Wednesday after the First Sunday after Epiphany
Scripture: St. John 1:43-51 (NKJV)
43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 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.”
46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”
48 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.”
49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
As Nathaniel approaches, Jesus exclaims, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Jesus isn’t buttering up Nathaniel. He has no need for that. With these words Jesus teaches that “they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6). Being a biological descendant of Abraham does not make one a true Israelite. John the Baptist reminds us that “God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matt. 3:9). What makes one a true Israelite is not blood, but faith. Nathaniel is a true Israelite, for in Him there “is no deceit.”
What does it mean that there is no deceit in Nathaniel? It does not mean that Nathaniel has never spoken deceptively or sinned. It means that Nathaniel repents of his sins and confesses them to God. He does not cover his sins by ignoring them, nor does he rely upon his lineage as a blood descendant of Abraham. It is as David writes in Psalm 32:2, “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Nathaniel confesses his sin to God, and God does not impute that sin to Nathaniel. He is a true Israelite in that He looks to the Messiah for the forgiveness of sins.
Many today claim the Jews are God’s people because of God’s promises to Abraham. But Christ was the fulfillment of all God’s promises to Abraham. God’s Israel cannot exist apart from faith in Christ, for even in the Old Testament true Israelites confessed their sins and looked forward to the coming Messiah promised to Abraham.
Heavenly Father, who only has sons and daughters through faith in Christ, keep us in this faith, we pray, and defend us from all false and pernicious doctrine. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.