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Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathaniel and Jacob – John 1:35-51


Gospel of John Bible Study Notes, Week 4

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.  Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”  
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.  The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.[1]
“Come and see,” said Philip.  John 1:35-46

“Come and See”—Real Discipleship

In John 1:39, Jesus invites Andrew and another disciple to “come and see” where he is staying, and the three of them end up spending the day together. This is real discipleship. Discipleship involves spending time with people so that they can see faith lived out in real situations in real life by real people. Discipleship is not just hearing theological truth or learning the basics of the Christian faith; it is about learning how to follow Jesus, as a sort of apprentice, from someone who has a more seasoned, more mature, walk with God.[2]  Philip echoes the words “come and see” to Nathaniel (John 1:46).

The Priority of Ministry to our Families

Many times in ministry we hear that our first priority should be God, and then our families, and then our ministry, etc. However, as servants of God, just about everything we do can have a ministry focus (Col 3:17 & 23). Our entire lives can be lived with a ministry mindset.[3] Our first ministry priority should be of worship to God. By spending time with God in worship we will grow stronger in our faith, devotion and spiritual abilities. Our very next ministry priority should be to our own family members. If everyone looked after their own family members the world would be a much better place. Sadly, where family relations are strained, this can be a very difficult thing to do.

The very first thing that Andrew did when he had met Jesus was to find his own brother and bring him to Jesus (John 1:40). We have a responsibility to look after our family members practically (1 Timothy 5:8) and spiritually. Our families should be the first beneficiaries of our prayers and our practical and spiritual help. Can you think of a parent, child, sister, brother or cousin, etc, who needs your prayers and spiritual encouragement?

John’s Greek Readers

In John 1:38, 41, 42 and 49, John chooses to use the Aramaic and Hebrew words: Rabbi, Messiah and Cephas. John seems to want to emphasise and maintain the Jewish roots and flavour of Christianity. However, John translates these words for his Greek readers: Rabbi meaning “teacher”, Messiah meaning “Christ” (anointed) and Cephas meaning “Peter” (rock). John seems to be writing his Gospel with Greek readers in mind.

Nathaniel and Jacob

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”  He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”  John 1:47-51 (NIV 2011)

The closing verses of this chapter are cryptic but with a bit of conjecture perhaps we can shed some light on their meaning. Nathaniel had been sitting under a tree. “Sitting under a tree” was where a person rested and meditated (1 Kings 4:28; Mic. 4:4; Zech. 3:10; Isa. 36:16 cf. Judg. 4:5). It was also a place where one could receive teaching.[3]  Perhaps Nathaniel had been thinking about the story of Jacob’s dream of the ladder with angels going up and down between heaven and earth (Gen. 28:12-13). Or perhaps Jacob’s ladder was the lesson he was listening to. Using the image of Jacob’s ladder, Jesus points out that now he himself is the new and more secure link between heaven and earth (John 1:51). Jacob’s defining traits were guile and deceit; but Jesus describes Nathaniel—who readily accepted Jesus as the Messiah—as an Israelite without guile (John 1:47).

From Nathaniel’s reaction, it appears that he regarded the fact that Jesus saw him under the tree a miracle (John 1:48-50). Nathaniel had probably been some distance away and out of view. But greater miracles than this are coming!


[1] Nazareth in Galilee was looked down on by the people who lived in Judea. Jewish people who lived in smaller towns and rural areas of Galilee were thought to be less sophisticated than the Jews who lived in Judea. So Nathaniel is genuinely surprised, or perhaps intrigued, that anything good can come from a place as humble as Nazareth. So he asks the question recorded in John 1:46: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Craig Keener explains this further here.

[2] The apostle Paul was committed to disciple-making and understood the process. He was an excellent disciple-maker and he set himself as an example for others to learn from. He urged believers to imitate his life as he imitated Christ’s. (See 1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17, 4:9; 2 Tim. 3:14 cf. Rev. 3:3.) Timothy was one of Paul’s disciples who, in turn, was then charged with making more disciples (1 Cor. 4:16-17; 2 Tim. 2:2).

[3] Everything we do should be seen with ministry and service in mind. Even diet, exercise, leisure and recreation can be seen with ministry in mind because we need to be strong and able ministers and not burnt out by a relentless work schedule or poor health habits.

[4] Schools in first-century Israel did not have

. . .  school buildings, regular classes, organized and controlled curricula, or professional, paid teachers. . . Individuals renowned for their learning or simply eager to impart knowledge of the [Jewish] Law, both oral or written, would gather to themselves students and disciples desirous of further knowledge. Any location could serve as a meeting place for these scholars and their audiences: the home of the master, market-places, courtyards, gatehouses of private buildings, fields, vineyards, or simply under the shade of an olive tree. [Or, in Nathaniel’s case, a fig tree.]
Léonie J. Archer, Her Price is Beyond Rubies: The Jewish Woman in Graeco-Roman Palestine (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990), 78.

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