John 1:43-51 Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
I last wrote about this reading on December 7, 2017. It is available to be read here. I stand behind what I was led to write then. I have also written about how this reading has become the root of a campaign ad for a theological school in Tennessee, as part of a sermon that includes this reading and the others that accompany it on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany. You can read that sermon here. I also stand behind those words I was led to post in January 2015. Still, if one compares the two previous articles, one can see how the same NASB translation of nine verses in John's Gospel can inspire one to see the same things in new and different light. That is the motivation here, now; and, I imagine I will have more insights to share in the future, God willing I live till then.
Today I want to make sure everyone understands what Jesus meant, when he said to Philip "Follow me" ("Akolouthei moi"). The Greek word "akoloutheó " translates as "to follow," with the definition being "I accompany, attend, follow." (Strong's) The form written by John is the present active imperative, written in the second person singular. Thus, Jesus commanded Philip specifically "to follow me."
What is missed there is the capitalization of "Akolouthei," where capitalization acts like a sign from God, running from the Christ Mind to the fingertips that held a quill with ink, forcing John to make it discretely clear that the command to "Follow" meant more than standing up and forming a line behind me, as some simple command to do what I do, as I say, for as long as I have human life on earth. It is vital to see that and understand what the more means.
To understand the more, one needs to understand the implication of what ears today hear, assuming that is what Philip heard. A command "to follow me," which was received simply as, "Okay," transformed Philip into a "follower." When Christianity lost the Holy Spirit (when Saints became as rare as unicorns), those pretending to be saintly convinced the pagans (those not allowed to read Latin or ask questions) that Jesus commanded duty in his believers, such that all must be like Philip and become "followers" (again, without reading between the lines or asking questions); and, that is the state of Christianity today - a bunch of sheep walking in line behind someone holding a book of New Testament quotes.
The dictionary defines "follower" in two ways: "1. an adherent or devotee of a particular person, cause, or activity." [That would be the motivation of Jesus]; and, "2. a person who moves or travels behind someone or something." [That would be the motivation of Philip]. This makes everyone who claims to be Christians be believers, because like Philip they "follow" what Jesus had to say, by going to a church and listening to someone tell them what that was. However, that is the result of a lower case "akoloutheó," not a capitalized "Akolouthei." [Meriam-Webster calls those "FANS, DEVOTEES."]
The capitalized word, as one bearing divine meaning, coming from the Godhead, even though it came from the mouth of Jesus, speaks as bearing the importance of lineage. God the Father spoke that Command to Philip, which (if you read between the lines) says, "This is My Son, in who I am well pleased. You are to Follow him and become My Son reborn in you, so you too will be My Son who will survive him when I take his body away." That voice of God resonated to the soul of Philip, causing him to stand up quickly, snapping to attention, saying, "YESSIR!"
Think about it. If you were in the lunch room at work, on your time off without pay, and some unknown person walks up to you and barks out a command, "Follow me." You would refuse that order, unless that person was wearing a uniform and had a badge; and, then you would resist, saying, "Let me finish my sandwich" or "When I'm on the clock."
The importance of the capitalization of "Akolouthei" goes well beyond the immediate and projects to the end of Jesus' ministry, beyond his death and resurrection, beginning when he and the other eleven disciples graduated from "followers" (disciples) and were ordained "Followers" (Apostles, which also means Saints). Jesus had the power to speak the Word of God and he had many "followers" of his three-year ministry, with many who were touched by him having the Holy Spirit secretly becoming "Followers" that did not walk behind Jesus after being touched by God. (They began ministries of their own, as Jesus reborn within their souls.) On Pentecost Sunday, those twelve "Followers" of Jesus spoke the Word of God and three thousand more "Followers" were instantly born - all resurrections of Jesus Christ, as Apostles-Saints.
That has to be understood as why Philip would go find Nathaniel and tell him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” In this is something worth investigating the Greek text. Philip goes to Nathaniel and from Jesus speaking to him he knows Jesus is "whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote." That would be Philip knowing the voice he heard, commanding him to become a disciple of Jesus, so he could eventually become Jesus, spoke to him that Jesus was the Messiah. That says Philip was a devoted Jew, who knew the Torah, Psalms, and the Prophets. However, he introduced Jesus as such:
This is two statement, one that says "Jesus son of Joseph" and another that says "who of Nazareth."
Because John had previously informed the reader that Philip was from the same place as was Andrew and Peter, Bethsaida, Jesus was not in Nazareth when he spoke to Philip. He was in Bethsaida, which is confirmed when Nathaniel replied to Philip with the question, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
What Philip said to Nathaniel (in two parts) was that Jesus was the adopted son of Joseph, where "huios" is "from hyiós – properly, a son (by birth or adoption)." If we know Jesus was divinely born, then God made it known to Philip that Jesus was divine, not the offspring of Joseph, but known as his son taken to raise. The same order of words says "Jesus (the) son," which designated him as the "son" of Prophecy. The addition of Joseph then named someone Philip knew (in some way), named Joseph, with that name meaning "Increaser, Repeater or Doubler." (Abarim-Publications) As such, Jesus was a "Double son," the Son of God and the son of Joseph.
When part two of what Philip said is a separate statement, "who of Nazareth," it should be realized that when Jesus first met Simon (who would be called "Peter"), he called him "bar Jonah" - the "son of Jonah," the father of Simon. A son would typically be named as such, differentiating two of the same name as being different because of who his father was. When Philip said "Jesus son of Joseph," he clarified that as meaning "Jesus of Nazareth." The naming of a son after the town where the father lived was a statement that the father was not the true father of the son (as a foster parent or father by adoption), which many times was a statement of a bastard son, one claimed by a man who sired a son through a woman he was not married to. This relates to Joseph having first decided to not marry Mary, because she was pregnant with a child that was not his. Even though Joseph married Mary and adopted Jesus as his son, Jesus would not have been allowed to be known as the "son of Joseph," because he was not.
For Philip to even know the name of Joseph, who had died at least a decade before this event took place, Joseph must have made a name for himself, in one way or another, such that people talked about him after his death. I believe Joseph was a rabbi and priest of the Essenes, and that would have been a way for his name to take on a legacy among other Essenes. I believe that every disciple Jesus touched, who became his disciples, were of the Essene sect, neither Pharisee or Sadducee influenced. The reputation of Joseph as a high ranking Essene would pass beyond his death, to other Essenes.
When Nathaniel replied to Philip with the question, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" the key word to focus on is "agathon," a form of "agathos." This cannot be read as some negative opinion on Nazareth, as Nazareth was the town created to serve the Essene temple, on Mount Carmel (ten miles to the west of Nazareth). The question of inherent goodness was based on Philip saying Jesus was the Messiah foretold in Scripture. Thus, the question by Nathaniel was like asking, "Is Nazareth said to be where the Messiah will be born?" [Flash back to the Magi asking Herod the Great where the king of the Jews would be born.]
When Philip then answered Nathaniel by saying, "Come and see,” the actual words written is this:
If you look closely, you will see the first word in that response is capitalized, which announces a higher meaning must be sought. Next, you should see how the magic word "kai" has been made clear in bold type. That is because that little word must never be translated as a simple conjunction (at least not at first), but as a sign from God (through the fingertips of a Prophet) that separates words and announces importance to follow that mark or sign. Thus, Philip told Nathaniel two important things about what was intrinsically good about Nazareth.
First is "Erchou" is written in the present imperative middle voice, second person singular, such that Philip spoke to Nathaniel from personal experience, rather than from memory of his Torah lessons and synagogue teachings. What is good has "Come" already and Philip is now commanding Nathaniel to rise up and "Go" with him, so he too can become a disciple of Jesus. After all, the promise of the Messiah was what all Jews were awaiting.
Following the word that marks importance, the word "see" is written, which is another imperative in the second person singular, meaning the word implies an exclamation point with it, as "see!" or "behold!" or "look!" This becomes a most important element of what makes one become a disciple of Jesus [then, now, forever], as it implies spiritual insight, not physical eyes viewing panoramic vistas and beautiful icons. It says Philip had been shown the truth of Jesus, so everything written about him was absolutely, perfectly true, but he could not begin to put all that insight into words.
This is when the story of John goes into Jesus meeting Nathaniel: "When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”' This begins by stating Nathaniel went to Jesus, which must be realized as the first steps a disciple of Jesus must take. One must seek Jesus in order to be found by Jesus.
When Jesus declared from seeing Nathaniel coming to him that he was "an Israelite" (not a Jew) who had "no deceit," that says Jesus knew the heart, mind and soul of Nathaniel and it was where only truth took root. This means that Nathaniel was one who questioned what he was told, rather than listen to what he was told and obey without investigation. That says Nathaniel would not have gone to Jesus had Philip not emphasized Nathaniel had to "behold!" Jesus with his own truth-seeking eyes.
Jesus making the statement, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you" is much more than this translation allows one to see. The key part comes last, as the words "onta hypo tēn sykēn , eidon se ." Those words state: "being under the fig tree , I saw you ." The word "onta" is a form of "eimi," which states "I am, exist." Thus, "being" is more than resting, taking it easy in the shade of a tree. It says Nathaniel's soul was the roots of truth that made for fertile ground so he could become the good fruit of the vine, or produce countless figs as a tree of life-giving Spirit.
There is the story in the Book of Judges, about the prophetess Deborah, who is thought to hang out each day in the shade of a palm tree. The same implication there (she produced good fruits, like a date tree) is the same here. God would not have John write meaningless fluff that only meant Nathaniel was some lazy guy that rested under fig trees. In Mark 11:12-25 is the story of Jesus cursing a barren fig tree so that it withered and died. Jesus was making the point that anyone who does not produce good fruit in the name of Jesus Christ (barren like was Judas Iscariot) has no place in heaven. That must be a point grasped by Christians today, who God only sees lounging in the shade of a church pew, doing little to determine the truth and produce good fruits.
When Nathaniel then told Jesus, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” he spoke as the good fruit he would become three years later, on Pentecost Sunday. He knew through the Holy Spirit that Jesus was indeed the King of the Jews, a new David, the promised Messiah. Nathaniel had indeed "seen" the truth in Jesus.
We then read that Jesus said to Nathaniel, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” That says that the roots of Nathaniel's soul were just beginning to transform his body from Jew, to disciple, to good fruit-bearing tree of life. All he had to do from then on was keep his eyes open to the truth of Jesus and God.
When this selection ends with Jesus telling Nathaniel, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man,” this verse is relative to the Epiphany season. Last Sunday was read of Jesus going to John in the Jordan, when Jesus and John had their souls opened and the divine voice of God spoke to them both, saying "You are my Son." The dove (or pigeon) lit upon them, as a symbolic fluttering in their hearts (pigeons are not graceful fliers). Now, we are continuing that theme of the Holy Spirit becoming one with a "Follower," who will become filled with the Holy Spirit - a Saint - the union of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus told Nathaniel the truth, that he too would have the same experience as he and John had in the Jordan River. On Pentecost Sunday, at the end of Jesus as a physical human being on earth, Nathaniel (some think he was also named Bartholomew) would become the Son of Man, along with eleven others who would also become the Son of Man, all the physical embodiment of Jesus the Messiah reborn.
Until a Christian has that epiphany, one has not yet "Come" and one has not yet "Seen" the truth. One is still needing to be told what to believe.
R. T. Tippett