13. Make a Choice

 Constantly throughout life, we are called upon to make a choice.

At times we get it right, but other times we make a wrong choice and have to suffer the consequences.

Can you think of a specific occasion when you made a wrong choice with dire consequences?

Image by Tumisu, from pixabay


Making a wrong choice can have far-reaching consequences.

  • An unwise choice of friendship could result in being led into unlawful activities.
  • Entering a business partnership with someone who is inclined to be involved in underhand business deals could land you in hot water.
  • Marriage to the wrong person could result in a very unhealthy, unhappy relationship.
  • A wrong career or job choice could cause dissatisfaction, frustration, or missing out on developing your God-given gifts.

Man’s inclination to make wrong choices has its roots right back in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve made a wrong choice when they decided to go with Satan’s advice and not observe God’s words of warning. As a consequence, sin was introduced into God’s perfect world. And as a result, the first couple were banished from the beautiful garden of Eden.

In our reading, we are introduced to a man who made a wrong choice. Read in your Bible, or follow along with this link.

Matthew 19: 16-26


In this series of messages, we have been looking at people who had an encounter with Jesus which proved to be a life changer for them.

So far we have looked at:

In this session, we meet another unnamed man who made contact with the Messiah. In modern terms, one might call him John Doe.

What do we know about this man?


This man had a very similar question to that raised by the lawyer. (Luke 10:25) “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?”  (Matthew 19:16b CEV)

Unlike the Sadducees who did not believe in life after death, this man sincerely believed that when this earthly life draws to a close eternal life awaits us. However, he also believed that eternal life was a reward that one received for having lived a good life.

So his question in effect was,” What good things do I need to do to be sure of eternal life?” He was looking to Jesus to provide him with a list of does and don’ts.

Unfortunately, there are many, both outside of, and also in the church, who are relying on living a good life to earn them a place in God’s kingdom.


Paul reminds us in Ephesians,

You were saved (for eternal life) by faith in God, . . .This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. It isn’t something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about. (Ephesian 2:8,9 CEV)

Jesus picks up on the man’s use of the word ‘good’. “Why do you ask me about what is good? No one can claim to be good. Don’t you know what the scriptures teach?

“Since the time of our ancestors, all of us have sinned.” (Ezra 9:7)

David the man after the heart of God humbly admitted,

I have sinned and done wrong since the day I was born. (Psalm 51:5)

Jesus added, Only God is good. If you want to have eternal life, you must obey his commandments.”


In response to Jesus speaking about obeying the commandments, the man asks a further question. “Which ones?”

“Do not murder. Be faithful in marriage. Do not steal. Do not tell lies about others. Respect your father and mother. And love others as much as you love yourself.” (Verses 18,19)

  • How do you score on these commandments?

With total confidence that he has lived a good life the man replied, “I have obeyed all of these. What else must I do?” Not a problem. I sincerely believe I can tick them all off, “What else must I do?”

Did you notice that Jesus had said nothing about the first five commandments which speak about one’s relationship with God?

  • Do not worship any god except me.
  • Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth.
  • Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the LORD your God, and I demand all your love.
  • Do not misuse my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.
  • Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. (Exodus 20:3-8)

This concerned clean-living man did not expect what came next, If you want to be perfect, go sell everything you own! Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and be my follower.”


This is not what he expected or wanted to hear, so we read,  “When the young man heard this, he was sad, because he was very rich.”

Commenting on this passage F B Meyer wrote, “Youth, with all its fervor and impetuosity, is very beautiful in itself and very dear to Christ. Here youth was combined with station, wealth, and noble character. It is not necessary that all should sell their goods, and distribute the proceeds. . . But it was necessary that the Master should prove to this young man that he was not fulfilling the Commandments quite so perfectly as he had supposed.”

Mark tells us, “When the man heard Jesus say this, he went away gloomy and sad because he was very rich.” (Mark 10:22)


The answer that Jesus gave was certainly not what he had expected, but it was what he needed – “Sell everything that you have and give to the poor… Then, come, follow me.”  (Verse 22) 

Rocked back on his heels. He “became very sad…” his wealth had become his god. To be saved and have eternal life he needed to turn his back on his wealth. He was confronted with a choice to change the focus of his life from his possessions to serving Jesus.

Unlike many others we have looked at who had an encounter with Jesus and whose  lifestyle changed dramatically, this concerned rich young man seemingly was less concerned about eternal life than the fortune he had amassed or perhaps inherited,

He was guilty of not observing the most important of the commandments, “Do not worship any god except me.”


A Pharisee who was an expert in the Jewish law once asked Jesus “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”

Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:36,37 CEV)

Two weeks ago under the title “Question time“, we noted in response to the lawyer’s question, which was similar to this young man’s question, Jesus responded, “What is written in the Scriptures?

The lawyer responded with those same words, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.” (Luke 10:26,27)

The young man certainly could not claim to have observed this command to any degree. His wealth had taken the place reserved for God in his life.

In our modern society, we may not create idols made of wood, stone, metal, etc., to worship. But take a look around. Do you have a statue of Buddha in your home? African ancestral masks? An ornament of a sacred cow bought as a souvenir on holiday? It is surprising what you can pick up unthinkingly. Because you don’t actually worship it, doesn’t make it safe. If it was created as an object of worship, it has no place in a Christian home.

It is also so easy to allow people, friendships, occupations, careers, activities, prospects, and sports, to become the focal point of our lives, leaving very little room for the things of God.

I wonder how many of us can honestly claim that we “Love the Lord your God with all [our] heart, soul, strength, and mind.” (Luke 10:26,27)

Is the Lord perhaps speaking to you about something that has been taking His place in your life?

Has He told you to remove it from its position of importance in your life, but you are finding this hard to do?

Close this session by confessing anything you have allowed to take the place in your life which should have been reserved for Jesus. Ask for His forgiveness. And invite the Holy Spirit to help you remove that idol, be it physical or not, from its position of importance.

Why not make a re’-commitment of your life to Jesus by joining in this song I surrender all’.

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

6. Wedding Mishaps

There are so many potential mishaps to organizing a wedding ceremony and reception.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio


As a family, we’ll never forget my brother-in-law’s wedding. It was a sweltering South African afternoon. In the sanctuary area where I was conducting the wedding, there were no fans.

During the ceremony, one of the two bridesmaids, our daughter Debbie, began to sway. I reached out my right hand to stop her from falling. The bride’s brother leapt forward and helped her to the front pew. A few minutes later there was an almighty THUD as one of the groomsmen fainted flat on his back. A few more minutes passed, and I led in a time of prayer. When I opened my eyes, the matron of honour, the bride’s sister, was now sitting alongside Debbie, her head on her knees. There were no further casualties but the bride and groom hung onto one another for dear life throughout the rest of the service. I admit to having a few qualms about how I’d proceed with the ceremony if one of them passed out!

Weddings are meant to be joyful social events, as this one ultimately was, but there are so many things that can go wrong to spoil the happy occasion.


  • The bride arrived 45 minutes late.
  • The minister did not pitch up and was found by one of the elders playing tennis.
  • The best man missed his flight.
  • The guests couldn’t find the church.
  • The reception started late because the caterers got lost.
  • The professional photographer hadn’t put film in the camera.

Do you have any more to add? Please leave them in the comment section and give us a chuckle.

Our passage describes a wedding reception in Jesus’ day, which was almost a disaster.

Reading: – John 2:1-12 NIV


Jesus and His first five disciples attended a wedding in Cana,  a little village about  8 km N-E of Nazareth, modern-day Kafr Kanna.

Weddings in Jesus’ day were week-long festivals. Often the whole town was invited. The Bridegroom’s father gave the wedding reception and the women generally took charge of the food. Jesus’ mother’s involvement with the catering indicates close ties with the bridegroom. Writings found in Egypt dating back to the time of Jesus indicate that Mary may have actually been the bridegroom’s aunt. 


Things were going well until a crisis arose – “the wine was gone.” No, it hadn’t been stolen!  It had run out. 

The liquor suppliers couldn’t be blamed. Imagine trying to cater for such an unknown number of guests over a seven-day period. However, running out of wine could cause harm to the newlywed’s reputation. It was also a poor reflection on the host’s ability to provide for his guests.

None of the servants was sent to the ‘local’ for fresh supplies which might indicate that perhaps the finances had also run dry.

  • Can you recall a similar situation that for you or a loved was a source of embarrassment?

We all experience those times when troubles come knocking at our door. Life very rarely follows the course that we have planned.

When Mary grasped what was happening she turned to Jesus. “They have no more wine.

Her first step is a good one for us to remember. It’s wonderful to know that when those inevitable problems crop up we can take them to Jesus. 

But what did she expect Him to do? To date, Jesus had performed no miracles. She may not have been looking for a miracle. Yet she did expect Him to DO SOMETHING!


But Mary needed to learn two lessons:-

    a. She needed to begin to see Jesus as more than her son, but as her Saviour.

Jesus’s response seems disrespectful when he addressed her, “Dear woman!” But that was an accepted form of address in those days. He was trying to get her to re-assess their relationship. Although still her son, He had already started out on His ministry as her Messiah.

    b. She needed to realize the importance of God’s timing.

Jesus was very sensitive to the Father’s timing, “My time has not yet come.”

Perhaps we need to learn the same lesson today—God has a time and a place for meeting our needs.  There are times when we need to be more sensitive to the Lord’s timing.

Still, Mary remained confident. Jesus would “make a plan”. Trusting Him to do something about the crisis, Mary instructed the servants to “Do whatever he tells you.” 

When those problems arise, when troubles overwhelm us, the best thing we can do is to be guided by Jesus. 

If it matters to you it matters to Jesus! Share on X


Because it mattered to Mary, to the host, and to the newlyweds, it mattered to Jesus. And so He set about remedying the situation.

Traditionally water jars stood just inside the doorway so that the guests could have their feet washed by the servants as they arrived. In anticipation of a large number of guests, “Nearby stood six stone water jugs.”

Jesus told the servants to “Fill the jars with water.”  Six water jars holding between 75 to115 litres of water (Men’s Devotional Bible footnote), filled to the brim. We’re looking at between 450 to 690 litres of water. That’s a lot of water!

They did as instructed and that’s when things got interesting. There’s no record that Jesus prayed over the water, or did anything special. He simply told the obedient servants to take a sample to the master of the banquet for him to taste. It turned out that Jesus had turned all that water into the very best vintage wine. (Bible Study Notes – Dr Richard J. Krejcir).

The master of the banquet was astounded and complimented the bridegroom for his excellent wine. The tendency in those days was to bring out the best wine first, then later, once the guests had enjoyed plenty to drink, the cheaper wine would be brought out. The groom had seemingly reversed the normal procedure.

Why did Jesus do this? Did it really call for a miracle? 

Because it mattered to those involved, it mattered to Jesus

David in one of his Psalms wrote,

“The LORD doesn’t hate or despise the helpless in all of their troubles. When I cried out, he listened and did not turn away.” (PSALM 22:24 CEV)

We may not be famous or in a position to influence thousands of lives. Even if you are not the neediest person around, if it matters to you, it matters to Jesus.


This incident teaches important things about Jesus:

1. Jesus is at home in all our experiences of life, if we invite Him in. He attended a wedding, and was perfectly relaxed at the wedding banquet. He fitted into other people’s homes. The home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus was always open to Him. Matthew a former tax collector held a dinner for Jesus. Simon the Pharisee also invited him to his home for a meal. 

Jesus participated in dinner parties. This miracle took place in a very humble home in a small village in Galilee.   

Jesus wants the very best for our homes. He wants to be part of your everyday life. Are you aware of Him as the unseen guest in your home?

  • Are you aware of His presence in every area of your life?

It’s a mistake to think that you can ever leave Jesus out of any area of your life. He knows every thought, word, and deed. But He longs for you to welcome His presence. If it matters to you it matters to Jesus.


2.  Jesus is the rescuer of every crisis. He performed this first miracle to meet a crisis, a potential source of embarrassment to the groom’s father – the host, as well as to the bridal couple. It mattered to Jesus that the festivities were threatened by a lack of wine.

Notice: Jesus did not make the first move. He did nothing in this crisis situation until invited to take action.


3. Jesus gave of His best.  Up to 690 litres of the very best wine! Even a highly experienced master of ceremonies remarked upon it.

Turning water into wine was a very practical miracle, but it shows that Jesus is concerned about those practical aspects of our lives. No matter your situation or your problem, if it matters to you it matters to Jesus!

No one may fully understand what you’re going through. But Jesus does! He cares about every experience in your life. (Matthew 10:29-31)

Are you finding life’s problems overwhelming you? Why not accept Jesus’ invitation right now?

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.



5. Caught Red-Handed!


  • Have you ever been caught red-handed? In other words, doing something you shouldn’t have done?

 Liza Summer with Pixels.com

It may not have been something wrong and sinful, something quite innocent. Perhaps you were trying to do something good for someone without them being aware. Like wrapping a gift, writing a greeting card, or arranging a surprise party.

  • Do you recall walking in on a conversation only to have the conversation come to an abrupt halt? You’ve known that they’ve been caught in the act of talking about you.

Reading: – John 8:1-11


One day, the religious leaders tried to catch Jesus out in the presence of His supporters. 

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.” (John 8:4 GNB )

The case was open and shut. Under Jewish law adultery was a very serious crime—one of the worst offenses that one could commit, with the penalty being death.


The religious leader said, “In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such a woman,” This seems to indicate that the woman was engaged.  

“This woman brought evil into your community by sleeping with someone before she got married, and you must get rid of that evil by killing her. (Deuteronomy 22:21b CEV)

  • 1) The woman was guilty as charged—caught in the act;
  • 2) The sentence laid down was clear—death by stoning.

The modern-day tendency is to sanction extra-marital affairs. Yet adultery has always been, and will continue to be, a serious offense in God’s eyes. “You shall not commit adultery”. (Exodus 20:14)


Why, when the case was so clear, did these religious leaders, who had obviously already passed judgement, single out this woman for Jesus’ judgment?

We see the answer in verse 6. “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.”

If Jesus advised them to apply the sentence laid down in the Law of Moses, He would find Himself in two kinds of trouble:

  1. He would very likely lose the support of those who regarded Him as the friend of sinners
  2. The Roman rulers would be incensed because no Jew had the authority to sentence someone to death.

On the other hand, He would have given the impression that He didn’t the God-given Law seriously. The religious leaders would have been quick to point out that God condemns adultery.


Now what do you say? Jesus seemed to turn a deaf ear to their question.

Matthew Henry, the Bible commentator says, Think twice before you speak once.

Jesus’ appeared to hesitate, so the religious leaders pressed for a response. “They kept on questioning Him.”

Jesus’ response was challenging: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus underlined a principle He taught in the Sermon on the Mount—“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1,2)

Often in Christian circles we expect standards of others which we fail to keep ourselves.

Someone has wisely said, 'The more one judges, the less one loves.' Share on X

According to Jesus’, not one of us should cast judgement on others—to do so is in itself a sin and puts us on the same level as the one we are judging—in need of Jesus’ forgiveness. Concentrate on improving yourself, and you will have little time to criticize or judge others.


We can give the religious leaders credit for their honesty—they took Jesus’ words to heart—realizing that none of them was free from sin, they withdrew,“…the older ones first”

“…Jesus was left, with the woman standing there.”

The religious leaders had gone, the crowds were still there, and the woman was still guilty of her sin. And God’s just law still required a penalty for her sin.

  • “What judgment did Jesus pass on her sin?

Jesus pronounced a sentence, often passed in our courts today—a suspended sentence. He gave her a second chance.

The Saviour is speaking to you and me today, “I know all about your sins. If you want to make a fresh new start, today can become the first day of a completely new way of living.”


Jesus said, “Go now and leave your life of sin. —a challenge to this woman to turn her back on her sinful past and to start living her life based on God’s standards.

No matter how low you may have stooped in your life—no matter how deeply ashamed you are of the things that you have done—no matter how difficult you may find it to forgive yourself—your life can be transformed by a forgiving Saviour.

This story is unfinished—the Bible does not tell us what her choice was.

In the same way, your life is an unfinished story. This passage confronts us again, today, with the fact that we are all sinners. Our lives are under the same suspended sentence.

Join some of my favourite singing group as they sing, “A Sinner Saved By Grace.”

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.








4. Gone fishing

In the movie ‘High Society’ Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong do a duet titled ‘Gone Fishing.’

Peter would have loved to join in and sing along with them.

What does fishing mean to you? Do you enjoy fishing? Or do you feel it is a waste of time?

                  Photo by Matt Hardy:

Our Scripture reading records an occasion when Jesus came to the rescue of his frustrated disciples who had spent fruitless hours fishing but had failed to catch even one single minnow.

Readings: Luke 5:1-11


A lady was invited by her pastor to give her testimony of how she came to invite Jesus into her life. After describing the events leading up to her conversion to Christ, she ended her testimony along these lines, “Jesus said ‘I will make you fishers of men’ and I have been fishing for men ever since.” (Saints at Work – Author Unknown)

Those who love fishing will patiently wait for hours for that tug on the end of their line. I had two uncles who were very keen fishermen. There was an occasion as a youngster when they decided to go fishing for the day and invited me along. Given a rod, with great enthusiasm, I embarked on my first fishing adventure. But the fish were not biting and I wasn’t patient. Before long, I gave up and went exploring the coastline.


Shirl and I were joint leaders of a Holy Land tour in October 1992. We spent three nights at Kibbutz Nof Ginosar on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There we visited a museum that contained an ancient fishing boat that dated back to the time of Jesus. In 1986, when the surface level of the lake had dropped because of a drought, this boat was found embedded in the mud at the water’s edge.


Early in his ministry, Jesus stood on the shore of Lake Galilee where a large crowd had gathered to hear Him. He asked Peter, whose boat was at the water’s edge, to “Put out a little from shore”. He then sat down and taught the crowd.

When Jesus had finished teaching, He told Peter to “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

The Sea of Galilee is teeming with fish. It seems unbelievable that those fishermen should have “…worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”  Yet when they followed Jesus’ instructions, “their nets began to break.” because of the weight of their catch.


They would never have experienced such a wonderful catch if they had not met two important conditions:

  1. They were willing to try again.

It had been a ‘hard day’s night’. They were weary from their efforts and lack of sleep, but Peter responded, “because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

  • When things don’t work out the way you hoped, how do you react? Do you try again?

Patience and perseverance are the hallmarks of a good fisherman. Perseverance has been the hallmark of some of the great men and women of history. Perseverance ought to be a characteristic of every Christian yet how quickly we ‘throw in the towel’ when things don’t come up to expectations.


Jesus has instructed us to become fishers of men – to bring men and women into contact with their Saviour. This task requires patience and perseverance.


  1. They were willing to obey orders
  • When the Lord is directing you in a particular direction how quick are you to obey?

Some of Jesus’ disciples were professional fishermen. Before Jesus invited them to follow Him they had earned their bread and butter from fishing. Along comes this carpenter and tells them how to do their job! They had every reason to respond – “What do you know about fishing? You stick to preaching and we’ll do the fishing.”

But they were prepared to do what he told them to do. They obeyed and reaped a rich reward.

There are times when fishing is frustrating and unfruitful, but fishermen keep at it because it is their calling. As Christians it is our calling to be fishers of men. Even if at times this may seem frustrating. The task of reaching family, friends and acquaintances for Jesus is not easy. Jesus never said it would be.


The purpose behind this miraculous catch of fish was not to merely give those tired fishermen a bit of encouragement. When Simon Peter saw what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Go away from me, Lord! I am a sinful man!” Peter had never seen so many fish caught up in a single net before.

Through this amazing miracle, Jesus gained the disciples’ attention. Then He delivered a punch line—“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

Jesus calls each of us from our daily routine to be His co-workers—fishing for His Kingdom.


An article which appeared in The Westminster Record years ago titled ‘The Fisherman’s Club” is an allegory about a club for fishermen in which every effort is made to promote fishing as a worthwhile occupation. However, none of the promoters or members actually engage in fishing. The article ends with the following challenging words:

Is a person a fisherman if, year after year, he never catches a fish? Is one really following the Master, if he isn't fishing? The Westminster Record, The Fisherman's Club Share on X

This brings to mind the words of a Sunday School chorus,

“Fishing for Jesus

Fishing for Jesus everywhere

With a Bible and a prayer

Nothing can compare

With fishing for Jesus everywhere.”

Fellow Christians we have been called to be fishers of men. Our efforts to reach others for Jesus may at times seem frustrating, but I can assure you there will also be those times of rejoicing when someone you know – a relative, a friend, a colleague, says, “Yes to Jesus.”

Ask the Lord to show you how you can reach an unbeliever for Christ. And then why not listen to that fun children’s song? Click on the link and enjoy these enthusiastic young fishermen!

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

2. Under the Fig Tree

Can you think of any references to a fig tree in the Bible?

Those who followed the studies in Habakkuk will remember that the prophet wrote, ” Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,…” (Habakkuk 3:17a)

Image by Antonio Jose Cespedes from Pixabay


  • Have you given your life to the Lord?
  • If so, what were the factors which brought you to that point?

Our study this week is about a young man who was challenged to become a follower of Jesus.


One of the first followers of Jesus was a man named Nathanael, the brother of Philip. Yet we only read of him in John’s gospel.

Philip is listed amongst the twelve disciples, whom Jesus appointed to be apostles. However, Nathanael’s name does not appear on any of the lists found in the first three gospels or the book of Acts. (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-18; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:12,13)

  • Don’t you think that is very strange when, on Jesus’ first encounter with him, Jesus described him as, “…an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”?

Nathanael was a model Jew, a man of integrity. His name means “gift of God” or “giver of God” which points to his being a godly person. Nevertheless, he is not listed as an apostle!!


In the first three (synoptic) Gospels, the name Bartholomew always follows Philip in the lists of the twelve apostles. Though, Bartholomew is not mentioned at all in the Gospel of John. And, we know practically nothing about him.

John’s Gospel does not provide us with a list of the twelve apostles. However, Nathanael is listed as one of the seven disciples who went fishing on the Sea of Galilee after Jesus’ resurrection, which suggests that he was one of the twelve.

Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish, ‘ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.'”(John21:2,3a)

Most Bible scholars believe Nathanael and Bartholomew to be the same person.


John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing alongside the Jordan River and stated, “…among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:27)

The next day John and two of his disciples were together when Jesus passed by and John declared, “Look, the Lamb of God.” (John 1:29) His two disciples immediately attached themselves to Jesus and spent the rest of the day with him. One of the two was Andrew who promptly found Simon Peter his brother and introduced him to Jesus.

The next day, as our reading indicates, Jesus decided to go to Galilee where he met up with Philip. After meeting Jesus, Philip found his brother Nathanael and excitedly announced, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45)


Instead of bubbling over with enthusiasm, Nathanael is somewhat sceptical. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46)

  • Do you ever react in that way to people?
  • Have you encountered that sort of person? How did he/she demonstrate scepticism?

It is suggested that the Jews despised Nazareth because a Roman garrison was located there. Alternatively, perhaps it was because Nazareth had a bad reputation for poor morals and religious standards. (John 1:46 Life Application Bible footnote)

Whatever, when Nathanael heard that the Messiah was from Nazareth he was surprised.

Philip was not prepared to debate the issue, he simply responded, “Come and see.” Nathanael was faced with a choice – follow your logic or accept Philip’s invitation. Fortunately, he went to meet Jesus and became a disciple.


When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he commented to John, Andrew and Peter, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1:47) Again Nathanael is taken aback, “How do you know me?” (John 1:48)

Jesus’ divine nature comes to the fore, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” (John 1:50)

Nathanael’s response gives him the distinction of being the first recorded person to confess belief in Jesus as the ‘Son of God, the king of Israel.’


Jesus assured him, “You will see greater things than that. Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:50–51)

In response to Nathanael’s demonstration of faith, Jesus promised him that he will see even greater things. That he would have a similar experience to that of Jacob in the Old Testament. (Genesis 28)

You may remember that Jacob had a dream of angels ascending and descending a stairway between heaven and earth with the LORD standing above them. Jesus indicated that Jacob’s dream was pointing to that day when God would connect heaven and earth — God would reach down to humanity, providing us with an opportunity to be in relationship with Him.

Jesus in effect said, ‘You will see greater things because you will witness my bringing about that connection between God and mankind through my sacrifice.’ (Hebrews 9:12; 10:10)


When Nathanael accepted Philip’s invitation, he became Jesus’ disciple, then an apostle. He witnessed the resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus Christ and became a missionary, spreading the gospel.

Church tradition claims that Nathanael was engaged in missionary work in numerous places, possibly even involved in getting a translation of Matthew’s Gospel to India. And legend has it that he was crucified upside down in Albania.


  • What do you think is the significance of the fact that Jesus saw Nathanael sitting under a fig tree?

In preparing for this study I came across this enlightening suggestion.

“It was not any old fig tree but the Fig Tree. Maybe this was a favourite place for Nathanael to contemplate the Law and express devotion to God.” (Knowing Jesus. com)

It would appear from a number of commentaries on this incident that it was common practice for rabbis to spend time contemplating the Torah under a shady fig tree. The Torah is the compilation of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

It has also been suggested that in view of Jesus’ reference to Jacob, this could indicate that Nathanael was actually studying Genesis 28 under that fig tree.

So Nathanael apparently was not simply resting beneath the fig tree, he was meditating on God’s Law given through Moses.  This is also hinted at by Philip’s words, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law,..” 


Nathanael was a sceptic. But Jesus saw beneath the scepticism. Jesus saw a man of integrity and openness and labelled him as a ‘true Israelite.”  No matter what outward show we may project to others, Jesus knows the real you and real me. He also knows our potential for the Kingdom.

Nathanael’s story reveals that our prejudices can affect our judgement. However, if we open ourselves to principles found in God’s Word we can come to know the truth. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:31b,32)

Nathanael challenges each one of us in the area of our commitment to Christ.


Even though Nathanael became an apostle, he was not perfect. Like most of the other disciples, Nathanael abandoned Jesus during his trial and crucifixion. But he also witnessed Jesus’ resurrection and his commitment to Jesus was so strong that he died a martyr’s death for Christ.

Jesus needs men and women who, like Nathanael, are prepared to go out and share the good news of salvation. That we not only claim to be Christians but that we live our lives based on His teachings. And we are open to the opportunities that arise for us to share what Jesus is doing in our lives.

Our claim to be a Christian must be backed up by the evidence of a changed life seen in our attitude, language, caring concern, honesty, faithfulness, and trustworthiness.

Jesus saw in Nathanael a man with great potential. He sees in each one of us potential beyond our wildest dreams and He wants to unlock that potential if we will let Him.

Why not spend time now asking the Lord how you may reach your potential in Him. Sing this beautiful prayer along with this beautiful recording.

If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.