The Skeptic Within Us

The Skeptic Within Us

Home Church Service 2/19/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

                                                                                  John 1:43–51 (NASB95)

Jesus enters Galilee and finds Philip, inviting him to, “Follow Me.” Philip finds Nathanael who is skeptical that anything good can come from Nazareth. Nathanael moves from doubt to belief when Jesus says He saw him under the fig tree, promising him he would see greater things to yet to come.

At some point we have all heard the call to, “Follow Me.” Jesus then revealed to us our sinful ways as He moved us from doubt to belief, while showing us He is the Son of God. However, The Skeptic Within Us is telling us, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” yet Jesus continues to tell us we will see greater things yet to come.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “How do we satisfy The Skeptic Within Us?”

The Skeptic Within Us seeks proof positive that what seems to be too good to be true, really is true!

1). As Christ followers, to satisfy The Skeptic Within Us we must first come and see. The Skeptic Within Us must come, see and engage Jesus to be moved from doubt to belief.

Scripture clearly teaches that salvation is entirely, and only, of God. There are no other “players” in our salvation story. Our path to salvation does not begin with us seeking God, but rather, it begins with God seeking us. We see this with the experience of Philip. With a straightforward reading of the Scriptures, it appears as if Jesus specifically wanted to go to Galilee to find Philip. “He purposed to go into Galilee…” and “He found Philip.” The term “He” is used twice and both times it is capitalized, indicating they refer to Jesus.

We all know that Jesus will go to any length to find someone, and that appears to be the case with Philip. There is no doubt Jesus could, would and does go to any length to save those the Father has drawn to Him, but let’s back up a couple of verses and see if there just might be something else at play here. Verse 40 tells us that one of the disciples that heard John speak was Andrew. Verse 42 tells us that Andrew “…found FIRST his own brother Simon…” Simon is the first-person Andrew found. Why then would John the author use the term “first” if there were not going to be a “second” or a “next.” Could it be that Andrew purposed to go to Galilee and it was Andrew who knew Philip? Verse 44 says that Philip is from the same town as Andrew and Peter.

Did Andrew know Philip and want to go looking for him because he knew Philip was also looking for the coming Messiah? All three are from Bethsaida which means “House of Fishers,” or “Fishertown.” Could it be that Andrew and Peter knew Philip because they were all fishermen? Perhaps Andrew is so convinced that Jesus is the Messiah that he simply had to tell those he knew best and was closest to about Jesus. Of course, there is no concrete evidence to support this, but it does give us something to think about.

For our purposes we will continue on the premise that it is Jesus simply fulfilling His mission to seek and save the lost. All we have of the conversation with Philip is two words, “Follow Me.” Two simple words but we must notice the note of authority in the command, “Follow Me.” If this conversation, the command to “Follow Me,” is Jesus fulfilling His mission, it fits with the way Jesus is portrayed as the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture throughout this gospel. Jesus is seen as the Prophet Moses spoke of in Deuteronomy 18:15-19; He is the Lord’s anointed; Jesus is foretold of by the prophets; He came to establish worldwide righteousness; He came to establish peace and the knowledge and fear of God.

When was the last time the Lord did something so unexpected and so exciting, you just wanted to shout it at the top of your lungs? The way the number of Christ followers, increases is the same today as it was back then – one finds another and shares the good news. Whether it is something so exciting you can barely contain yourself or if it is a small, insignificant nothing, we must be willing to share the good news. You see, it is each individual person’s responsibility to respond promptly when the opportunity presents itself and they sense Christ is seeking them.

What if you are the one who is to present someone the opportunity to respond to Christ? What if they never get the opportunity to respond? That is highly unlikely, but what if? As Christ followers, we must be willing to go wherever we are needed – we must go any distance – no matter the condition or the attitude of the people we are called to serve. As Christ followers, our responsibility is to family, extended family, friends, coworkers and then the lost of the world. At times, it may seem like an overwhelming task, but you cannot save everyone, or even anyone. Your responsibility is to be obedient to the leading of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. In your obedience, Christ will supply all you need for each individual circumstance and thus, you become a participant in the Great Commission.  

Questions for discussion/reflection:

To what lengths has Jesus gone to bring you to salvation?

What area of your life is the skeptic within you keeping you from following Jesus?

In what ways has the skeptic within you convinced you not to share Jesus?

Who has the Spirit been “nudging” you to invite to “Come and see?”

The Skeptic Within Us must come, see and engage Jesus to be moved from doubt to belief.

2). As Christ followers, we satisfy The Skeptic Within Us by engaging and believing in Jesus.

We engage Jesus by asking questions and believe by learning the depth of who Jesus truly is.

The way this passage is laid out, you would have to wonder if the first five disciples didn’t already know one another. It is assumed the other disciple to leave the Baptist and follow Jesus with Andrew was John, the author of this gospel. So, obviously John and Andrew knew each other. Andrew then goes and finds his brother – whom he obviously knew. Next comes Philip, who lives in the same town as Andrew and Peter – so perhaps they knew one another as well. And now we come to Philip finding Nathanael. It appears Philip knows Nathanael by the way he tells him about Jesus – “We found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote about.”

Again, there is no concrete evidence for this, but it is interesting to think about how quickly and easily word spread about Jesus. Perhaps these first five men were likeminded individuals and had met at a synagogue for worship and stayed in contact afterwards. Whatever the situation might have been, we see a willingness to go where Jesus goes and to follow His example to invite others to “Come and see.” Which brings us to the reaction of Nathanael when he first hears about Jesus. What we see from Nathanael is someone who is not only skeptical but someone who knows hopelessness and despair. Nathanael seems to have some prejudice, or at least, strong feelings about Nazareth. The despair in Nathanael is seen as he rejects Philip’s testimony in a way that reveals his skeptical, reactionary spirit. We see hopelessness in the question he asked of Philip – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Why this prejudice against Nazareth? Why such a sense of hopelessness at a time when anticipation for the Messiah is so high? It appears as though Nathanael is a crowd follower, as seen in the slur used against Jesus and Nazareth. According to archeological evidence, Nazareth appeared to be a small village of no more than 200 residents. Some evidence shows there was a Roman outpost in the village. But the bigger issue, by far, is that Nazareth was viewed as a Judean affiliate in Galilee by those who did not embrace Jerusalem or the current leadership of Jerusalem.

So, we can, to a certain extent, understand the skeptical answer given by Nathanael. Whatever the case may be, the confrontation between Jesus and Nathanael is dramatic! Jesus greets Nathanael as “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” The word deceit here can also be translated as guile. The statement from Jesus immediately grabs the attention of Nathanael – “How do you know me?” Nathanael has accepted the invitation from Philip to “Come and see” and now Nathanael is engaged with Jesus in a conversation that will change his life.

Let’s take a deeper look at this statement by Jesus – “An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” “An Israelite indeed” is everything an Israelite is supposed to be – one who believed the promises of God, who believed and followed the standard God set for Israel and one who was looking for the coming Messiah. “In whom there is no deceit” meaning without guile, points to the fact that Nathanael did not manipulate or deceive people; he did not hide what he thought; he was straightforward, open, and honest; he was not hypocritical, and he said and acted as he thought. The reply to Philip was a fully honest reply – a bit prejudiced but honest, nonetheless.

Jesus doesn’t stop there, however, His next statement rocks Nathanael to his core and changes his life forever. “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” We need to unpack this because there is so much here that we can learn as Christ followers. When Jesus called Nathanael “an Israelite indeed” those words could be paraphrased as “one who is all Israel and no Jacob.” This passage is ripe with echoes from the Old Testament and here, from Genesis in particular. And there is also some word play going on here as well!

The name Jacob is associated with deceit. This goes back to when he used deceit to take his brothers blessing. As “an Israelite indeed,” Nathanael is different from the father of the Israelites. When Jesus told Nathanael He saw him “under the fig tree,” Nathanael’s doubt vanished instantly because of the intimate nature of what Jesus shared with him. Jesus has to be the One to which the Scriptures point! Nathanael’s experience under the fig tree had some significance for him and Nathanael proclaims Jesus to be the Son of God and the King of Israel – both Messianic in nature.

The fig tree is important for Israel, and I will only point out a few here. If you are sitting under your own fig tree it is a sign of prosperity and Jewish scholars studied the Law under the fig tree. The fig tree is also mentioned several times in the New Testament, but we are not going to dig into those today. Jesus doesn’t stop with the fig tree either, He goes on to mention Jacob’s experience at Bethel. This is where Jacob has his vision, what we know as Jacob’s Ladder. Bethel is the place where Jacob encounters God – where God reveals His plans for Jacob. This vision – Jacob’s Ladder – is also what changes his character, and a new name is given to reflect that change – Jacob is given the name Israel.

Nathanael also knows that all true members of Israel would receive a vision experience such as was granted Jacob. In alluding to Jacob’s experience at Bethel, a place where Jacob encounters God, Jesus is implying that the place where people encounter God, is now His Son, Jesus. God is now revealing truth through His Son, for Jesus is now the mediator between God and man. So, in the last portion of this passage we have echoes from Genesis 27, 28 and 32. The word play we encounter is found in the names Jacob and Israel. Jacob was associated with deceit but after his encounter with God there was no Jacob, only Israel. This was a dramatic encounter for Nathanael, one that changed his life, for Jesus responds to our faith, no matter how small that faith might be.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

What intimate details about you has Jesus shown you that made your doubt vanish instantly?

Can you identify with Nathanael, in some way, in this passage? If so, how?

What has been your Bethel moment with God?

Do you still harbor some prejudice that keeps you from fully following Jesus?

How have the “voices of the world” led you to hopelessness and/or despair?

The Skeptic Within Us must come, see and engage Jesus to be moved from doubt to belief.

We all have this skeptic within us. Doubt creeps in and the questions begin to rise? Can I fully trust Jesus? Can His promises really be for me? Can Jesus really do everything He has promised? How can Jesus really know how I feel? To satisfy the skeptic within us we need to remember from where we have come and the lengths that Jesus has gone too to bring us to salvation. Life is hard, it is not fair. The battles we have faced, many times, have been stacked against us. And yet, here we are, still standing, still fighting, still breathing, still laughing, loving and crying. The one constant through it all has been Jesus.

Our experience, like Nathanael, began with someone who cared for us. Now, as Christ followers, we must be willing to do the same. Think about what Philip would have missed if he hadn’t shared Jesus. Think about what Nathanael would have missed if Philip hadn’t shared Jesus with him. Think about those people in your life, what might they miss of you don’t share Jesus. Remember, this is not easy, but we were never promised it would be easy. But there are many ways to share Jesus other than with words.

People will object and bring up any number of arguments or any number of topics to deflect or change the subject – our task is to keep the focus on Christ. Prejudice is dangerous, it disregards the wrong within ourselves; it overlooks our own wrongdoings, shortcomings, weaknesses and error – in short, it disregards SIN! Remember, no matter the sin, condition or the attitude we must still invite people to “Come and see.”

Jesus will respond to our faith – even the smallest amount. He will go to any length, even to the dirtiest, most vile of sinners, to bring someone to salvation. As the Son of Man, Jesus is what every person – what every Christ follower – ought to be. He is the perfect pattern, the perfect model, and the perfect example for the Christ follower. He is the standard for concern, caring and serving other people.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

Next week: John 2:1-11

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