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July 2, 2006

Bartholomew the Disciple

Filed under: Bible Studies — Adam Osborne @ 12:46 pm

Bartholomew Nathanael – Wrestling Through Prejudice

CENTRAL BIBLE TRUTH: Prejudice has no place in a disciple’s life.

“Who was Bartholomew Nathanael”.

  • Bartholomew is a Hebrew surname meaning “son of Tolmai”.
  • Nathanael means “God has Given”.
  • So he is Nathanael, son of Tolmai, or Nathanael Bar-Tolmai.
  • What is prejudice
  • ANSWER: An opinion, judgment, or evaluation, favorable or more often unfavorable, conceived without proof or competent evidence, but based on what seems valid to one’s own mind. A bias against a race, creed, group, or the like.
  • What do you think of when you hear the word prejudice?
    • Possible answers: 1960’s; Martin Luther King’s speeches; civil rights marches; sitting in the back of the bus; different classrooms for white and black; etc.
  • Give me some examples of modern day prejudice.
  • What national problem are we dealing with right now on the news that has prejudicial overtones?
    • Answer: Illegal Immigrants from Mexico.
  • Question, what is STEREOTYPE?
    • A set image or conception held by or applied to members of a certain group.
  • Question, what’s the difference between prejudice and stereotype?
  • Prejudice is more unfavorable. Stereotype doesn’t appear to be so judgmental against a person/culture. Stereotypes usually look only at the surface.

STATISTICS WHICH SOMETIMES REMINDS US OF PREJUDICE:

  • In the US in 2000, there were roughly 195 million whites, 33 million blacks; 35 million Hispanics, 10 million Asian and Pacific Islanders, 2 million American Indians, 1 million Arabs, and 4.6 million who identified with two or more races.
  • 19.5 million people in the US ages 5 and older do not speak English very well.
  • The most common countries of origin for immigrants were: Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, and Korea.
  • If current trends continue, almost half of the US population will be non-white by 2050.
  • Over the next 25 years, minority concentrations are projected to increase in all parts of the country, especially in the South, Southwest and West. By 2025 minority groups are expected to account for over 50% of the population in Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Texas and the District of Columbia.

FOCAL PASSAGE: John 1:43-51

John 1:43-51 (NIV) The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “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.” 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

QUESTIONS:

  • Did Jesus know what Nathaniel had said that about him? (Answer: Yes).
  • Knowing that Jesus knew what Nathaniel had already said about him, what do we learn about Christ through this scripture?
    • Answer: He is merciful, he could have been angry with Nathaniel; he knows all things, and even our individual personalities. Also, when Jesus complimented Nathanael, that tells us that Jesus knew that he was an honest and trustworthy person. Also, Jesus knows the potential of man.

LEARNING TOPICS

1. Prejudice can only see the surface

vv 45 – 46 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “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.” 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip

Question:

  • What was Nathanael saying about Nazareth
    • We can not be certain “for sure” why Nathanael was saying this against Nazareth. It has been suggested that it may have carried a negative reputation because of its close location to a Roman city and the fact that it was on a major trade route. One researcher suggests that people in the town used to throw their garbage in the streets, which may have been what Nathanael was referring to.
  • BY THE WAY: Nathanael was from Cana. Not much better than Nazareth. No one went there, it was off the beaten track, while Nazareth was at least at the crossroads. To travel from the Mediterranean to Galilee, people at least traveled through Nazareth.
  • Nathaniel might have said, “As I read the Old Testament, Micah the prophet says Messiah comes out of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), not Nazareth.
  • Nathaniel might have said, “But Philip, Messiah is identified with Jerusalem, because he is going to reign in Jerusalem.”
  • But instead, the depth of his prejudice comes through when he chose: Can anything good come out of Nazareth.”
  • That was not a rational or biblical objection; it was based on sheer emotion and bigotry.
  • Nathanael’s comment about Nazareth reveals a civic rivalry and prejudice.
  • Prejudice is UGLY. Generalizations based on feelings of superiority, not on fact, can be spiritually debilitating. As a matter of fact, much of the nation of Israel rejected their Messiah because of prejudice. (John 7:52) (Luke 4:22-24, 28-29).

2. Prejudice can blind us from the truth

vv 46 – 47 46
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.
47
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”

  • Nathanael, a mere man like the rest of us, had that sinful tendency. His prejudice caused him at first to be skeptical when Philip told him the Messiah was a Nazarene.
    • The most important aspect of Nathanael’s character is expressed from the lips of Jesus. Jesus knew Nathanael already. So His first words upon seeing Nathanael were a powerful commendation of Nathanael’s character.
    • Jesus’ comment speaks volumes about Nathanael’s character. He was pure-hearted from the beginning. Certainly he was human, he had sinful faults. His mind was tainted by a degree of prejudice.? But his heart was not poisoned by deceit.
    • Jesus knew that Nathanael loved God and that he could teach him the truth.

    Question:

    • What would have happened if Nathanael hadn’t taken Phillip’s advice to go and see for himself
      • Possible answers: He would have not met the Christ; he would have continued with his prejudicial, stereotypical opinions.

    Something to think about: What kind of behavior was Philip demonstrating?

    • Possible answers: faith; trust; non-prejudicial, excitement.


3. Prejudice is confronted when truth is exposed
v 48
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered,
“I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

A LITTLE HISTORY TRIVIA. A fig tree was a symbol of peace. Jews would sometimes sit under a fig tree to pray.

QUESTION: What do you think it was that Jesus saw in Nathanael that others did not?

  • Possible answers: Jesus knew Nathanael’s heart. He knew that Nathanael was a good man and a future disciple. He knew that Nathanael was “teachable” and would shortly be teaching others.

4. Prejudice crumbles when truth is realized

vv 49-51 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

  • Nathanael’s first thought about Jesus was that he could not be everything that Philip thought he was because he came from Nazareth. But he soon learned different.
  • Now, since Jesus told Nathanael this information, Nathanael no longer cared where Jesus was from.
  • Why did Nathanael respond the way he did after Jesus talked to him?
  • QUESTION: Is it always that simple?? Do we learn such important lessons the first time?? Why was Nathanael able to learn not to be prejudice with only one lesson?
  • How do we “know” that Nathanael learned his lesson and no longer was prejudicial toward others?
  • Answer:? He ministered to Jews; Samaritans (John 4); Romans (Luke 7), Greeks (John 12) and even Pharisees who were willing to listen (John 3).

QUESTION: Can you remember any other time when Jesus had to deal with prejudices??

  • Possible answers:? (a) Hanging out with tax collectors and sinners; (b) the Jewish behavior and thoughts about gentiles; etc.

QUESTION:? Christ disproved Nathanael’s prejudice.? How is it mostly that we disprove a preconceived prejudice???

  • Possible answers: (a) after getting to know or work with someone of a different culture.

KEY POINT TO REMEMBER: Christ went on to use Nathanael in big, powerful ways, even though he initially displayed prejudicial behaviors. Christ can do that for us too.

1 Samuel 16:7b The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Kings 8:39-40 (NIV) then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men), 40 so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our fathers.
br /> Jer 17:10 (NIV)
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”
br />

MORE NATHANAEL and/or PREJUDICE TRIVIA

  • He was a native of Cana in Galilee, a neighboring village to Nazareth. This is where Jesus did his first miracle, turning water in to wine.
  • Close companion of Philip.? In each of the synoptic Gospels’ list of the 12 disciples, the names Philip and Bartholomew are linked.? In a lot of church history documents their names are linked as well.?
  • Philip introduced Nathanael to Jesus (John 1:43).
  • After Pentecost, Bartholomew Nathanael was not mentioned again in the Bible.? Tradition says that he went east, possibly as far as India.
  • There he translated the Gospel of Matthew and taught.? Supposedly, a Christian named Pantaenus went to India a hundred years later and some of the people still had a Gospel of Matthew that Nathanael had given them.?
  • One story we have of his death was that he was placed in a sack and thrown into the sea; another is that he was flayed alive and crucified.
  • Verse 45: Philip found Nathanael and explained that Jesus was the one that the prophets had foretold.? We have no way of knowing if the two had ever even met before; he may have even been a stranger.? Philip mentioned Jesus’ name and where He was from, which was a common way of introducing someone in those days.? What Philip said triggered a prejudice that Nathanael had.
  • Verse 46-47.? Nathanael responded with prejudice, not knowing the person, but only the stereotype.? Philip in contrast urged him to come see Jesus for himself.
  • Verse 48-50. Christ’s statement to Nathanael shocked him.? We aren’t sure exactly what Nathanael was doing, but the fact that Christ knew amazed him.? Many suggest that he was looking for peace and praying, and the fact that Jesus knew his prayers proved His divinity.? Astounded by His knowledge, Nathanael proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God.? Because of this proclamation, he was given the reward of one day seeing greater things.
  • He was one of the disciples to whom our Lord appeared at the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection John 21:2…. NIV? Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.
  • He was also a witness of the Ascension (Acts 1:4, 12, 13).??

13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.?

  • He was an “Israelite indeed” (John 1:47).

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”

  • Men’s ears are closed to the Gospel by many kinds of prejudice – racial, social, religious, intellectual and temperament.

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