Best Practice #8 "Come and See Evangelism"
Today’s post highlights the eighth of ten best practices of “Come and See Evangelism” found in the Gospel of John, chapter 1.
Best Practice #8—Tell What You Know
“Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” John 1:45
Philip’s description of Jesus as “of Nazareth” and “the son of Joseph” sets off more than one alarm for anyone today who knows the details of Jesus’ personal history. It’s true that Jesus was raised in Nazareth, but he was “of” Bethlehem. And yes, Joseph was thought by many to be Jesus’ father, but in truth Jesus was the son of God, having been born of a virgin, something we underscore in Gospel Story-arc presentations.
Philip’s descriptions of Jesus in this story are embarrassingly incomplete. But this very fact also provides evidence that Philip initially did describe Jesus in these ways. Why else would John include this in a book he writes to foster belief in Jesus “as the Christ, the Son of God”? He does it, because of his commitment to truth generally, and because he was confident that the rest of the material in his book would show a more accurate picture of who Jesus is as the Christ, the Son of God.
Philip and Nathanael also model how people grow in their awareness of who Jesus is, as they grow in faith. Later in the book, John represents both men as having moved way beyond their initial understanding.
Philip’s initial witness to Nathanael reminds me of the story of the blind man that John tells chapter 9. The Pharisees pestered the blind man, and then his parents, about what happened to him. They wanted to use the healing to prosecute Jesus for “falsely” claiming to be the Christ. So they said to the blind man, "Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner" (9:24). "
But the blind man answered them, "Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I know; that though I was blind, now I see" (9:25).
It’s as though the blind man said, “Look, I might not be good at explaining all of this, but I know what he's done for my life. And this is what I want to share with you!”
Something similar was going on in the case of Philip and Nathanael. Philip knew very little about Jesus before sharing with Nathanael. So he went to Nathanael and told what he knew.
This best practice of “Tell What You Know” is not meant to excuse inaccurate claims about Jesus, or to diminish the importance of growing in knowledge about him. It simply points to the imperative of not waiting to share until we know everything perfectly.