Bible Study: Clear as Glass

The cleaner our hearts, the better we see.

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.

 

READ

John 1:29-51

 

BACKGROUND

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.

 

REFLECT

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?

  • 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 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?

 

REFLECT

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.

 

GOING FURTHER

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

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

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What happens to my notes

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, `After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'

31 I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water."

32 John testified saying, I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.

33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, `He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'

34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."

35 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples,

36 and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, Behold, the Lamb of God!"

37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

38 And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, What do you seek?" They said to Him, Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?"

39 He said to them, Come, and you will see." So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

41 He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, We have found the Messiah" (which translated means Christ).

42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).

43 The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, Follow Me."

44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of 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 Nathanael said to him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, Come and see."

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there 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 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 that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these."

51 And He said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

46 Nathanael said to him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, Come and see."

49 Nathanael answered Him, Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel."

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

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."

33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, `He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'

34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."

35 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples,

36 and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, Behold, the Lamb of God!"

37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran.

11 He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place.

12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.

14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it."

17 He was afraid and said, How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it."

17 He was afraid and said, How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top.

19 He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz.

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear,

21 and I return to my father's house in safety, then the LORD will be my God.

22 This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."

28 He said, Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed."

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