Sermon: The Wonderful, Lethal Names of Jesus John 1:47-51

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The Wonderful, Lethal Names of Jesus

John 1:47-51

Primary Truth Taught- The grand titles given to Jesus were what drove His people to love Him and His enemies to kill Him.

 John 1:47–51 (ESV)

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward 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 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 him, “Because I said to you, ‘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 heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”


  1. The Names of Jesus in John 1
  2. Word- We learned that this name means that Jesus is God’s eternal Word. He is God’s ultimate way of communicating with mankind. Jesus is God’s self-declaration and final Word.

John 1:1 (ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

  1. God– We also learned from John that Jesus is God and here given the Title, God. He is as much God as God the Father. and the Word was God.
  2. Light– Jesus is the Light of the world. When God spoke in Genesis, Let there be light and light appeared, remember that is how Jesus as God’s Word speaks and light or life appears within the human soul. When Jesus speaks life happens. He is the Light of the world.

John 1:9 (ESV)

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

  1. Jesus Christ-

John 1:17 (ESV)

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

The name Jesus means “salvation” we remember the angel telling Mary; you shall call His name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.

  1. Lamb of God-

John 1:29 (ESV)

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

This name is strongly connected to His name Jesus because it would be His work as a sacrificial Lamb that would save His people from their sin. Jesus fulfills the sacrificial system as the Lamb of God.

  1. Rabbi– Here we see another function of Jesus Christ and that is one of Teacher. He is the Rabbi who teaches God’s truth to the people.

John 1:38 (ESV)

38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”

  1. Messiah- Anointed One or Christ. This means that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Israel longed and waited for.

John 1:41 (ESV)

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

According to the Old Testament, there were three offices of the Israelites that required anointing:
Prophet – a person that brings the words said by God to the people.
Priest – a mediator between God and people. Specifically in the Old Testament times, the priests were responsible for the sacrifices that allowed sins to be forgiven.
King – a person that has authority over the entire nation, and he rules it.
The person that God promised to send, who was referred to as “the Anointed One”, was going to be one single person that would take all three offices above, and his “term” was going to be eternal.
So when people talked about the promised Messiah, this is what they were expecting: the ultimate prophet, ultimate priest and ultimate king, all in one, forever.

  1. Rabbi, you are the Son of God! King of Israel

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward 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 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! King of Israel.

Notice with me what Jesus says about Nathaniel at the very beginning. He says, that Nathaniel has no deceit. This means a number of things but one thing it means is that because Nathaniel is not a liar, what he is about to say is truthful. Also, notice that Jesus does not deny it.

So, he is an Israelite of a certain type, not as the NIV translates, a true Israelite. Jesus is not saying that Nathaniel is an actual Israelite (he was) He is telling us that he is an Israelite who is truthful in what he says and is not afraid to tell the truth.[1]

To call Jesus the Son of God has great implications and we must get the truth behind Nathaniel’s declaration.

To call Jesus the Son of God is to ascribe deity to Jesus. In the ancient world this was often used to describe someone. Here are a few examples…
A wicked man might be called a son of wickedness (Psalm 89:22); people in trouble are sons of affliction (proverbs 31:5); Those deserving execution are sons of death (1 Samuel 26:16); Judas could literally be called a son of perdition (John 17:12).[2]

So, to call Jesus Son of God is to not say God is His literal birth father but that He is God.

Next the title King of Israel is a clear reference to Jesus being the Messiah. He is the promised King, the Messiah.

I do think the Nathaniel had more than this in mind when he used these titles for Jesus.

The context is the Covenant God is making with King David. Remember that King David desired to build God a house to dwell in, namely the Temple. God responds by telling David He has no need for a house but actually David does. Rather than building a house for David, God will build David an eternal dynasty.

2 Samuel 7:12–16 (ESV)

12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ”

In this passage we have both Son and King mentioned. Nathaniel, being an Israelite no doubt knew these promises God made to King David. When he listened to Jesus, he declared that His is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.

Jesus is the Son and the King…

Luke 1:32–33 (ESV)

32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Or we could refer to one of my favorite Christmas verses…

Isaiah 9:6–7 (ESV)

   For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

       and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

       Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

   Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

       on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

       with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

       The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Another…Psalm 2

These are glorious titles for Jesus and each is true as much as anything can be true. Not only must we understand the meaning of these titles but we must also understand their impact for Jesus’ ministry and for us. If we’re going to understand the impact of these verses and these titles we must also understand that Son of God and King of Israel are the two that were the most glorious and the most deadly for Jesus. These titles would send Jesus to the cross. The cross was the reason He came.

It would become very evident as Jesus’ teaching ministry continued that His enemies were also being taught. They would deny it but they understood very clearly what Jesus was claiming. To be a great healer and a great teacher would never get Jesus crucified…let’s see if we can determine what it was that sent Jesus to the cross?

John 5:16–18 (ESV)

16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

John 8:53–59 (ESV)

53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

John 10:31–33 (ESV)

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

John 19:7 (ESV)

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”

Make no mistake if Jesus had not claimed to be the Son of God He would never have been crucified. His mission was to come and die for our sin so He did not recoil back from telling the people who He was but in fact He made it especially clear.

John 19:12 (ESV)

12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

Jesus Christ in the Son of God and the King of Israel and those two titles was why the Jews and the Romans sought to put Him to death.

  1. You Will See Greater Things than These

John 1:50–51 (ESV)

50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘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 heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Jesus tells Nathaniel that if he believes because He knew what he thinking while under the fig tree, you aint seen nothing yet.

You will see greater things than these. What’s greater than seeing or experiencing a miracle? There is one thing that’s greater. Nathaniel witnessed the omniscience of God when Jesus told him what all he was thinking while under the fig tree and Nathaniel believed. The thing Jesus would show him and the others would be the Glory of the Son of God. That’s what He is speaking of when He says, you will see greater things than these…

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Here we have our final title for Jesus in John 1…the Son of Man. This is the title that highlights Jesus’ humanity. He is man. He came being born of Mary and so has also been designated man or human. He is Son of God and He is Son of man. There is no title used more by Jesus, himself to refer to Himself than the Son of man.

This is the title that also makes the cross effective for sinners. Jesus had to be human in order to shed His blood and die for our sin.

Notice how Jesus uses this title…

John 3:14–15 (ESV)

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

What is Jesus talking about as He closes this section?

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Genesis 28:10–16 (ESV)

10 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached 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 Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring 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.”

So, in Jacob’s dream from Genesis 28 he saw a ladder reaching to heaven and angels ascending and descending on it. This ladder he saw in his dream was the connection between earth and heaven.

Jesus tells Nathaniel that the greatest thing of all the things you’re going to see is the fact that I’m the connection between earth and heaven. Jesus, as it were, is telling His disciples that he is the ladder to heaven.









** Certain parts I relied heavily on John Piper’s Sermon from the same text


[1] See D A Carson The Gospel of John page 161

[2] ibid

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