Setting

Geographically, this passage begins somewhere in the Judean wilderness ( Jn 1:28), and as the narrative develops, Jesus is heading towards Galilee ( Jn 1:43). In this passage, Jesus reveals Himself to His first disciples as He calls them into discipleship. Through John’s testimony, personal witnessing, and more importantly, Jesus’ revelations, the disciples see Jesus for who He is, and Jesus promises that they will see even greater things.

Key Verse

(1:49, 1:51)

Did You Know...?

1. The tenth hour (1:39) was 4 P.M. Because daylight was soon running out, people refrained from major outdoor activities past that hour and started to make preparations for lodging if necessary. [ref]

2. Messiah (1:41) is a transliteration of the Aramaic word meaning “the anointed one.”

3. Christ (1:41) is the Greek equivalent of “Messiah.”

4. Bethsaida (1:44) means “place of the fishery.” It is probably to be identified with et-Tell, located east of the Jordan about one and a half miles before it enters the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. [ref]

5. Nazareth (1:46) was a town about fifteen miles west of the Sea of Galilee.

Outline

Keywords/Phrases

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General Analysis

  • 1a.

    Identify in this passage the different ways through which Jesus’ first disciples became His followers.

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    1. John witnessed about Jesus 2. Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus. 3. Jesus found Philip and asked him to follow Him. 4. Philip introduced Nathanael to Jesus, and Nathanael experienced Jesus’ miraculous insight.

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  • 1b.

    What can you learn from these examples about witnessing and conversion?

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  • 2.

    What titles were applied to Jesus in this passage? What do they tell us about Jesus’ identity?

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    1. The Lamb of God (1:36): Jesus is appointed by God to bear the sin of the world upon Himself (cf. Jn 1:29). 2. Rabbi (1:38, 49): Jesus was generally recognized as a teacher of God’s truth (cf. Lk 20:21). This was also the way for a disciple to address his master as well as a term of deference (cf. Jn 3:2, 26, 4:31, 6:25, 9:2, 11:8) 3. Messiah or Christ (1:41): Jesus is the King the people had put their hope in. He is the universal ruler who brings salvation to His people (cf. Ps 2:6–9, 110:1; Isa 9:6, 7; Mt 22:42–45) 4. Son of God (1:49): Jesus is the image of the invisible God whom God has appointed heir of all things (Col 1:15; Heb 1:2, 3). 5. King of Israel (1:49): As the Messiah, Jesus is the Davidic ruler as prophesied in the Scriptures (Jn 18:37). He rules over believers with justice and peace and shepherds them with kindness (Ezek 34:23, 24; Jn 10:11; Col 3:15; 1 Pet 5:4). 6. Son of Man (1:51): Jesus is the redeemer and judge who has come down from heaven and ascended there again (Jn 3:13, 14, 5:27, 6:27, 53, 62, 8:28, 12:23, 34; Mk 13:26; Isa 52:13).

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  • 3.

    What can we learn from the theme of “identity” in this passage?

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    Continuing the theme of “knowing” and “identification” from John 1:1–34, this passage reveals Jesus as the Lamb of God, Christ, Son of God, King of Israel, and Son of Man. The focus on Jesus’ identity is important, as it paves the way for the reader to develop a saving faith in Jesus. But Jesus is not the only one identified in this passage. Jesus also identifies Simon Peter and Nathanael. From all this identifying, we learn the importance of our identity in Christ as well as our identification of Jesus. Think about this: if Jesus were to look at you today, how do you think he would identify you? How would you identify Jesus? Do you see Jesus as a teacher or do you see him as a friend? You could learn a lot about your relationship to Jesus Christ by looking at how you identify Jesus and vice versa.

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Segment Analysis

  • 1:35–39

    1.

    What made you decide to follow Jesus? What made the two disciples of John decide to follow Jesus? Why is this reason so important for us as well?

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    The two disciples of John followed Jesus because John proclaimed that Jesus was the Lamb of God (1:35–37). Likewise, we have chosen to follow the Lord Jesus today because He is our only Savior and Redeemer who can deliver us from sin and the final judgment. Only if we follow Jesus for the right reasons and stay the course will we not let anything or anyone make us forsake our commitment along the way.

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  • 2a.

    Jesus, knowing the heart of the two disciples, asked them, “What do you seek?” If He were to ask you the same question, what would you answer?

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  • 2b.

    The two disciples sought to know where Jesus was staying. Why do you think they asked the question? In what ways can we also have the same desire today?

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    The disciples’ question shows their desire to know the Lord more. It was a respectful way to ask for more time with the Lord—to get to know Him better. If the tenth hour is equivalent to 4 p.m., that means they wanted to stay with the Lord starting that very evening. By remaining with the Lord, they expressed their desire to be His disciples to the end, deepen their knowledge of the Lord by being with Him continuously, and finally become one with Him. From Andrew’s description of Jesus as the Messiah in verse 41, we may infer that these two disciples had come to some important personal knowledge of the Lord after staying with Him. The best way to know the heart of a person is to live with him and to spend time with him, to talk with him and interact with him. The same is true of our relationship with the Lord. Instead of seeking the pleasures and gratifications this world offers and making that our goal in life, we ought to have a constant desire to be with the Lord. By spending time to learn His word, meditate on His example, obey His will, and seek the guidance of His Spirit, we can grow daily in our knowledge of Him. That is what it means when the Bible teaches us to abide in the Lord.

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  • 2c.

    Why is it important to establish the right goal in our discipleship?

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    The Lord Jesus asked the two disciples the important question: “What do you seek?” This question is a reminder to us in our walk with the Lord. It is often all too easy to forget what our priorities are. Like the multitude that seemed to follow the Lord but was actually laboring for food that perishes (Jn 6:26, 27), we may likewise follow the Lord for the wrong reasons, such as for material gains or a trouble-free life. The result of having the wrong motivation is that we may forsake the Lord when we do not receive what we are after, as many of Jesus’ disciples did (Jn 6:66). But if we are clear from the start that our desire is to remain with the Lord and to receive from Him words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68–69), we will continue on with the Lord regardless of the changing circumstances we face.

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  • 3.

    Jesus answered the disciples’ question with the words: “Come and see.” How are these words significant?

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    1. The words “Come and [you shall] see” imply Jesus’ acceptance and acknowledgement of their heart’s desire. The Lord knows our hearts and will help us know Him and experience Him if we seek Him with our hearts. 2. Jesus’ response also expresses, in a prophetic manner, that the disciples would see something they could not fathom (Jn 1:51). Jesus once told His disciples, “Blessed are your eyes for they see…” (Mt 13:16). By accepting the Lord’s invitation, we may see, through eyes of faith, the Lord’s glory. 3. The ability to see is by divine grace and revelation. But we must also have the heart to come and seek to know the Lord. It is like the two parts to filling a jar. First, the jar must be empty, which is our desire to seek (be filled by) the Lord. Second, someone must fill it, which is God’s grace and divine revelation. We need both parts. In the same way, “come” is Jesus’ command for us to be with Him; “you shall see” represents God’s grace and revelation.

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  • 1:40–42

    4.

    Andrew found his brother Simon and told him about Jesus. What can we learn from Andrew about witnessing?

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    As soon as Andrew realized that he had found the Messiah, he went and shared this great news with his brother. The best gift we can give to our loved ones is the good news about the Lord Jesus. Like Andrew, we should also be eager to share this wonderful news with our family. Andrew simply brought his brother to Jesus. Often, we worry about complex strategies for bringing people to Christ, when we simply need to tell them about what we have found and bring them to the church to hear the words of the Lord and to witness the works of the Spirit. We just do our part, and let the Lord Himself touch the hearts of the people we bring to Him. The fact that Andrew was formerly a disciple of John the Baptist means that he had always been serious about the things of God. It was also for the same reason that he was so eager to tell his brother about his encounter with the Messiah. This teaches us that the effectiveness of our witnessing often reflects how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis. Actions tend to speak louder than words, and it is our lives, not just our words, that truly speak to our family members (cf. 1 Pet 3:1, 2). People will trust what we tell them if we first prove to be trustworthy.

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  • 5.

    Jesus looked at Simon and told him that he would be called Cephas. What is the significance of this giving of a new name?

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    When Jesus looked at Simon, He was not only looking at his outward appearance. More importantly, He saw Simon’s heart as well as his future. Therefore, Jesus’ naming him as “a stone” was prophetic of the future. It also means that Jesus had fully received him as a disciple and promised that He would transform him into a vessel for God. Just as Jesus had promised him in Matthew 4:19 that He would make Simon and Andrew fishers of men, here He also promised that Simon will become Peter. This new name indicates that the Lord would build Him up to be a faithful servant of God for His glory (cf. Lk 22:31, 32; Jn 21:18, 19). The Lord also called Peter’s name when He promised that He would build His church upon the rock (Mt 16:17–19). In short, Jesus’ naming of Peter here in John chapter 1 reveals His divine knowledge and power.

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  • 1:43–44

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    Jesus personally found Philip and called him to follow Him. Have you ever experienced being found or called by the Lord? Briefly write down or share your experience.

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  • 1:45–51

    7.

    What was Nathanael’s initial reaction when Philip told him about Jesus? How does his reaction reflect a common human tendency?

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    Man looks at the outward appearance (1 Sam 16:7), and this is often how we judge others (cf. Jas 2:1–4). People likewise apply such stereotypes to matters of faith (e.g. “How can such a small church coming from China be the true church?”) God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty (1 Cor 1:27). If we do not measure things by their real values or humble ourselves to see things from God’s perspective, our prejudice can blind us from seeing what is truly important.

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  • 8.

    Compare the way Nathanael evaluated Jesus and the way Jesus evaluated Nathanael.

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    Nathanael judged Jesus externally based on Jesus’ place of origin. But Jesus looked within Nathanael’s heart and praised him as a true Israelite in whom was no deceit.

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  • 9.

    What can we learn from what Jesus deemed as a “true Israelite”?

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    We must be the people of God from within (cf. Rom 2:28, 29, 9:6). While others may measure us by some outward criteria, the Lord carefully weighs each person’s heart and marks out those who are truly His (cf. 2 Tim 2:19). Our inward devotion to God will not go unnoticed by Him.

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  • 10.

    What was it in Jesus’ words that elicited such a drastic change in Nathanael’s view of Jesus?

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    To Nathanael’s astonishment, Jesus revealed what was in Nathanael’s heart and commended him for it. When Nathanael inquired of Jesus about His source of knowledge, Jesus furthered revealed His omniscience, saying that He had seen Nathanael under the fig tree even before Philip called him. Being under the fig tree could be an allusion to the hope of peace and security under the Messianic rule (cf. Mic 4:4; Zech 3:10). It is possible, in light of Nathanael’s final acclamation, that he was under the fig tree meditating on the coming of the Messiah.

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  • 11.

    Jesus promised Nathanael that he would see even greater things. Explain the Lord’s solemn declaration in verse 51.

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    Here, Jesus switches to the second personal plural, addressing all of His disciples. The opening of heaven in the Bible connotes God’s personal revelation or bestowment of divine favor (cf. Deut 28:12; Ps 78:23–25; Isa 64:1; Ezek 1:1; Mal 3:10; Acts 7:56, 10:11; Rev 4:1, 19:11). Jesus is the Son of Man who came down from heaven and remains in heaven (Jn 3:13). Nothing stands between Him and heaven. In fact, He Himself is the way to heaven (Jn 14:6; Heb 10:19–22). Angels ascend and descend on the Son of Man to carry out His will. In language that is reminiscent of Jacob’s dream of the heavenly ladder (Gen 28:12), the Lord’s words teach us that Jesus has brought the very presence of God down to earth. Everyone who believes in Him will behold the glory of God and find the way to heaven.

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