If you’ve ever tried to see through a dirty windshield, you probably appreciate washer fluid and working wipers. Mud or even mist can make a trip dangerous. You’ve got to keep your heart clear, too—if you’re not sure how, consider the example of John the Baptist and those who first recognized Jesus as Messiah. The only way to maintain clear vision is to stay in the Scriptures, talk to God, and listen to wisdom.
The Israelites have been waiting for the Messiah for hundreds of years. Jesus is appointing His 12 apostles and will soon begin His public ministry.
Many people observed Jesus when He walked the earth, but few truly saw Him.
Forms of look, see, or behold occur 18 times in 22 verses—John 1:29-51 is clearly about vision, but perhaps not the ordinary kind. After being asked to “come and see” the prophesied One, Nathanael declares Jesus to be the Son of God and King of Israel (John 1:46; John 1:49). How would you describe this kind of vision? Of all the people who see Jesus as Messiah in this passage, whose experience is most similar to your own recognition of Him?
Evangelizing is often less difficult than we fear, since it’s God who opens people’s eyes, and Christ’s glory and beauty speak for themselves. If we truly see Jesus for who He is, we’ll almost certainly fall in love, for He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). What are some ways you, like Philip, might simply invite others to “come and see” the King?
The only way to maintain clear vision is to stay in the Scriptures, talk to God, and listen to wisdom.
CONTINUING THE STORY
Despite his initial bias, Nathanael has a heart pure enough to recognize Jesus for who He is.
Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The word pure means clean or unstained, like Jesus’ linen burial cloth or gold from which all imperfections are removed. How, then, would you describe a pure heart? The John 1 passage tells of numerous people who saw God in the form of Jesus. What is the significance of verse 47 (“an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit”) in explaining why Nathanael was among them?
Jesus says that He saw Nathanael under the fig tree (John 1:48), which some scholars believe was an idiom for studying Scripture. What does this tell you about the relationship between reading the Bible and cleansing your heart? About how God enjoys us as we enjoy Him?
John the Baptist didn’t recognize Jesus on his own; God the Father gave him a sign that revealed the Messiah (John 1:33-34). When we’re listening to God, we see things that might otherwise escape us. Are you surprised by John’s confession? Can you describe a time something similar happened to you?
When two of John’s disciples hear him testifying about the Savior, they follow Jesus (John 1:35-37). Many scriptural accounts show that listening to godly people can help us hear from the Lord, whereas ignoring their counsel could result in missed blessings. But in order to act on John’s words, what inner hesitations might those two disciples have had to overcome? Is there something challenging you’ve heard through God’s servants recently that might bring blessing?
If we truly see Jesus for who He is, we’ll almost certainly fall in love, for He is “full of grace and truth.”
Seeing God is a blessing for the pure-hearted.
Though Jesus hasn’t physically been visible here on earth for 2,000 years, He is still seen today by those who have a clean heart. As His followers, we may see God in the form of His truths revealed in the world, the people standing before us who carry His Spirit, or some other way. In every case, the privilege is a divine and holy experience.
Consider how this study applies to your life.
At first glance, the idea of growth might seem unrelated to John 1—we hear nothing of prior weakness in the life of John the Baptist or Nathanael. But then Jesus refers to a man who, despite struggling with flaws, eventually became father of the Jewish tribes. The Lord’s promise that the disciples will see “angels ... ascending and descending on the Son of Man” refers to Jacob’s dream of a ladder from heaven to earth with angels going up and down on it (Gen. 28:10-17). As the Messiah, Jesus will become that ladder, and some will see it for themselves.
Though Jesus hasn’t physically been visible here on earth for 2,000 years, He is still seen today by those who have a clean heart.
Jacob didn’t start out with a pure heart. True to his name (“deceiver”), he’d just cheated Esau out of their father’s blessing. But in his dream, Jacob “saw” God, who made him great promises. Have you even been surprised to see God’s favor rest on someone who seemed unworthy? On you?
While he wasn’t an entirely honest man, Jacob knew he’d seen God. He honored the Lord and vowed to serve Him (Gen. 28:16-22). Has there ever been a moment in your life when you did the same? Would you like to do so now?
Years later, Jacob’s name change reflected the spiritual growth evident after he saw God (Gen. 32:28). What observations can you make about a change in Nathanael (John 1:46, 49)?
Purity of heart is obtained by degrees as we resist old patterns and grow in Christlikeness. But a sincere desire to “see the King” may be all it takes to know Jesus as the link between heaven and earth, just as He promised.
Illustration by Adam Cruft