Posted in apostles, encouragement, jesus, nathanael, philip

Nathanael was looking for something good

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 anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45-46a)

This verse is from chapter 1 of the Gospel of John. The context is that Jesus has begun calling His disciples, who would become the Apostles a year and a half later. In the previous verses, He had called Andrew and his brother Simon (who shall be called Peter). Now, Philip who was from Bethsaida, went to Cana where Nathanael was from, to tell him the news.

Source

Nathanael’s skepticism rested on the fact of Jesus’ origins, which were from Nazareth, a backwater. So Nathanael’s skepticism revolved around the location, not the Person. Though we often focus on the part of the verse that says “from Nazareth?!” let’s focus on the part before that. Note Nathanael said, “can anything GOOD…” This shows that Nathanael knew of the Messiah and was looking for Him. He knew His appearance would be GOOD. Nathanael believed.

Nathanael had a seeking heart because he truly studied the scriptures. As verse 45 shows, Philip and Nathanael studied the Law, Moses and the Prophets. As for Nathanael’s character, in verse 47 when Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, Jesus said there was no deceit in Nathanael and that he was a true Israelite.

Nathanael was a simple man, indeed from a not much bigger backwater than Nazareth (Cana), in a backwater district, in a time of apostasy. Not many people around him believed the truth. The Samaritans believed a blended religion, the Pharisees believed a works religion, the Sadducees didn’t believe in supernatural resurrection or angels and were against the Pharisees who did, and most regular people were either unknowing, hypocrites, or apathetic. As a matter of fact, Luke 4:33-34 records Jesus at Capernaum teaching at the synagogue. A demon-possessed man in the synagogue cried out when Jesus taught, because of His authority in His proclamation of the truth of God. Jesus cast him out, His first exorcism. Can you imagine a synagogue so devoid of truth that before Jesus’ arrival, the demon inside the man felt so secure he had never cried out before? Demons should never feel comfortable in church!

It was a time of apostasy, God hadn’t spoken in 400 years. He had sent no prophet (until John the Baptist). God had done no miracles. He had been silent.

Synagogues in the small towns had limped along, (with demons in them) the Temple in Jerusalem grew bloated with wares, graft, and hypocrisy thanks to the religious hierarchy.

And yet, among all this, there was faithful Simeon, and Anna, there was Zacharias and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, John the Baptist, and the men who would become the Apostles. And there was Nathanael, who was looking for something GOOD (just had a hard time believing it would come from Nazareth, lol).

In this current time of apostasy (when wasn’t the world apostasizing?!) we look at our leaders and sometimes we are greatly disappointed. Just as those regular people of Nathanael’s time were looking at the hypocritical Pharisees, the corrupt Annas or Caiaphas, the arrogant and zealous Saul (later, Paul), the ordinary people must have felt let down by those who were in charge of leading them in the truth just as we are let down by many of our leaders today. There has always been a shepherd problem.

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1)

Jesus and Nathanael
WEIGEL, Johann Christoph 1695, Woodcut. Source

Yet there were simple people in small towns, laboring diligently during the week and on Sabbaths, attending synagogue to learn about the promised Messiah. Who was the first person Philip went to tell the good news that Messiah had been found, the priest in their local synagogue? No! Philip went immediately to tell his friend, Nathanael. These first century men and women persevered, they believed with a child-like faith, simple and in which there was no deceit. There were no layers of corruption to the faith that Nathanael evidenced, no arrogance. With seeking heart he and his friend Philip must have gone to hear John the Baptist, and when Jesus arrived, and said ‘Follow Me’ they did.

And we should do the same. We labor during the week, we worship on Sunday, we follow Jesus as He commanded. His word is in the Bible now, not spoken to us on a hillside at Bethsaida, but we believe. No matter what our leaders do, we trust the promises in His word just as Nathanael and Philip did in that long-ago apostate time. We follow, seek, trust. Nathanael was looking for something GOOD, and He came. We should also have seeking hearts.  Are you looking for He who was written of in Moses and the Prophets? Like Nathanael during a time of low worship and little truth, we are also looking forward to something GOOD. He will come again

in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality…(1 Corinthians 15:52-53)

Posted in discern, holy spirit, jesus, mind, philip, study, understanding

Do you understand what you are reading?

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot. So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” (Acts 8:26-31)

Above, The Monteleone Chariot is an Etruscan chariot dated to ca. 530 BC. It was originally uncovered at Monteleone di Spoleto and is currently part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Though about 300 ancient chariots are known to still exist, only six are reasonably complete, and the Monteleone chariot is the best-preserved. Wikimedia Commons

The above is a tremendous passage, full of meaning and worthy of lengthy study. I’ll mention a few things that caught my eye, but the central lesson at this moment, is this:

The mind versus the heart. Then versus now.

Philip was going along and heard a word from the Spirit. Philip obeyed Him. We have the closed canon now but we obey the Spirit-inspired word.

Here was a eunuch reading the text of the word of God. (Isaiah 53). Philip saw him and was directed to the eunuch by the Spirit. Philip obeyed, more than that, Philip ran. Today we don’t obey, or if we do, we don’t hasten to do so.

When Philip arrived at the chariot, he heard the eunuch reading Isaiah. Philip recognized:
–it was the word of God the eunuch was reading, and
–where within the word of God the eunuch was reading from.

Today, biblical illiteracy abounds so that some people don’t even recognize the word of God when it is spoken, or believe that non-words of God are from Him when they’re not.

Philip asked the Eunuch if he understood what he was reading. This is the key thought in this essay today.

“Do you understand what you are reading?”

Manet, The Reader, 1851.

In today’s world, people don’t ask that. They ask, “How did you feel about what you read?” Or, “How did it make you feel?” It’s considered rude and intolerant to ask a person if they understand. The word for understand in the context used is from Strong’s word concordance, “I am taking in knowledge, come to know, learn; aor: I ascertained, realized.”

People get huffy if they’re asked if they understand. You can just see the reaction, either verbal or mental- “What do you mean, understand? I’m not an idiot. Maybe YOU don’t understand!”

In addition, look at the Eunuch’s reaction. Philip didn’t know the Eunuch. He didn’t work for several years to establish a relationship with the Eunuch before talking of Godly things. He didn’t seek to meet the Eunuch’s felt needs. He didn’t make the Eunuch comfortable. He didn’t give him a donut. He simply asked him if he understood it. The Eunuch’s reaction wasn’t huffy or prideful. The Eunuch responded humbly,

“How can I, unless someone guides me?”

Today’s Christianity is all about experience and feelings. This is thanks to Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, and Joel Osteen, among others in the purpose-driven, seeker sensitive, word/faith movements. Osteen in particular is known for what Osteen calls a ministry of encouragement, but unlike Barnabas’ ministry of encouragement in persevering the Lord through the scriptures, Osteen is simply in the pop psychology biz in making people feel good about themselves through the heart. Osteen doesn’t make people even feel good about Jesus, he strives to make people feel good about themselves, turning their mind away from Him and focusing their feelings on themselves.

The Eunuch provides a good example of a man humbly submitting to the Spirit. He admitted his biblical inexperience and his need for a teacher. He acted on his need by inviting Philip up to the chariot.

Understanding the scriptures always leads to a positive action, either obedience, or salvation, or witnessing (Woman at the Well) or ministry. In this case, we see that the Eunuch was baptized immediately.

Lambert Sustris (1515–1591) The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch
by the Deacon Philip

The bible is replete with verses that tell us to learn with our mind. Our minds are being renewed, (Romans 12:2.) Difficulties in understanding parables such as in Matthew 13:11-13, and symbols, such as in Revelation 17:9, call for a mind with wisdom, says the verse. We need to understand with our mind, before we decide how we feel about it with our heart. And even at that juncture, feelings are often murky and misleading. Yet so many of today’s bible studies involve circumventing the mind and going straight to feelings, based on experience. And you see where that has gotten us.

The next time you’re in a bible study group, ask the question that Philip did, “Do you understand what you are reading?” If you don’t want to go that far, then ask “Do I understand what I am reading?” That’s a good question to ask anyway. Don’t let the discussion revolve around feelings launched by questions such as “How do you feel about that?” with responses given through personal experiences, therefore coming to a conclusion that is what the verse means.(I.E., ‘I experienced it, therefore it is true.’)

Luke 24:45 says that when Jesus appeared to His disciples post-crucifixion, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”. He called the men of Emmaus foolish and slow of heart for not understanding.

How you feel about what you read is of no real consequence. Feelings are temporal, ephemeral, and often faulty. Why, even God allows the wicked to rest in a feeling of security. (Job 24:23). The security they feel is unprofitable for them because it is a false feeling. Don’t trust feelings about scripture, but seek to know, to understand, to comprehend. Feelings aren’t bad, but we learn the word of God through our mind. It is study which renews your mind. After that, you gain more and more clarity.

We all have the same guide that the Eunuch had, and in fact that Philip had: the Holy Spirit. He guides us into all truth. (John 16:13). We must study personally and also study under a guide or a teacher or a pastor so the scriptures will become understandable to us. Do you understand what you are reading? Ask the Spirit to deliver wisdom to you, He will do so without reproach. (James 1:5).

Posted in jesus, philip, rapture

Philip whisked away from the Eunuch

I’m reading through the book of Acts. What an incredible first few years our forefathers in the faith had! What an amazing ministry of the Holy Spirit! I’m so humbled by the mighty acts, the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and purity, and the consistency with which they always proclaimed Christ crucified as the Good News to all the world. What a foundation we have in Him!

Of course, I have rapture on my mind every second, lol. I’m reading about Philip, the first missionary and evangelist. He was raptured. Not snatched up to heaven, but snatched away to another city by supernatural means. In the verse below, we see him in the city of Samaria.

“Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.” (Acts 8:4-8)

A few verses later, we read,

“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.” (Acts 8:26).

Gaza was far. I haven’t been able to get miles or kilometer directions specifically. In using the scale, it seems to be about 60 miles as an estimate. A long walk. While at Gaza, Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip began to preach the Good News to him–

“And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.” (Acts 8: 36-40). Above, Alexandre-Denis Abel de Pujol: “Philip baptising the Eunuch of the Queen of Ethiopia on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza,” 1848

I love how the Spirit phrased that, “Philip found himself…”

Can you imagine Philip’s surprise? Here he is talking with the Eunuch, dipped him in the water, and as they arise before the drops were off them both, Philip vanished! And I am sure it was the blink of an eye and he found himself in a totally different city! Azotus, I believe, is today’s Ashdod, about 20 miles north of Gaza.

Were his clothes still wet? Did he say, “Hey! What happened? Where am I?” Was he deposited along the side of the road and had to ask a passerby, maybe a guy with his goats or his burro, “Excuse me sir, can you tell me where I am?” LOL, how disorienting.

Remember all these bible guys were real men and women. The ‘greats’ like Abraham and Moses, to the barely mentioned like the Eunuch, had supernatural things happen. How difficult it must have been to process it all.

People tend to think that in the New Testament times that supernatural things happened constantly. They didn’t. Not even in the Old Testament times did supernatural things happen constantly. Until Jesus came, no miracle, sign, or supernatural event had occurred for at least 400 years. Many, many generations. Even John the Baptist, as fierce as he was, never did a miracle. When Jesus began his miracles people were astonished partly because His miracles were such standout events. No one had seen the likes of it ever before. The learned few had only read about them in the ancient scrolls.

So Philip is suddenly whisked away to a new city. Was he thinking, “Gee, if the Spirit could whisk me 20 miles from Gaza to Ashdod, why did I have to walk the 120 from Samaria to Gaza in the first place?’ I don’t mean to be flip about it, but I am always remembering these were regular guys, so they thought regular thoughts. Left, Philip taken away, Johann Christoph Weigel, 1695

Did the person Philip asked where he was think Philip was a nut? Did Philip even ask? Maybe he recognized the place. What did he do then? The bible says he went on his way to Caesarea, preaching all the way. MacArthur’s commentary says Caesarea is probably where Philip lived. It is 60 miles from Ashdod.

In just a very few verses the Spirit reveals:

–supernatural powers to work God’s plan at will
–rejoicing in receiving the Good News
–obedience from both the Eunuch and Philip to the Spirit’s prompting
–the joy of reading the word and the necessity for teachers to explain it
–an angel
–another soul whom we will meet in heaven: the Eunuch. We will finally learn his name.
–God’s mercy in convicting those who love Him to receive His Spirit unto salvation
–the importance of prompt obedience in evangelism and missions

I’m sure you can find much more than I can  in those verses too. His treasures are inexhaustible.

When we are raptured I know we will not have any questions. He will call for us with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and suddenly our minds will be glorified and we will know exactly where we are going and where we are, and why. We will be part of that group whisked away to heaven because of our repentance we stand on the holy and blood soaked ground of Jesus that He shed to be the atoning propitiation for our sins. He is the only reason we will be part of that group.

Jesus saves! Read the bible, it is worth looking at every jot and tittle. Have a blessed day in the Lord, and if you’re not in the Lord, why not? It’s great!