Under the Fig Tree

It's been said, "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." On the other hand, we can also be preoccupied with the future. Whether it's economic or weather forecasts or the imaginings of science fiction, we want to know what's going to happen next.

We're locked into a time continuum of past, present, and future. The only way to be free from repeating history or preoccupation with the future is to know and trust in the One who is eternal, who holds the future in His hands.

God already knows us—He's our Creator. But do we know Him? Really know Him?

We all realize knowing about someone and knowing them personally are two different situations. Misconceptions abound when it comes to knowledge about God and God's Son Jesus. But each true believer knows their own life story and experience with Jesus.

Scripture

The next day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee. He found Philip and told him, “Follow me!” (Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter.)

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the man whom Moses wrote about in his teachings and whom the prophets wrote about. He is Jesus, son of Joseph, from the city of Nazareth.” Nathanael said to Philip, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip told him, “Come and see!” [vss 43-46]

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and remarked, “Here is a true Israelite who is sincere.” Nathanael asked Jesus, “How do you know anything about me?” Jesus answered him, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael said to Jesus, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel!”

Jesus replied, “You believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” Jesus said to Nathanael, “I can guarantee this truth: You will see the sky open and God’s angels going up and coming down to the Son of Man.” [vss 47-51]

(John 1:43-51 GW) [Context– John 1]

Key phrase—

We have found the man whom Moses wrote about in his teachings and whom the prophets wrote about

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who does Jesus call to follow Him in this short story? How is this person connected with others who follow Jesus?

  • Who does Philip speak to after Jesus calls him to follow and what does he tell this person?

  • What is Jesus' comment to Philip's friend? How does Philip's friend respond?

  • What do you think Jesus means by what He tells Nathanael will happen in the future?

Reflection...

Philip responded to the call of Jesus because he already knew about Jesus. He lived in the same area as Andrew and Peter who were already followers of this new rabbi. Awareness about Jesus, life experience, and relationships all influenced Philip to follow Jesus.

Once Philip knew Jesus personally and became one of His followers, Philip found his friend Nathanael. He told Nathanael what he knew and believed about Jesus. The conversation between these two friends includes Nathanael's skeptical question about Jesus' background.

Philip doesn't argue or try to prove what he says. Philip invites Nathanael to "come and see." This short story gives insight into how simple it is for anyone to share their faith with others. Tell people what you know about Jesus—your own life experience in relationship with Jesus and whatever you've learned about Him. Then invite them to meet Him personally.

The encounter between Nathanael and Jesus leaves Nathanael amazed. Jesus makes Himself known to Nathanael and tells him to expect much greater things. Both Philip and Nathanael had their own personal experiences and understanding of Jesus. This is true for all followers of Jesus. Those who aren't followers need to be invited by you and me to "come and see."

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • What stands out to you about how each of these persons began to follow Jesus?

  • What would it look like for you to follow Philip's example of inviting others to meet Jesus?

  • What do you know about Jesus? How did you come to this knowledge, is it true, and how do you know it's true?

  • Do you have a personal relationship with the Lord by faith? If so, who introduced you to Jesus or was an example that pointed you toward Jesus?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Jesus called His disciples to follow Him but some followed because they were invited by another follower.

Prayer Focus— Ask the Lord to show you people in your life whom you can introduce to Jesus through continued conversations, invitations to a gathering of believers, or simply by praying for them and for an opportunity to share your faith with them.

©2018—Word-Strong

Come and See

Evangelism—it tends to polarize or paralyze us. Some people are turned off by gospel preachers and those who hand out gospel tracts, while others are drawn to it.

Many people are afraid of rejection when sharing their faith with others. Others may think they don't know enough to do it well or are afraid of questions they can't answer.

Formulas, patterns, or scripted presentations aren't the answer. Relationships are the key.

The story in John's gospel of the first followers of Jesus gives some simple but effective insight for sharing our faith and introducing others to Jesus.

Scripture

The next day John was standing with two of his disciples. John saw Jesus walk by. John said, “Look! This is the Lamb of God.” When the two disciples heard John say this, they followed Jesus.

Jesus turned around and saw them following him. He asked them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which means “teacher”), “where are you staying?”

Jesus told them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went to see where he was staying and spent the rest of that day with him. It was about ten o’clock in the morning. [vss 35-39]

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two disciples who heard John and followed Jesus. Andrew at once found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”). Andrew brought Simon to Jesus.

Jesus looked at Simon and said, “You are Simon, son of John. Your name will be Cephas” (which means “Peter”). [vss 40-42]

(John 1:35-42 GW) [Context– John 1]

Key phrase—

Jesus told them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went to see where he was staying and spent the rest of that day with him

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What does John say and declare about Jesus and to whom? What is their response?

  • How does Jesus respond to these two disciples who seek to know more about Him?

  • What does Andrew do after spending the day with Jesus? Who does he go to and what does he say?

  • What does Jesus say and do when Andrew brings his brother to Jesus?

Reflection...

Relationships take time to develop and do so at their own pace. Trust is an essential element of good and fruitful relationships. I see three ways this takes place in this short story to open the door to trusting in Jesus.

The two followers of John the Baptizer trusted his guidance and wisdom—so they sought out Jesus because they trusted John's declaration of truth about Jesus. Our own journey of faith and understanding of truth can be a powerful testimony to others.

Jesus invites these two seekers to spend the day with Him when they ask where He's staying—“Come, and you will see.” Many people need to see Jesus for themselves. They can see Jesus through us when we open our lives to them.

Andrew seeks out his brother Simon (Peter) and shares his faith in Jesus. Because Simon trusts his brother, Andrew is able to bring Simon to Jesus. Jesus then speaks into Simon's life in a prophetic way, as seen through the rest of the gospel story.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Who was involved and instrumental in your coming to faith in Jesus?

  • Do you have people in your life with whom you have influence and who trust you?

  • Are you confident about your relationship with Jesus and understand the gospel in a simple way?

  • Are you willing to open your life up to others so they see your relationship with Jesus?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, but some followed because they were invited by someone else who had faith in Him.

Prayer Focus— Pray for the people in your life with whom you have influence and trust and ask the Lord to show you others who are open to trusting in Him.

©2017—Word-Strong

Look—the Lamb of God!

Each of us has various roles in life—within our family of origin and at various points in life. Some roles are temporary and some endure. John the Baptizer knew his role in life. He was the "voice in the desert" who preceded and proclaimed the coming of Israel's Messiah.

John knew and accepted that his important but limited role would end when the One whom he proclaimed arrived. But how would he know for sure who this person was?

John was given specific guidance to identify the Messiah. He would know when he saw the Holy Spirit of God come down and remain on that man.

This required discernment. It would take place as John went about his work of preaching and baptizing. This prompts John's declaration to his followers and others when he saw Jesus the next day after being questioned earlier by Jewish leaders.

Scripture

John saw Jesus coming toward him the next day and said, “Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘A man who comes after me was before me because he existed before I did.’ I didn’t know who he was. However, I came to baptize with water to show him to the people of Israel.” [vss 29-31]

John said, “I saw the Spirit come down as a dove from heaven and stay on him. I didn’t know who he was. But God, who sent me to baptize with water, had told me, ‘When you see the Spirit come down and stay on someone, you’ll know that person is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

I have seen this and have declared that this is the Son of God.” [vss 32-34]

(John 1:29-34 GW) [Context– John 1]

Key phrase—

Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • When did John see Jesus and what does he say about Him?

  • What are two ways John describes Jesus and what titles does he use to do this?

  • How is John supposed to know who Jesus is and who tells him this?

  • How are the two descriptive names connected that John uses to proclaim who Jesus is?

Reflection...

John the apostle uses many figures of speech in his writings—the gospel of John, his three epistles, and the book of Revelation.

Jesus is called—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This speaks of Jesus' redemptive death on the cross but also reaches back to the Old Testament.

When Moses led Israel out of slavery from Egypt, he established and celebrated the first Feast of Passover (Exodus 12:1-20). This feast, connected to the sacrifices made on the Day of Atonement (Lev 23:26-31), was a prophetic illustration of the Lord's death on the cross (Heb 10:1-14).

But John also makes clear the eternal nature of Jesus as the Son of God (John 1:1, 14). Each title and metaphor used for Jesus throughout John's gospel give us a more detailed understanding of who He is.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Are you familiar with the Old Testament Feast of Passover and the Day of Atonement? If not, read about them here— Exodus 12; Leviticus 23:4-8, 26-31.

  • Do you see how and why John connects Jesus as the Lamb of God to His being the Son of God? (see John 1:27, 30)

  • Are you familiar with the story of John baptizing Jesus and seeing the Holy Spirit come and remain on Him? If not, read about it here— Matthew 3:13-17.

  • Are you able to understand how Jesus is both the Lamb of God and the Son of God? If so, in what ways has this impacted your life?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Consider the humility and sacrifice of Jesus as the Lamb of God and His authority and nature as the Son of God.

Prayer Focus— As you meditate on the two truths above, ask God to help you understand these vital and important truths and why they are important for all followers of Jesus.

©2017—Word-Strong

A Voice in the Desert

What makes a person a prophet of God? Personality? Character? Their message? Those may be indicators but there's only one true requirement—a calling from God.

I know people who consider themselves prophets and people others claim are prophets. But my question is often—Is this God's calling or a title they've taken on for themselves or that's given them by others?

John the Baptizer had a unique personality, a godly and strong character, and a clear, specific message. But what made John a true prophet was God's calling. It was announced before his birth (Luke 1:11-17) and confirmed by the Lord after his prophetic ministry (Luke 7:24-28).

This part of John's gospel story reveals the genuineness of John's calling. He knew who he was, his message, and his ministry. John was the voice of God to the people of Israel. He was a voice in the desert wilderness preparing the way for the long-awaited Messiah.

Scripture

This was John’s answer when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” John didn’t refuse to answer. He told them clearly, “I’m not the Messiah.”

They asked him, “Well, are you Elijah?” John answered, “No, I’m not.” Then they asked, “Are you the prophet?” John replied, “No.”

So they asked him, “Who are you? Tell us so that we can take an answer back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

John said, “I’m a voice crying out in the desert, ‘Make the way for the Lord straight,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” [vss 19-23]

Some of those who had been sent were Pharisees. They asked John, “Why do you baptize if you’re not the Messiah or Elijah or the prophet?”

John answered them, “I baptize with water. Someone you don’t know is standing among you. He’s the one who comes after me. I am not worthy to untie his sandal strap.” This happened in Bethany on the east side of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. [vss 24-28]

(John 1:19-28 GW) [Context– John 1]

Key phrase—

I’m a voice crying out in the desert, ‘Make the way for the Lord straight’

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What does John say about himself when asked who he is? Who does he say he is not?

  • How does John describe who he is? How was this a prophecy in itself?

  • What do the Pharisees question John about? Why do you think they do this?

  • How does John answer their question and who do you think he refers to in his answer?

Reflection...

The Jewish people were expecting the Messiah to come deliver them from the Roman Empire. They expected some type of a military leader like the famous King David or one of the judges who helped govern Israel after the time of Joshua.

The Messiah was promised to come as voiced through various prophecies over many centuries. Messiah was referred to as "the prophet" (Deut 18:15, 18) and would be preceded by Elijah the prophet (Mal 4:5). Jesus told his disciples that John was the Elijah to come (Matt 17:11-13).

John knew who he was, his message, and his mission. He had a very specific purpose and role in his life—one God gave him. You may not have as specific a purpose in life but all of us have some purpose in God's Kingdom as His children.

We need to know who we are in God's kingdom regardless of our roles in life. We have one message to proclaim—the gospel of the Kingdom of God. All believers have one mission—to share this message of God's redemption with others throughout the world (Luke 24:45-49).

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Why do you think the Jewish leaders challenged John after questioning him?

  • Do you think John fulfilled this prophecy given by Isaiah? If so, in what way?

  • If John refers to Jesus coming after him, why do you think he didn't think himself worthy to untie his sandals?

  • What did you learn from this story of John that relates to your life and relationship with the Lord?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Do you understand who you are and what your purpose is in God's kingdom?

Prayer Focus— If you're not sure about your purpose in God's kingdom, ask Him to make it known to you. If you are sure, ask God's help to fulfill this purpose in your daily life.

©2017—Word-Strong

When God Became Human

Generally, we all tend to not believe in what we can't see. Of course, this carries over to believing in God and the miraculous. Many will say it's not logical or rational to do so. And yet, we believe many things exist that are invisible to the naked eye and miraculous in nature—thoughts, atoms, and even feelings of love.

The reason it's not logical to believe in God is that it doesn't fit what we know in the natural world. This is our human dilemma. God is supernatural—He's above and beyond the natural realm. He will never fit within our limited logic. God's existence exceeds our capacity to know Him in a purely natural way.

The first eighteen verses of the gospel of John are key to understanding the entire gospel. John 1:14-18 make it clear that Jesus of Nazareth was as human as we are, yet also God in nature. He was the unique and only true Son of God—having the very nature of His Father.

God—who is eternal and invisible—made Himself known. He revealed Himself to us in human form. God became just like us so we could see, hear, and touch Him (1 John 1:1-3). Jesus had a human body, soul, and will but was still divine in nature. Jesus is the very origin of life and He shared in the very creation He spoke into existence (Gen 1:3; John 1:1-3).

Scripture

The Word became human and lived among us. We saw his glory. It was the glory that the Father shares with his only Son, a glory full of kindness [grace] and truth.

(John declared the truth about him when he said loudly, “This is the person about whom I said, ‘The one who comes after me was before me because he existed before I did.’ ”) [vss 14-15]

Each of us has received one gift after another because of all that the Word is. Laws were given through Moses, but kindness [grace] and truth came into existence through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the one who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known. [vss 16-18]

(John 1:14-18 GW) [Context– John 1]

Key phrase—

The Word became human and lived among us

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What primary and important truth is declared that is directly connected to earlier verses?

  • What is the "glory" that was revealed by Jesus? How is it described?

  • How does John the Baptizer's testimony reinforce what is said about Jesus as the Word?

  • How is what Jesus makes known different than what Moses brought and why would it need to be replaced?

Reflection...

Religion and philosophy often take what is spiritual and supernatural and make them abstract, theoretical, and difficult to understand. The apostle John wanted to do the opposite with his gospel. His language is simple and often visual.

When John speaks of the Lord's glory—the outward expression of God's inner nature—he spoke of it as grace and truth. He humanized God's nature for us. He wanted us to realize the fullness of God's revelation of Himself in human form as Jesus, the Son of God.

God became human and lived among people, how amazing is that! God broke into our human existence. But have we let Him enter and fill our everyday life?

A simple way to know if we've allowed the life God promises to dwell and shine through us is how we live and relate to others and the self-talk we hear in our head. Is it based on a set of moral and religious laws that require compliance? Or does God's kindness and truth set us free and shine through us?

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you understand how "the Word" is a figurative title for Jesus, the Son of God?

  • How is God's only Son made known? What did both John the apostle and John the baptizer see?

  • How is the relationship between God the Father and God the Son important to the revelation of who God is?

  • Have you personally experienced God's grace and truth in your life? If so, in what way?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— God revealed Himself to all humanity by becoming human like us, so we could be certain of His existence and love.

Prayer Focus— As you meditate on the truth above, ask God's help to fully receive and understand it and for God's grace and truth to shine through you to others.

©2017—Word-Strong