If you think we’ve already discussed Jesus’ command, “Follow Me,” you’re right. The first two times I read through the New Testament looking for all the places where Jesus gave people unequivocal imperatives, I counted over 400, so it was tempting to discuss the command to follow him only once. However, each instance has unique circumstances, and Jesus calls men to follow him more times than he urges people to do almost anything else, so I think each account deserves attention. The eighth time we read of Jesus commanding someone to do something, it is when he interacts with Philip, and the story is found only in John’s Gospel (which I’ve listed at the bottom of this post if you’d like to read it now). In this instance, Philip immediately responds by sharing what he thinks he knows with Nathanael. He identifies (correctly) that Jesus is the prophet about whom Moses wrote (see Deuteronomy 18:15: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken”).
Further, Philip (incorrectly) states that Jesus is from “Nazareth” and “the son of Joseph.” The first descriptor is partially true; the second is false! Jesus was originally from Bethlehem (although he was living in Nazareth when Nathanael met him), but he was not the son of Joseph. Jesus was conceived by the Virgin Mary overshadowed by God’s Holy Spirit in a once-in-the-universe miracle to produce a sinless offspring who was fully human and fully divine (Matthew 1:20). The Gospel of Luke explains that he was born into the family of Joseph but was not truly his son: “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli” (Luke 3:23). Because of my own experiences as a new believer, I am charmed by this account, because Philip was so enthusiastic but clearly not well taught as yet! However, that didn’t stop him from instinctively becoming a “fisher of men!”Nathanael, who was a devout and clearly well educated Israelite, questioned Philip’s accuracy based on his knowledge that the ruler of the Jews was to come from Bethlehem, not Nazareth: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Philip didn’t know all the answers, but he had discovered the One who is the answer, so he urged Nathanael to come and see for himself!
Nathanael came, and in two simple sentences Jesus proved his omniscience. Jesus acknowledged Nathanael as without guile (deceit), which is an introductory volley no mortal could honestly lob over the net on first meeting (but was obviously true, because Nathanael knew in his heart that Jesus was correct), and then Jesus divulged that he had actually been able to see Nathanael when he was out of eye sight, under a fig tree, before Philip had ever gone to get him! So, Jesus knew Nathanael “inside” and “outside.” If he wasn’t The Prophet, he was definitely a prophet of God, and he had Nathanael’s attention!The unique beauty of this story is that what Philip did was blessed by God, even though he didn’t yet have all his facts straight! Philip became one of the twelve Apostles and was with Jesus throughout his ministry, even sharing The Last Supper with him. He was able to lead Nathanael to Jesus—not because Philip knew all the answers, but because he urged Nathanael to come and see for himself, and Nathanael also became a follower. (We know this because he was with the disciples at the end of John’s Gospel.) Furthermore, Nathanael was the first to acknowledge Jesus for who he really was: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49).
Dearly beloved, if Jesus is your Savior and Lord, you don’t have to wait a minute to share him with others! Tell them as much as you know, but realize that what you say may be true, only half true, or even (unintentionally) false, like what Philip told Nathanael! The important thing is to get your friends to come and see for themselves! Bring them to Jesus; put a Bible in their hands; invite them to church. Urge them to pray to Jesus. Jesus can draw them to himself. All we have to do is testify to what little we know (or think we know)! As Jesus taught: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).
“The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:43-51).