relates to the death of Christ and all its consequences. The work of taking away sin must be done, and here is He Who will do it. Based on His work as the Lamb of God, the gospel can be preached, sins can be forgiven, His kingdom can be established, creation can be freed from the curse, Israel can be blessed, and finally there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Then the perfect result will be seen of what John says here of the Lamb of God as the One Who takes away the sin of the world.
Mind you, it does not say that the Lamb of God takes away the sins (plural) of the world. It is not about sinful deeds, but about sin as power. The Lord Jesus is the Lamb who takes away sin as power. The Jews were familiar with the Lamb from the sacrificial service. The lamb was used for the daily morning and evening burnt offering and the annual Passover. All these sacrifices are fulfilled in Christ. He takes away the sin of the world so that there will be an eternity that cannot possibly be corrupted by sin. In that eternity God will be all and in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).
When John points to the Lord Jesus and testifies of Him what He does, He again gives testimony of His personal dignity. In time He comes after John, but as far as His Person is concerned, He is before John. He is God the Son of eternity.
John was not familiar with Christ. God had given him his own service and field of action in view of the coming of His Son. He had to prepare the people for His coming. Therefore he had come to baptize with water. He called people to be baptized under a preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins, so that they would also accept Him when He revealed Himself to Israel.
John testifies how at the baptism of the Lord Jesus he saw the Spirit descending upon Him as a dove from heaven. He says that the Spirit remained upon Him. The Spirit did not come upon Him to depart again. No, the Spirit has found complete rest in this Man. The Spirit could descend upon Him without the prior application of blood, as is the case with us. We see this in the pictures of the Old Testament, where first blood is applied and then oil (Leviticus 14:14-Esther :).
Once again John declares that he did not know Him, but that God told him by what he could recognize Him. He declares once more that his service consisted of baptizing with water. He had not devised that service himself, but that service was commissioned to him by God. Through that service he had to prepare the way for Him Who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
This indicates the service of the Lord, which will be nothing but a blessing. He takes away the sin of the world and instead fills the world with His blessing through the Holy Spirit. This can be seen in miniature in anyone who now believes that the Lord Jesus died for his sins and receives the Holy Spirit on that basis (Ephesians 1:13).
The fact that the Lord Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit is proof that He is God. No one can baptize with the Holy Spirit except God. The Holy Spirit is a Person in the Godhead, and here is a Man who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Then that Man can be none other than the Son of God.
Therefore, John comes to that conclusion. After seeing the Spirit descending upon Christ, he can testify that “this is the Son of God”. As the eternal Son, the Lord Jesus is the true God, one with the Father and the Spirit. John does not mention the testimony of the Father from heaven, for he relies on what God personally told him about His Son and what he saw when the Spirit descended upon Him. Therefore he can testify that “this is the Son of God”.
Behold, the Lamb of God
After the testimony of the Lord as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, John is back at the Jordan the next day. Two of his disciples stand with him. Then John sees the Lord Jesus walking there. The Lord does not come to him, but shows Himself there.
When John sees Him, he is immediately full of admiration for that Person. He pronounces it: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” In John 1:29 he added what this Lamb will do. Here he is full of the Lamb Himself. That Person has taken up his whole heart. This testimony of John from a heart full of the Person of Christ has a consequence that we do not see in his previous testimony.
The two disciples who are with John hear John speak and also become full of Christ. Through the testimony of John, they renounce him and are seized by the glory of the Lord Jesus. Any service before God is only good if the servant releases the hearers from themselves as human servants and leads them to Christ. Such a servant is John. His two disciples leave him and follow the Lord.
To “follow” presupposes that we are not in the rest of God. We follow the Lamb on earth in the midst of circumstances where sin has not yet been taken away (Revelation 14:4). In the Garden of Eden, Paradise, where sin was not, there was no need to follow. In heaven there will be no following either. There we will find joy and rest on the place where we are. Following the Lamb is an activity we can only do as long as we are on earth.
What Do You Seek?
The Lord notices that the two disciples are following Him. He turns around and asks them a question. His question is not, “Who do you seek?” but, “What do you seek?” In doing so, He asks for the motive they have to follow Him. The answer is wonderful. They would like to know where He is staying. They call Him “Rabbi”, a word of which John the evangelist gives the translation: “Teacher.” In this way they take the place of disciples in relation to Him. They want to learn from Him, their Teacher.
The Lord answers that they should come with Him and that they will then see where He is staying. He does not give an address, but a mark (cf. Luke 22:7-1 Chronicles :; Song of Solomon 1:7-Ruth :). It’ s a residence where it is about Him. There they stay with Him that day. John even notes the hour of the day when this takes place.
It is remarkable that John, who after all writes about the eternal Son Who stands outside of time, has so much eye for times when the eternal Son does something. We have seen this before on both occasions where he speaks of “the next day” (John 1:29; John 1:35). It emphasizes the presence of God the Son in the world of men. He participates in their circumstances, while He Personally is the Eternal One.
Andrew Brings Peter to the Lord
Andrew was a disciple of John the baptist, but through the testimony of John he went after the Lord. As a further description of Andrew, the evangelist tells us that he is “Simon Peter’s brother”. Andrew is so full of the Lord that he cannot keep it to himself. He has to talk about it with others. It is a general characteristic of someone who has found and follows Christ, that he seeks others to speak about Him.
Andrew starts at home. The first person he meets is his own brother Simon. It says so emphatically: “His own brother.” If anyone has come to know the Lord Jesus as His Savior, His first concern will be for His own family, that they too may come to know Him (cf. Luke 8:39).
Andrew gives a brief but powerful testimony of his ‘Finding’. There is no uncertainty, but he testifies with certainty that he has found the Messiah, to which John again adds the translation. Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah. Both names mean ‘Anointed’.
The Lord Jesus as Messiah is mainly spoken of in connection with Israel. As Christ, He is since His ascension especially connected with the counsels of God for the church (Acts 2:36; Ephesians 1:3). We see this clearly, for example, in Ephesians 1 where we find the highest blessings that are the part of the believer who belongs to the church. Several times we read the expression “in Christ” to indicate how those blessings have become the part of the believer.
The testimony of Andrew is not only a personal testimony. He says: “We have found the Messiah.” It is a testimony that is shared by others and therefore increases in strength. Andrew is a true evangelist. He testifies of Christ and leads his brother to Him. The Lord Jesus is the center around Whom people are gathered. Peter is not won over to the Lord by a wonder or by an impressive and convincing speech, but by a simple and real testimony of his brother.
When Peter comes to the Lord, the Lord sees him. With His all-pervading eyes He sees through Peter completely. He knows who Peter is and knows his origins and his future. He knows his name is Simon and what his father’s name is. The Lord then gives him a new name. That proves His authority over Simon. Only persons who are above others can give or change names (cf. Genesis 2:19; Daniel 1:7).
The Lord calls Simon “Cephas”, to which John again gives the translation. Cephas is the Aramaic word for “stone”. Furthermore John will call him Peter, the Greek word for “stone”. This name the Lord gives him indicates the service of Peter. Peter will be a stone in the building that God will build for His own honor and for the honor of His Son. That building is the church. In his first letter Peter speaks about the believers as living stones that will be built up as a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-Deuteronomy :).
The Lord Jesus Finds Philip
Another day later, the Lord purposes to go into Galilee. Then He finds Philip. Here the initiative comes from the Lord. Andrew could testify that they had found Him, here the Lord finds someone. He is looking for people who want to follow Him. That is what He says to Philip who becomes a disciple of Him. John mentions that Philip comes from Bethsaida, the same city where Andrew and Peter come from.
Philip Brings Nathanael to the Lord.
Philip, too, cannot remain silent about his ‘Finding’. He finds Nathanael to whom he testifies that he has found “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”. He too speaks in plural: “We have found Him.” He supports his testimony and its certainty, by referring to what Moses wrote about Him, as well as the prophets (Deuteronomy 18:18; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:5; Luke 24:27). Philip knows and believes the Scriptures and therefore sees them fulfilled when he meets Christ. Therefore, there is no doubt with him that this humble Man from Nazareth known as “Jesus, the Son of Joseph” is the promised Messiah.
The testimony of Philip does not immediately work. According to Nathanael, nothing good can come from Nazareth and certainly the Messiah cannot come from there. Philip has to deal with prejudices with Nathanael. If he had said that he had found the Christ, the Son of David, of Bethlehem, the reaction would have been different. This is how Nathanael expected Him. Prejudice is not a small impediment. We must learn that someone is not simply won over to the Lord. Nor should we be discouraged by prejudices that others have about Him. Philip is not going to reason, but suggests to Nathanael to come along and see Him for himself.
Then Nathanael goes with him to see Who He may be, but discovers that the Lord has seen him before. Everywhere in this Gospel the Lord Jesus is God. He sees what Nathanael is thinking about. Like many others, Nathanael will have been impressed by the preaching of John. It must have made him think that the coming of the Messiah could be very close.
The Lord knows Nathanael as a sincere Jew who looked forward to His coming. That is why He can speak to him in this way. Nathanael is surprised that He speaks to him in this way. His question “how do You know me?” makes it clear that he does not yet know Who he has in front of him. The Lord convinces Nathanael by telling him that He had already seen him before Philip called him and also saw the place where he was. While Nathanael thought that no one saw him, the Lord saw him there, under the fig tree. And while he sat there, the Lord also saw the reflections of his heart.
The fact that the Lord mentions the fig tree is not without meaning. The fig tree is a symbol of Israel. In Nathanael we can therefore see a picture of the believing remnant that to Christ is the true Israel. There is no deceit in it, but the true Israel knows Him and looks forward to Him. The true Israel shows the characteristics of the Messiah of Whom it is said: “Nor was there any deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:9).
After these words, Nathanael is convinced in his heart and conscience that He is the Son of God, God’s chosen King. After the initial hesitation when Philip called him, there is now a spontaneous confession. The confession of Nathanael is the confession of every God-fearing Jew. It is the confession that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God as a Man on earth, but limited to Israel.
The Lord reminds Nathanael that his faith is based on his Jewish expectations. These expectations find their ground in Psalm 2, where is spoken of God’s King for His people (Psalm 2:6-7). This is already a great blessing, but the blessing will become even greater. The Lord promises him that he will see greater things than the things that are connected with Israel. With a double “truly” and an emphatic “I say to you” Christ tells what the greater things are Nathanael will see. He will see things that are in connection with a heaven that is open above Him as “the Son of Man”. Those things we find in Psalm 8, where we see that God has set the Son of Man over all the works of His hands (Psalms 8:4-1 Samuel :).
The title “Son of Man” is the title of the Lord Jesus indicating, on the one hand, His rejection – see Matthew 8 (Matthew 8:20), where this title appears for the first time in the New Testament – and, on the other hand, His future glory. That glory is not only connected with Israel, but with His dominion over all creation (Hebrews 2:5-Ruth :).
Here the Lord presents Himself to Nathanael as the Son of Man on earth. We see that the angels of God first ascend, that is to say, He sends them from the earth to heaven, and then they descend again from heaven. Heaven is open, for wherever Christ is, heaven is open and He is the object of an opened heaven (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21; Acts 7:56; Revelation 19:11). Now that He is in heaven, it is opened for the believer.
The Lord tells Nathanael that he will see this. We may know that what will be visible reality for everyone in the future is already true for faith now because it is connected with His Person. In Him everything will be fulfilled. He, the eternal Son, as the Son of Man on earth will be the center of the universe in the realm of peace (Ephesians 1:10). Faith already sees this. The earth shall be united with heaven; the Son of Man shall reign over heaven and earth; and His servants, the angels, shall maintain the connection between earth and heaven (cf. Genesis 28:12).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op John 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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